Technologies are revolutionising the traditional academic activities of learning and teaching, of scholarship and public engagement. Digital media are being harnessed to new knowledge practices in publishing, new research methods, new approaches to data visualisation and management. Digital tools are transforming subjects and professions. Data systems are helping to manage complex organisations and their partnerships, while offering new ways of responding to students. Above all, near-universal access to the global internet is challenging the claim of the academy to host and warrant socially-valued knowledge (Raschke 2004).
These challenges to the existing academic order have coincided with a period of unprecedented expansion, followed by rapid economic contraction in the HE sector, meaning that universities have had to diversify in order to remain successful (Tomlinson 2011). How has that pressure to diversify played out against the adoption of digital methods in the core activities of higher education?
Drawing on experience as a consultant to UK universities (including CLL projects) and to centrally funded Jisc programmes, the author explores a range of responses to these intrinsic and extrinsic factors. She concludes that there is not one route to becoming a successful ‘digital university’ – whether that is characterised in philosphical terms as the ‘postmodern university’ (Raschke 2004, Barnett 2009), in business terms as the ‘entrepreneurial university’ (e.g. Gibb and Hannon 2006), or in socio-geographical terms as a ‘borderless institution’ (Lawton et al 2013). Rather there are a variety of coherent responses. Six are outlined:
[Figure uploaded to conference system. Figure depicts ‘global lecture hall’ <-> ‘local learning hub’; ‘walled garden’ <-> ‘virtual pick’n’mix’; ‘wired community’ <-> ‘international franchise’]
These responses make significantly different demands on local resources, and imply different visions of what the university aspires to be. None of them is possible, however, without recognising and consciously developing the digital capacities of the organisation (Beetham 2010).
Strategic managers can use this opportunity to consider which path their own organisation appears to be set on. Participants with a more general interest in HE policy will benefit from a new perspective on the landscape.
Barnett, R. (2009) The Post-Modern University: Prospects of the Ethical, in Strain, Barnett and Jarvis (eds) Universities, Ethics and Professions. London: Routledge.
Beetham, H. (2010) Review and Scoping Study for a cross-Jisc Digital Literacies Programme. Bristol: Jisc. Available online at: www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearning/digitalliteraciesreview.pdf.
Gibb, A.A. and Hannon P. (2006) Towards the Entrepreneurial University, International Journal of Entrepreneurship Education 4. 73-110.
Lawton W., Ahmed M., Angulo T., Axel-Berg A., Burrows A. and Katsomitros A. (2013) Horizon Scanning: What will higher education look like in 2020? The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education.
Raschke, C.A. (2004) The Digital Revolution and the Coming of the Postmodern University. London: Routledge.
Tomlinson M. (2012) Graduate Employability: A Review of Conceptual and Empirical Themes, Higher Education Policy 25, 407–431.
|Name||Helen Anne Beetham|