Education in the new normal

What will higher and further education look like in the new normal?

Answering that question is a bit like placing a finger in the air. We can make some clear predictions for the year ahead based on how educational institutes are setting out their stalls. But as we are finding in our discussions with clients, the long view is murkier. Everyone is busy: leadership teams are devising strategies and appropriate messaging; CIOs are concentrating on infrastructure to meet immediate needs and to maximise on spaces without staff or students; and digital learning leads are coalescing plans from leadership and operational directorates, and developing approaches to support faculties in their chosen delivery models for the autumn.

And so, although the initial knee-jerk has now passed, it’s still too early for many to commit to new budget or design adapted institutional strategies. That clarity will come as we see how international markets have been affected, the impact on incoming students’ decisions to study or defer, and government guidelines. Once the next semester is accounted for, decision makers will be looking at each other and examining resources to understand what might work. What is clear, is that things won’t be returning to the way they were three months ago.

Working with the education sector 

My own new normal within ITGL is continuing to take shape. While ITGL’s consultancy environment differs from higher education in terms of pace and driving forces, the overlap is becoming clear. My role in HE was grounded in pedagogy: identifying and supporting good practice, setting out guidance, developing principles and frameworks, and ultimately working for the benefit of students. At ITGL the focus for me here is on communicating a compelling vision of the digital enablement of this pedagogy. I’m not here to sell. I’m here to bridge the gap between pedagogy, practice, and technology. My role is to use research-based evidence to help shape the way we work with the education sector. The end result is the same, I’m just working at a different point in the chain.

The student experience

The work of ITGL touches many different aspects of the student experience – from their relationship with the physical and digital campus to their safety and connectivity, but if we think about their learning experiences alone there is much to examine. Universities are re-imagining what is possible with the available resources, understanding and establishing the baseline – What’s our minimum? How do we service it? What does the curriculum look like? How do we ensure that pedagogy comes before technology? How much will it cost and how do we develop our teaching staff? ITGL is engaged in listening and understanding so we can connect ideas and opportunities while appreciating the necessary complexity of educational institutions so we can help them achieve their immediate, medium, and longer-term priorities as their strategies evolve.

Next steps for me

For the next few weeks I will be concentrating on the concept of telepresence in learning and how universities are planning to establish high-quality hybrid environments. I will also be exploring the concept of the ‘safe campus’, including what that looks like from a student perspective, what needs to be in place, and how good foundations can be laid that facilitate more ambitious visions in the future.

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Helen Rodger

Published by Helen Rodger
June 26, 2020

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