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
“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
“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
“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
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
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.