The observation above was made a little over two years ago by PebblePad Founder and CEO, Shane Sutherland. It was prompted not only by our own experiences with our customers but research we had conducted into the published learning and teaching strategies of 50 universities around the world. This research culminated in our hugely popular Global Trends in Higher Education publication.
The start of a new decade provides a natural point for reflection and checking course. In 2020 we’ll be as keen as ever to be involved in - and instigating - discussions about the lie of the learning landscape. In this blog post we'll be taking a look at what has gained momentum since our last survey, and shining a spotlight on the likely focus areas for educators, technologists and strategists in 2020 and beyond. At the end of the post, you'll also have the opportunity to have your say by contributing to our Global Ambitions Survey.
BOLSTERING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
The aim to place students at the heart of the learning experience has been gathering steam for some time now and figured prominently in our research findings two years ago. Along with heightened student expectations as universities around the globe move towards a customer-focused model, the changing nature of student cohorts and an increasing focus on retention and completion mean that this aim is inevitably being more highly prioritised. Our guide Developing a Student-Centred Learning Strategy offers up six ideas for kickstarting a successful organisation-wide student-centred learning strategy.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION
If student-centred learning is about developing learner autonomy and independence, then learner equity is about ensuring that each student has what they need in order to succeed. With increasing diversity of learner cohorts, universities have to be equipped to provide support for students with low socio-economic status, students with disability, indigenous students, regional / remote students and culturally and linguistically diverse students. Initiatives to increase access, participation and success for these learners can be supported by a considered approach to using learning technology in addition to learner-centred pedagogies.
Employability will increasingly be acknowledged as more than “getting a job”. Future-ready learners need to be able to prepare and plan for their learning experiences, record and reflect upon those experiences, collect and collate evidence of their learning and skill development, and finally, share and showcase their leaning journey and achievements. These skills allow learners to demonstrate (and celebrate) who they are beyond the transcript. Our Employability Guide - Cultivating Future-Ready Learners, explores these ideas in more detail.
Learners’ expectations are of a convenient, accessible anytime, anywhere and personalised learning environment. Beyond accessing their learning tools where and how they need to, it’s important that the learning experience is owned by the student. Guiding students to make their learning personally relevant by connecting theory to personal experience and work-based practice, reflecting on individual goals and next steps, engaging with meaningful, iterative formative feedback are the very things PebblePad was designed to support.
Increasingly, learners are being given the opportunity to gain recognition for discrete or specialised skill sets and achievements through learning activities smaller than a degree, such as projects or short courses. These might be in relation to graduate attributes, recognition of prior learning, or continuing personal and professional education. While the issuing of micro-credentials, often in the form of a badge, allows greater flexibility and choice for students, being able to bring these credentials together and tell a cohesive story is going to be a major challenge as certification of achievement becomes more fragmented.
SUPPORTING DIVERSE CONTEXTS FOR LEARNING & ASSESSMENT
WORK-BASED AND REAL-WORLD LEARNING
For quite some time now we've been noticing and reflecting on what amounts to a seismic shift away from knowledge and content-defined courses to a focus on more student-centred, experiential and integrative learning pedagogies. This has led to the rise of the myriad learning and assessment contexts, from work integrated learning experiences, degree apprenticeships (UK) and field work, to placements in clinical or educational settings. We addressed some of the challenges this can raise in our Using Technology to Support Real-World Learning blog post.
TRACKING AND SUPPORTING PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Whether it’s needing to view learners’ evidence of development against competency, providing mentoring, coaching or personal tutoring, or enabling emerging professionals to record their early career CPD and learning, having the right mechanism to record, assess, report on and audit learner outcomes – or progress along the way – has never been more important. In addition to merely tracking, we believe that integrating this with a capacity for student reflection, and for formative and dialogic feedback from assessors and mentors, will become increasingly relevant in supporting development from student to emerging professional.
The shift from a context in which content is king to that of experiential and integrative learning experiences has of necessity led to different approaches in assessment, which have a greater emphasis on learners using and applying skills and knowledge in multiple contexts. This accounts not only in a shift toward assessment for learning, but also an increased focus on the importance of various types of feedback. Formative feedback, peer review, external supervisor or mentor input, self-refection and review – educators and learning designers are increasingly being challenged to involve the learner in their own feedback and assessment processes.
ADDRESSING INSTITUTION-WIDE CHALLENGES
PRIVACY, USAGE AND OWNERSHIP OF DATA
In an environment of pervasive (some might even say invasive) online platforms and portals scrabbling for personal data, and in the era of high profile analytics scandals, the question of who has access to learner data and what they do with it is of increasing concern. PebblePad is first and foremost a personal space for learning and ever since our inception some 15 years ago we have always placed learner privacy and security at the heart of our design decisions. In addition, we very much see ourselves as partners in helping shape the wider conversation around the ethical use of data.
AGREE WITH THE ABOVE? DISAGREE? HAVE YOUR SAY BY CONTRIBUTING TO OUR GLOBAL AMBITIONS SURVEY
We'd really like your opinion on the above focus areas. If you're willing to invest just a few minutes to complete our 2020 Global Ambitions in Higher Education Survey, we'll enter you into a prize draw to win a much-coveted PebblePad Millican ruck-rack, donate £2 to charity, and you'll have the opportunity to put yourself forward to be considered as a contributing author to future publications. With our publications making a real impact (1000's of downloads and counting), it's a terrific way to elevate your status as an educational trailblazer.