Research Question 4: Critical Challenges

What do you see as the key challenge(s) related to teaching, learning, research or information management that higher education institutions will face during the next 5 years?

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  • Challenge Name. Add your ideas here, with few sentences of description including full URLs for references (e.g. And do not forget to sign your contribution with 4 ~ (tilde) characters!

  • Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching. Citation-based metrics, to pick one example, are hard to apply to research based in social media. New forms of peer review and approval, such as reader ratings, inclusion in and mention by influential blogs, tagging, incoming links, and re-tweeting, are arising from the natural actions of the global community of educators, with increasingly relevant and interesting results. These forms of scholarly corroboration are not yet well understood by mainstream faculty and academic decision makers, creating a gap between what is possible and what is acceptable. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist)
    Agree - martin.weller martin.weller May 17, 2011 There is a bigger societal challenge in that Twitter, Facebook, Blogging etc are so effective at creating "crowd sourced authority" at lightning speed where "truth" becomes more closely related to social networks rather than objective realities. - alistair.mcnaught alistair.mcnaught May 18, 2011 But what are "objective realities"? - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 This is a bigger problem in that the old metrics are becoming positively damaging by distorting effort to hit old targets measured by tools that no longer reflect the real use of online - it's the same problem faced by websites that count 'hits' when serving active content, or organisations that measure site visitors and so ignore their material when it is embedded or shared. The lack of good metrics will inhibit the adoption of new network-based teaching methods - bill.thompson bill.thompson May 22, 2011 I think there is a need for measures of influence (?reputation for playing a particular role), eg that may reflect the contributions that folk can make in a networked world, eg as connectors, introducers, filters, amplifiers. - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.The increasing demand for education that is customized to each student's unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction. It has become clear that one-size-fits-all teaching methods are neither effective nor acceptable for today's diverse students. Technology can and should support individual choices about access to materials and expertise, amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist) Given the tremendous potential of and interest in PLEs, this needs to be addressed. - Larry Larry May 16, 2011 Perhaps there isn't a large volume of technology devoted to personal learning because there hasn't been a huge demand for it....PLEs are in a conceptual phase and require a shift in attitude for widespread adoption. If more educators get on board with the notion of PLEs, hopefully there will be a surge of devoted technology, though it will take a lot of time.- Sam Sam May 16, 2011I'm not convinced about 'the increasing demand for personalised learning' - where's the evidence of the demand? There's evidence of demand for better, higher quality education. There's evidence of demand for education that challenges individuals to develop their capacities. But the whole 'demand for personalised learning' rhetoric comes out of a set of assumptions that are hard to maintain when we look at the evidence. Also there is also a demand for collaborative learning, shared learning experiences, learning experiences that are grounded in location and in the needs of community. I think it's time we started unpicking what we mean by 'personalised learning', what we think it adds and why we think everyone wants it??? - keri.facer keri.facer May 18, 2011 - Agree with Keri. There is a lot to critically unpick about 'personalised learning' and overlap between personalised learning issues and PLE/PLN approaches. However, the key issues here for me are 1. Institutionally controlled/supported/recognised tools and practices vs. learner and staff preferred tools and practices & 2. digital literacy skills.- josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 I agree with Keir and Josie - the rhetoric around personalised learning doesn't seem to reflect the real demand/debate - bill.thompson bill.thompson May 22, 2011
    I have mixed feelings about personalised learning because research on learning styles and preferences shows that the most effective learners are those who can adapt their learning style to the context and materials at hand. It is right to build confidence and engage interest by offering alternatives.It is wrong to pander to preferences in a way that atrophies the development of robust metacognition. - alistair.mcnaught alistair.mcnaught May 18, 2011 Isn't personalised learning just preparation for life? I agree with Alistair re. flexibility of learning style, but most importantly the need for digital literacy skills at the heart of any personal learning environment is paramount. - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 Do people want personalised learning in a formal education (for qualification) setting? If so, they're likely to be an autodidact and end up getting a Desmond (I date myself...!) - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.The challenge is due to the fact that despite the widespread agreement on its importance, training in digital literacy skills and techniques is rare in teacher education programs. In higher education, formal training is virtually non-existent. As faculty and instructors begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist) Being able to communicate an idea is as important as having it in the first place, and critical to successful adoption of new ideas.