Lessons from lockdown: UK universities flock to shape a tech-enabled sector

In a project led by Jisc, leading HE bodies from across the country are working to build a blueprint for digital learning in a post-COVID world

In a project led by edtech non-profit Jisc, a collective of leading UK higher education (HE) organisations have come together to build a blueprint for the digital future of the sector.

Calling on impactful sector bodies to draw on the communal experience of the rapid digital transition implemented in response to the coronavirus lockdown, Jisc is working alongside partners such as Universities UK (UUK), Advance HE and Emerge Education to map the digital future of HE in 2020/21 and beyond. The conglomerate hopes the plan will lay out the next best steps for harnessing the potential of digital technologies to deliver an outstanding education offering.

“Having delivered emergency technology-enabled learning, teaching and assessment, universities now have the opportunity to embed it more effectively and strategically, at scale, in a sustainable way,” said Jisc’s chief executive Paul Feldman.

“Lessons learned during the first few weeks of lockdown will no doubt shape how universities deliver courses in September this year, but there’s further work to do now to fully prepare for 2021/22 and beyond.”

With sector leaders being granted an “unprecedented” chance to transform the HE experience for everyone involved, Jisc is building a partner network of universities and key sector representatives in a programme called ‘Learning and teaching re-imagined’.

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“This programme will look beyond the immediate challenges and explore how, as a sector, we can make the digital shift and reshape the HE experience, ready for when students and staff return to campuses – and beyond,” added Feldman. “Together, we are committed to creating a vision for UK higher education as a world leader in technology-enabled learning.”

Jisc is urging universities to participate in a series of country-wide online events taking place between June and October this year, with the first webinar falling on 17 June. The aim of these events is to produce a framework of best practice for university leaders to help them implement strategic change for tech-enabled learning moving forward.

Nic Newman, partner at Emerge Education and member of the DfE Edtech leadership group, said: “With increasing domestic and international competition for higher education, the challenges of supporting lifelong and more flexible learning, and questions being raised about the cost and efficiency of delivering higher education, digital as a strategic question has never been so important.

“Online learning has already grown from a concept to a US$100bn industry. COVID-19 accelerated this growth for certain, but what challenges and current opportunities does this create for higher education? It is clear that a tech-enabled future for HE is both an immediate response to the current situation, and a potential long-term saviour for institutions.

“In these times, no single institution has the answer to what tech roadmap is needed – but together we do.”

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