Next Generation University?

Came across an interesting post here on profound changes to higher education. To quote:

New alternative paths towards higher education are opening up every month. The growth of open educational resources mean that the content for a course is freely available and does not need to be developed by the university or school. Collaborative learning means that students learn in groups and through their own personal learning networks. The missing ingredients in the mix are the teacher’s role of facilitator/guide/mentor and role of examiner. Those elements do not necessarily have to be provided by the same institution and thus courses can be offered free of charge and based around a flexible and personalized infrastructure. Students of the future will be able to follow personalized learning paths following courses provided by a variety of providers, sometimes completely net-based, sometimes work-based and sometimes more traditional campus-based courses. In the end the student’s e-portfolio can be presented to a university or accreditation institute for assessment and a degree can be awarded.

Its an interesting and, in many ways, attractive proposition especially at postgraduate, post experience levels where the learner is seeking the recognition of prior learning (RPL) or new knowledge and skills related to their interests, hobbies and professional development. But for qualifications as a route in to the labour market the status of such a degree as is being described to employers (or recruitment consultants) will remain a major barrier. I think it is safe to say that qualifications based on RPL are less valued than more traditional qualifications by employers and, to an extent, by the learners themselves. This barrier is reinforced by a number of factors such as academic self interest in preserving the status of the institution as well as the diversity fo motives for students attending higher education in the first place. While learning will feature in these motives, so does gaining a valued product (qualification) to access ‘better’ jobs alongside basic things like leaving home in a ‘safe’ environment, meeting new people and developing new networks of strong and weak ties – I’ve discussed this previously in the context of institutional virtual learning environments and branding.

These will remain significant barriers to Open Education – its not all about the actual (formal/ subject) learning folks!

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