- Larry Larry May 16, 2011 Digital literacy is going to be a key employability skill - neil.witt neil.witt May 16, 2011 most faculty are now literate in using ICT for writing, presenting and basic communication (e-mail) but many remain uncomfortable, inexperienced or consider it too time consuming to use ICT in more engaging ways e.g. chat, blog or wiki. This is reminiscent of when VLE's emerged and faculty saw it as something extra to do rather than the next step along an ever evolving pedagogic model. We must find ways to overcome this. - chris.cobb chris.cobb May 17, 2011 What we mean by Digital Literacy, how this can be delivered or supported, how the effectiveness of learning and teaching in this area can be evidenced, are all conversations the HE sector are just starting to have. As indicated by some of the other critical challenges listed here, I'd argue it's not necessarily a 'key skill in every discipline and profession' but a range of critical competencies and practices that cut across disciplinary boundaries and can variously respond to current social and economic changes and demands. - josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 I agree - maybe digital literacy is a new name for the old "thinking skills" or the even older "philosophy"... - alistair.mcnaught alistair.mcnaught May 18, 2011 It's more Information Literacy re-branded I think. I once coined the term Information Literacy ++ to describe it. I think the use of digital actually demeans the process somewhat describing the technology rather than the desired outcome; the focus (which I agree with Josie on) is critical skills and competencies for information retrieval in a digital world. - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 I don't like the term 'digital literacy' - we don't call numeracy 'mathematical literacy' because we recognise that fluent reading of text is not the right analogue for mathematical capability, and I think we should acknowledge the same with the skillful use of information and communication technologies, which involves many different competences embedded in many different contexts. I don't have a better term, of course - but I do wish we could find one - bill.thompson bill.thompson May 22, 2011 Digital literacy means what exactly? I definitely think: folk have rubbish search skills compared to "power users"; folk have a very poor understanding of what digital tools do/how they work (ie they don't have a model of what they do), so find it difficult to look for alternatives; folk don't necessarily have expectations about what a tool might possibly do, so not necessarily motivated to look for a feature that would help them on a task (they maybe can't even articulaute the feature); and round we go again - folk not having a model of how tech works means they don't have to the vocab to search for help/RTFM to help them use digital tools effectively. There are other issues - folk arenlt necesarily criticial when it comes to identifying CGI, photoshopped photos, taking sensible precautions with sharing tracked history docs, are suckered by graphs, charts and numbers (numeracy skills) etc - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of the university. Across the board, institutions are looking for ways to control costs while still providing a high quality of service. Schools are challenged by the need to support a steady — or growing — number of students with fewer resources and staff than before. As a result, creative institutions are developing new models to serve students, such as streaming survey courses over the network so students can attend from their dorm or other locations to free up lecture space. As these pressures continue, other models may emerge that diverge from traditional ones. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist) Sadly, this challenge seems long term from this vantage point. - Larry Larry May 16, 2011 It's not just institutions that are being hit, the student burden of debt is increasingly a problem. In the US, it's passed credit card debt (see also this related poster). From 2012, UK students will be expected to graduate with around £45K in government loans (£27K in tuition fee debt and a further £15-£23K in maintenance loans). In the US, there's arguably a dangerous bubble of student debt as tuition fees rise faster than incomes. In the UK, we don't yet know what the consequences will be, but it's becoming increasingly clear that the next five years or more will be much more difficult for young people, with a high rate of graduate unemployment and under employment while at the same time faced with historically high levels of debt. How do institutions remain relevant in such a climate as young people look for alternatives? - josswinn josswinn May 16, 2011 Agree - martin.weller martin.weller May 17, 2011 Agree, and