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AP: Education Must Remain 'Relevant' to Digital Natives
Source: futuregov.asia
Source Date: Thursday, November 11, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Created: Nov 11, 2010

Adapting new technologies to better reflect the lives of students outside universities and schools is essential to keeping educational institutions “relevant”, a panel discussion at the FutureCampus conference in Malaysia has heard.

Addressing delegates from universities across the Asia Pacific region, Director of e-Learning, Learning Space at the University of Sydney, Robert Ellis, said that adopting new technologies to attract more demanding future generations would not necessarily enhance the learning experience.

“Just because they are digital natives doesn’t mean they adapt learning benefits from it,” he said.

Institutions are expected to offer more of the technology that students readily access outside of campus life, he said.

“If we don’t change our pedagogies at schools and universities to reflect their social lives, they’ll start to think we’re not relevant.

“These are key themes in this area over the next five years – schools, departments and disciplines need to develop a language with technology that reflects their native technological literacy.”

The University of Sydney offered 4 million e-learning sessions last year, according to Ellis. Despite being campus based most universities around the world now offered e-learning programmes.

The panel discussion also addressed institutional barriers to adopting e-learning and the benefits of blended learning - the practice of using new technologies alongside traditional methods.

“There has to be a vision and buy in from the executive and what it means for the mission of the university,” Ellis said on initiating e-learning programmes.

The second thing is leadership – having somebody in the executive to lead it, with money and budgeting behind it.

“When we brought e-learning to Sydney in 2001 the executive were initially resistant: the thought that came into the mind was immediately ‘distance’ and it wasn’t until there was sufficient momentum in three or four faculties that this concept got broken down and that e-learning became part of a legitimate face-to-face experience.”

Professor Eric Tsui, Associate Director, Knowledge Management Research Centre at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said that it was easy getting academics to adopt video conferencing as a blended learning option.

“The biggest hurdle is getting it started. Firstly, one type of blended learning is collaborative learning – whereby we have video conferencing, video lectures and so forth. I find it very easy to get academics to adopt this – if I’ve proposed an overseas speaker to deliver an overseas case study – I find the students are not located in one particular location, so we need to bring courses to them.”

The take-up of new technology among university staff was more of a generational reality, rather than a problem, he said.

“The environment itself doesn’t lend itself to a blending learning culture.

One of the factors is the demography of the academic staff in the departments, and we are finding that those who are generation Y and Z tend to be more reactive and responsive to blended learning.”

Vice Provost, (Teaching and Learning), University of Nottingham, Malaysia, Professor Stephen Doughty stressed that it was important to get the technology right at an institutional level.

“Sometimes we can forget that and focus on how to get the technology to work, rather than how to get the most out of it,” he said.

“It’s not just about ‘this is how you switch it on, this is how you operate it, this is how you switch it off again’, it’s about how you utilise this in teaching and how you use this to aid the student’s learning experience.

But he added: “Staff attitude isn’t always to do with the staff, the staff could have wanted to engage, but if at an institutional level you get it wrong, you face an uphill battle to get them back on board.

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