Saturday, June 16, 2007

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - The Changing UK Education Environment And Its Impact Upon Student Learning Behaviours

This presentation was given by Robert J. Williams from the University of Plymouth. I attended this presentation as I wanted to get some idea of the issues facing post-secondary institutions in the UK.

Ther have been some major changes to the UK post-secondary scene in the past few years due to government initiatives:
  • Funding is now based on numbers
  • There is an increased intake into higher education
  • Student fees and loans (tuition fees are new to UK university and colleges in the past year or so)
  • Quality audits/student perception surveys
  • Personal development
  • widening participation (government aim for 50% of eligible learners to attend higher education. Rate in Canada is approximately 24%)
  • Credits accumulation/transfer
  • Foundation degrees from feeder institutions
Now seeing more diverse learners with larger classes. More learners with disabilities.

mandated creation of MLEs, managed learning environments - uploading of lectures, notes, assignments etc.

  1. There is now a greater diversity of ability/interest/motivation amongst learners
  2. Reduced ability to concentrate
  3. Reduced self-confidence
  4. reduced inclination to participate in class
  5. Poorer lecture attendance, particularly in morning lectures
  6. Reduced ability to organize teams for team projects
Learners are becoming more strategic in their approach to learning (this ties back to Selinda berg's presentation - education as a product). they are better organized, deciding on whether to attend or use the online MLE resources. there is a distinct attitude of "mark harvesting" vs. "thirst for knowledge"

The question posed was should this strategic approach to learning be encouraged? many learners are using MLEs as distance learning courses, which is not what they were intended for, resulting in higher levels of absenteeism, but this is what learners want - the ability to be strategic about their learning - when, where, and how they will learn.

Much of this change has come about due to work committments in order to fund what was once a free education (fees are now about 6000 pounds/year).

A good glimpse into the state of higher education in the UK - they are having many of the same problems we are. The big question is though - do we accept learner's strategic, product-based approach to learning and accommodate it,or do we continue to put up barriers to learning? If we really believe in Education Without Boundaries the answer to that question should be simple...

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