suggest that if we're interested in thinking about new possibilities, we need to look at the growth of non-institutionalised learning activities and self-organised learning activities. We also need not to romanticise these and the recognise the risk of thinking that non-formal education offers some kind of educational utopia - there's real risks of inequalities emerging in non-formal settings as well as formal settings. Have a look at the critiques of SOLES for example, that document the gender imbalances that emerge. - keri.facer keri.facer May 18, 2011 Absolutely, must surely happen. - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 Are the employers the issue here - what do they expect of job applicants? To what extent will vendor certification or "corporate university" training programme certification tick the "qualification" box? - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Growth of radical economic (social,health, welfare) inequalities and what this means for education. It is possible that the appropriation of rich digital technologies will merely increase and exacerbate the radical educational inequalities that already exist. Or, that they will challenge it. To do the latter, however, we need to look squarely at the problems i.e. nearly 35% drop out before end of High School in the US, and start to harness the technologies to goals of tackling those issues, rather than starting with the technologies and asking what we can do with them. Have a look at the powerful and important work by Jabari Mahiri and at the work of social movement educators like Jean ANyon We need also to engage with the discussions of researchers and educators like MIchael Apple - - without being clear that these inequalities exist, we will not design or use technologies in ways that address this. We will, quite simply, perpetuate the problems. - keri.facer keri.facer May 18, 2011 This is linked to the need to embed and address Digital Literacy for me. Unless we are equipping learners at all levels to actively and critically engage with and make use of technologies we are further disadvantaging our most vulnerable learners. Quite a few large scale studies of younger learners demonstrate a clear correlation between social deprivation and access, skills and confidence. - josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 Yes - don't forget age/position/role as barriers to engage either. - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 A wider issue here is the inaccessibility of academy produced research outputs that are only availbale for free to members of the academy (see recent Lessig CERN lecture on this) - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Educators are increasingly expected to teach digital citizenship. The notion of digital citizenship, and our role as educators in instilling it, is not well understood. Clearly, people of all ages need to understand how to behave civilly and responsibly online, but there is disagreement as to what constitutes responsible behavior and whose province it is to teach it. Like other social mores, online etiquette varies from community to community and culture to culture; the challenge arises in the ease with which community and cultural borders are crossed or even blended in a networked world. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist) --This is huge, because suddenly educators from ALL disciplines are being called upon to integrate more technology in the classroom, so educators must have more opportunities for professional development in digital literacy and citizenship.- Sam Sam May 16, 2011 Is this really the case in UK higher education? I think there are digital citizenship issues that overlap with digital literacy that are starting to be identified as needing more investigation in UK HE, but I think 'digital citizenship' is being taken up more as a discrete responsibility by the schools sector than the university sector. I'd link this back to the 'digital media literacy' entry and say that what we mean by digital literacy is becoming a critical conversation - josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 Is anyone teaching digital citizenship?! - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Increasingly, it is becoming part of the public debate that educators need to improve the ability to measure learning in real time. Current assessment models are criticized for not supporting learners when they are most in need, and educational outcomes are limited by our inability to accurately assess individual student abilities and areas for improvement. Learning analytics is increasingly interesting as a possible avenue for addressing this problem, so much so that major efforts are being undertaken to explore and develop it by EDUCAUSE, the Gates Foundation, and other learning-focused bodies. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist) --Real time measurements translate to real time interventions, so this is indeed a critical challenge.- Sam Sam May 16, 2011 Instrumented learning - measuring what and feeding back to whom for waht purpose? Where's the feedback loop and what system is being controlled to what goal? - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Our ability to remix and reuse content is increasingly limited. Over the last eighty or so years, but especially within the last decade, copyright laws have become more and more restrictive. Where once it was natural to study, learn from, and build upon the creative works of the past, it is now difficult even to understand what is permissible and what is not. Open content and digital scholarship are impeded by laws that circumscribe the ability of teachers and scholars to reuse material of all kinds that could be employed in the service of learning. