The future of distance learning, in response to the JISC report
Last month, chair of the Joint Information Systems Committee, Sir Ron Cooke issued a report to the government entitled On-line Innovation in Higher Education. The report comes at a time when online based learning has seen a growth in popularity and is fast becoming a usual addition to institutions and standard degree courses, and has no-doubt been enhanced by the creation of The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills last year. In response to Cooke’s findings and the many comments it’s received, what seems to be the future of e-learning?
nIn the summary of the report, it was outlined that ‘HE and the research funding bodies should continue to support and promote a world class ICT infrastructure and do more to encourage the innovative exploitation of this infrastructure’. The first way by which this will be put into place is by establishing a central “corpus” of accessible resources used and endorsed by all higher education institutions – with quality control provided by national centres of excellence. However, the question of where this leaves the voice of trusting academics (as raised on the De Montford University Blog) remains, and therefore the aim for the UK to gain a ‘world leading position’ in e-learning might be argued to be overshadowing that of making higher education as tempting and as accessible as possible.
nIn the report Cooke also called for a ‘revitalized investment into e-infrastructures’. This will include means by which to curate research data, a review of the subject of e-science, and a nationally syndicated strategy for digitization. This should not only go some way to enhancing the UK’s chances at becoming a leader of e-learning once more, but as Stephen Downes explains, as online education and distance learning courses become better organized in terms of data and digitization, the more savings will begin to be made by institutions – and consequently students.
nThe third major aspect of Cooke’s methods for exploitation of the ICT infrastructure is by the ‘development of information strategies’. With a focus on energy efficiency and a concentration on the administrative and managerial use of ICT aside from the learning sphere, Cooke proposes that e-learning institutions will become more effective by such plans coming into realization. This aspect of the report was reflected upon by Sarah Bartlett at Project Xiphos, who notes that a redesign of Virtual Learning Environments need to be as staff friendly as they are student friendly.
nCurrently, it would seem that organization on a national level with the additional focus on staff confidence will be the ways by which online education and e-learning will be improved in the UK. By doing this, whether we can reach the goal of becoming world leading remains to be seen, despite the efforts of individual institutions who have been promoting and endorsing the merits of online education for years.
Posted Date: 2008-12-18 22:28:34