My thanks to Odessa, my colleague at the VLL, for sending me The Edgeless University; a new report by University of Nottingham alumnus Peter Bradwell for Demos.
He argues increasingly diverse student demographics and socio-economic changes brought about by Web technologies, social media and open content require more learner-directed, modular and technologically facilitated approaches to Higher Education:
“At its most radical, edgelessness can lead to institutions exploring new ways of accrediting learning, of providing recognition of research and learning and of offering affiliation. Those in informal learning can be offered help in finding routes to formal qualification, connecting with alternative providers or alternative open learning resources and of finding new forms of course provision” (p.10).
Universities retain (many would say appropriately) a near-monopoly on formal accreditation, which Weller and Dalziel (2007) identify as one of their key functions – and reasons for continued survival. The others are:
- the provision of formal or structured learning frameworks (i.e. curricula)
- the convenience to students in providing access to resources and educators
- the sociability of the student cohort – learning the same things at the same time in the same place
Social media and open access are increasingly demonstrating the potential to accommodate each of these, yet the significance of the last function to the physicality of Universities is frequently overlooked.
No matter how effectively structured and sociable learning networks outside institutional frameworks may become, the deeply embedded socio-cultural practice (in the West anyway) of going to university – which most middle class, and increasingly lower class, students see as a rite of passage – cannot be ignored.
Bradwell, P. (2009). The Edgeless University: Why Higher Education must embrace technology. London: Demos.
Weller, M. J. & Dalziel, J. (2007). On-line Teaching: Suggestions for Instructors. In L. Cameron & J. Dalziel (Eds.), 2nd International LAMS Conference 2007: Practical Benefits of Learning Design, 26 November. Sydney: LAMS Foundation (76-82).