HEFCE’s new strategy for e-learning

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has issued a document called Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology: A revised approach to HEFCE’s strategy for e-learning. Naturally I was interested to see what they are recommending. Various other studies are quoted which demonstrate the benefits of elearning, and there are references to a few learning technologies:

  • mobile learning and personalisation: learners expect to be able to use their own devices and to personalise institutional services
  • eportfolio (though they don’t call it that): more learners will require a lifelong learning record which provides links to formal qualifications, facilitates reflection and helps to identify learning opportunities
  • eassessment: some of the benefits are listed in the report, though there are no recommendations

Two of these, eportfolios and eassessment are already priorities for JISC which is also prioritising learning resources and activities, technology to support the administration of learning, teaching and assessment (a bit of recursion going on here) and technology-enhanced learning environments. There’s mention too of JISC’s and the Higher Education Academy’s pilots on open educational resources to examine how they can enhance learning and teaching. The Academy’s plans for developing an easily-navigable evidence base are discussed too – this would certainly be useful.

There’s also the age-old argument that the driver should be the enhancement of learning and teaching rather than the technology, and more strongly:

Innovative developments in technology will only be relevant if the enhancement of learning and teaching is the core purpose.

You can agree with this in principle but as I’ve argued before the technical innovations tend to come first and only then are their applications in education made possible.

All that is kind of by way of introduction to a list of strategic priorities and goals or benchmarks which institutions might try to achieve to meet those priorities. One example of a goal is:

Web 2.0 technologies are harnessed to support communities of learning and research

The danger with benchmarks like these of course is that they can turn into mere tickboxing exercises. Just about any university could tick that one but it’s meaningless without a sense of scale, impact and change over time. Nevertheless there’s a useful set of indicators in the policy which we’ll need to look at carefully to see if we can translate them into our institutional context, compare with other elearning benchmarking methodologies and add these dimensions of scale, impact and change.