Universities can deliver a truly personalised learning experience by 2030, says report

A report penned by Jisc and Emerge Education explores the transformation of higher education in a post-pandemic world

Universities can offer students a fully personalised learning experience in less than a decade, claims a new report.

According to Technology-enabled teaching and learning at scale by Jisc and Emerge Education, the UK higher education sector will be able to provide the flexibility, interactivity and personalisation required by students post-pandemic by 2030, but, say sector experts, they need to act now if they are to fulfil such demands.

“Delivering technology-enabled teaching and learning at scale will require significant resources, and universities are still dealing with huge changes,” said Nic Newman, partner at Emerge Education. “The report shows though, that it is possible to do so by 2030, and that the benefits reaped by students, staff and universities could be immeasurable.”

The report is based on interviews with more than 50 university leaders, edtech founders and higher education experts. It predicts that student appetites and expectations for digital learning will continue to grow post-pandemic, and organisations are already competing with global technologies used by students at home – but, warns Alejandro Armellini, dean of digital and distributed learning at the University if Portsmouth, institutions must be selective in choosing technologies that are fit for purpose.

“Universities often focus on adding new systems on top of what already exists. That can be likened to buying a Ferrari and putting it in the middle of a very muddy field.” – Alejandro Armellini, University of Portsmouth

“Universities often focus on adding new systems on top of what already exists. That can be likened to buying a Ferrari and putting it in the middle of a very muddy field. If you buy a wonderful learning analytics platform, only to discover six months later that your data streams are terrible, it’s not going to work,” he said.

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Findings show that universities must start planning long-term tech strategies now to help students develop the employability skills needed to thrive in an increasingly digital world, as well as give staff the stability and digital skills they need, and allow organisations to promote the benefits of blended learning and value for money.

Ian Dunn, provost at Coventry University, writes in the report: “Sharing practical steps and advice, the report recommends that university leaders identify gaps in provision and invest accordingly, devising innovation frameworks to make decisions with pace and agility, and focusing efforts on data management.”

However, such a drastic overhaul is no easy feat, said Sue Attwell, head of edtech at Jisc. “This is a rare opportunity to redesign the teaching offer for students, highlighting the need for better support and upskilling for staff – both technological and pedagogic,” she explained. “Jisc’s learning and teaching reimagined surveys show that the confidence of teaching staff in their digital skills increased significantly between March and September 2020, from 49% to 74%. However, there’s still work to be done to ensure staff are confident and comfortable with technology, in turn ensuring that students receive the best possible university experience.”

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