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon ReportShortlist) Have to agree - the recent UK Hargreaves Report should provide a basis for reform in the UK, with proposals at European level, but the attempts by publishers (eg Oxford/Cambridge suing in the US ) to rigidly control even simple copying for educational use implies that this will not easily be resolved - bill.thompson bill.thompson May 22, 2011 Remix for what purpose? Most people ignore copyright/licensing.... eg in the primary classroom making collages from cut up magazines and comics... - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Simply staying organized and current presents a challenge in a world where information, software tools, and devices proliferate at the rate they do today. New developments in technology are exciting and their potential for improving quality of life is enticing, but it can be overwhelming to attempt to keep up with even a few of the many new tools that are released. User-created content is exploding, giving rise to information, ideas, and opinions on all sorts of interesting topics, but following even some of the hundreds of available authorities means sifting through a mountain of information on a weekly or daily basis. There is a greater need than ever for effective tools and filters for finding, interpreting, organizing, and retrieving the data that is important to us. (Carried forward from the 2011 Horizon Report Shortlist) --This another big challenge because of the amount of resources and the frequency at which they are updated. By the time a student turns in a paper, something has changed!- Sam Sam May 16, 2011. Yes - and it's going to get worse. Perhaps we should spend time in developing the concept that you don't need to know everything. What's important is knowing what's important! - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 Requires and understanding of what does what and how so you can look for alternatives. A bigger is is maybe that tools can be used in combination to very powerful effect, BUT the number of combinations of things explodes we explore less of that space? - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • The impact of commercial providers. As publishers buy education resource sites and we see alignment of iTunesU with Pearson's subject areas will commercial providers and publishers be able to deliver content in a better way and of a higher quality of conventional education providers? A more open market place can be seen as a threat or a challenge, how will our universities respond to this. Will our students and prospective students prefer to use commercial offerings or OERs? - neil.witt neil.witt May 16, 2011 An obvious issue to include here is the increasing number of FE & HE organisations taking up institutional use of Google docs & Facebook. - josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 Verticals are coming: Amazon has a foot in each part of publishing chain, though not yet in academic/textbook publishing? - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Energy crises and emissions targets will have far reaching consequences. A forecasted oil shortage mid-decade and corresponding rises in oil prices are likely to result in economic, political and social volatility, further impacting on efforts to recover from the current economic crisis. This is likely to test HEIs' resilience even further. Related targets for carbon emissions reductions (the UK just announced the most ambitious in the world), could focus attention on the growing demand for energy from technology-rich research, teaching and learning environments. All UK universities are now legally committed to reducing their emissions and the role of technological efficiencies over energy conservation and rationing will become a contested topic. Online distant learning is unlikely to have a positive impact due to economy wide rebound effects. Large, research intensive universities are most vulnerable as they are the highest consumers of energy. - josswinn josswinn May 16, 2011 Further research collected on these pages. Agree - keri.facer keri.facer May 18, 2011 - Agree, critical issue - josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 Higher transport costs and loss of travel cost subsidy means folk may be less likely to afford daily attendance (particularly an issue for FE?) - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • The challenge of informal learning - as people engage in more learning online, with access to content and communities this represents a challenge both in terms of staying relevant, and also in encouraging and recognising this type of learning. Initiatives such as P2P U and OpenBadges may be relevant here. This is not necessarily a competition to traditional education (it may be complementary), but the experience between the two types of learning will be different and managing this and taking advantage of the opportunities provided by informal learning will be a challenge for HE. - martin.weller martin.weller May 17, 2011 Agree - keri.facer keri.facer May 18, 2011 I'd argue that supporting informal learning is now a critical agenda for formal education given financial constraints and concurrent capacity reduction, and the issues alluded to above in terms of pace of change. Supporting staff and learners is going to come down to equipping them to support themselves in terms of ongoing professional development - josie.fraser josie.fraser May 18, 2011 Agree. - david.harrison david.harrison May 18, 2011 Informal learning at what granularity? Just in time microlearning? But what's the payoff for a longer engagement? I can see a rise in expert amateurs, and also use of eg games with a prupose to use crowd based agreement to allow amateur amateurs to participate too (eg galaxy zoo) - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • Technology training for academics - Most academics aren't using interesting technology for learning and teaching, or for organising their own research. They don't know how and they don't have the time to find out. Training on basic techniques (e.g. how to screencast) would go a long way. So would having logons and processes set up already - screencasting training plus a pre-established youtube logon to a channel that's already linked to the relevant course page in the VLE would see a lot more use than training alone. [[user:zoe.rose|1305630362]* I think "cultural change" is a necessary pre-requisite for any future technology training initiative. Academics (and Administrators) need to be persuaded that they need to "go there", that "there be dragons" is not necessarily a bad thing! We've focussed too much on tools in the past without really embracing the pedagogy. Perhaps now is the time to stop, engage thinking and plan appropriately. - david.harrison david.harrison May 19, 2011 Time's the issue - also, getting up to speed in new take may be percieved as requiring an open ended amount of time, hard if you have 2 hrs of research time a week and need to get a paper out.. - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011~
  • The Internet as unsafe territory - there are fundamental contradictions between the Internet as a place of anarchic uncensored adult activity and the responsibility of educators to provide safe and appropriate learning spaces. The proliferation of sites that abuse and exploit human weaknesses - whether gambling, pornography, racism, fraud or a host of others - make it increasingly difficult for education professionals to make the Internet part of everyday teaching and learning. E-safety is a big issue in the UK at the moment but putting the onus always on teaching professions to educate young people in the safe use of something that grows inherently less safe by the day is not a sustainable option. Unless censorship ceases to be a derogatory word and begins to be recognised as having a value in protecting vulnerable people from predators of one kind or another those responsible for student safety and well being will have few incentives to promote the Internet as a tool for learning. - alistair.mcnaught alistair.mcnaught May 18, 2011 Can't agree with your assertion " ... increasingly difficult for education professionals to make the Internet part of everyday teaching and learning" and " ... few incentives to promote the Internet as a tool for learning", however I share your sentiments - sorry! Reluctantly do feel that some form of "channels" might be a way forward - better than out-and-out censorship anyway. - david.harrison david.harrison May 19, 2011
  • It's all about me - a lot of what's been so far points to the ever-increasing focus upon the individual as the centre of their own personalised learning experience. Their learning environment for life. One that they must become confident in changing perpetually, constantly adapting and learning from others who they "follow". It's a goal that's been sought throughout history, but now we're on the threshold of technology opening the door to enable it. With this comes the ever increasing need to prepare young people for their new role in society so that it's not a selfish or quality-driven consumer-focussed move towards "all about me", but more one where being in control of so much more leads one to make sure that you give much more back too! - david.harrison david.harrison May 19, 2011 We want folk to be autodidacts, don't we? - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011
  • The curatorial challenge of the 'university collection' - The university library has traditionally been the home of the collection of scholarly resources, and the associated curatorial traditions, that underpin teaching an research within the institution. This role is significantly challenged by new models of scholarly communication, changing practices around collaboration and social networking, new 'publishing' paradyms, the open access initiative, mass digitisation by commercial companies, initiatives such as iTunes U, and so on. These, coupled with the exploding scale of research data being produced, present a significant challenge to the ways in which institutions curate their scholarly collection. - andy.powell andy.powell May 19, 2011 IS the role of the library going to be a two parter: 1) influential friend who you can invisibly tap for good quality recommendations; 2) rediscovered role as university press/publisher (which includes repository collection development and SEO/discovery support?) - tony.hirst tony.hirst Jun 6, 2011