Responding to the perfect storm: impetus to create an edgeless university?

Reushle, Shirley and McDonald, Jacquelin (2010) Responding to the perfect storm: impetus to create an edgeless university? In: EDEN 2010 Annual Conference: Media Inspirations for Learning: What Makes the Impact?, 9-12 Jun 2010, Valencia, Spain.

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For better or for worse, we are seeing profound change in society, the workplace and how learners live and work. In today’s interconnected technology-supported and driven world, learning typically takes place in physical, virtual and remote places. It is an integrated, highly technical environment. Educational institutions worldwide have access to a range of information and communication technologies which is creating exciting new learning and teaching opportunities and is challenging existing practice. Online learning is now part of much of mainstream higher education and innovative learning approaches have the potential to transform the industry. Rapid changes in the nature of the workplace, work (new jobs, new careers), the structure of organisations, and the pervasive presence of networked technologies are requiring a shift in focus in the world of education and training. A skill learned this week may be out of date the next making it apparent that traditional ways of working in educational institutions are unsustainable, requiring an “adapt to survive” imperative. In today’s knowledge economy, the role of higher education is being redefined. Hilton (2006, p. 1) suggests that this may be viewed as “a perfect storm, born from the convergence of numerous disruptive forces...[and] as the dawn of a new day, a sunrise rife with opportunities arising from these same disruptive forces”. How an institution chooses to respond to the disruptions can shape its future direction. These disruptive forces do not necessarily indicate a problem and may, in fact, result in positive outcomes according to the diverse contexts in which they occur.
Using technology in innovative ways can be at the heart of institutional change but this does not mean building rooms full of computers on a university campus. The internet, social networks, and collaborative online tools allow people to work together more easily and the provision of open access to content can be both the cause of change for universities, and a tool with which they can respond. Lang (2003) has used the term “edgeless” to describe cities subject to a certain type of sprawl. Universities too are experiencing “sprawl”. The function they perform is no longer contained within the campus, nor within the physically defined space of a particular institution, nor, sometimes, even in higher education institutions at all. The university is becoming defined by its function – provider and facilitator of learning and research – not its form. An example of an Australian university initiative to meet these challenges is the establishment of the Australian Digital Futures Institute (ADFI) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Australia. USQ, an Australian regional university and by its very nature “edgeless”, has offered distance education for more than 30 years and has over seventy-five percent of its learners studying at a distance. The strategic focus of ADFI is to identify, test, and promote the application of new and emerging technologies with a view to transforming learning and teaching practice and research activity across the university, within and across disciplines and extending to national and international collaborators.
The adoption of various information and communication technologies in higher education has tended to change teaching from what was traditionally a private or behind closed doors activity to the opening up of courses to scrutiny in terms of content and processes. The implementation of flexible learning creates both opportunities for innovative learning and teaching practice, and provides challenges as academics seek to adapt to changing educational environments. The trends in and impacts of the use of information and communication technologies in the higher education sector mean that change is an ongoing, organic factor of tertiary education where there is no point in time at which everyone can declare a victory and go back to normal life. This is not necessarily something to be feared as it promises to offer exciting challenges. The key to organisational change and sustainability is to embrace the disruptive forces, exploit the energies created by the perfect storm, accepting that this may require significant change in the cultural orientation and behaviour of stakeholders. A need for shared vision, consultation and collaboration, an institution-wide response, a commitment to a culture of “openness” and a willingness to embrace an element of risk are promoted by the authors as key to achieving this change.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: No evidence of copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Australian Digital Futures Institute (8 Dec 2010 - 6 Jul 2016)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Australian Digital Futures Institute (8 Dec 2010 - 6 Jul 2016)
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2010 11:19
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2014 01:26
Uncontrolled Keywords: edgeless university; perfect storm; ICTs; disruptive forces; Australian Digital Futures Institute
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
13 Education > 1399 Other Education > 139999 Education not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education
39 EDUCATION > 3999 Other Education > 399999 Other education not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930501 Education and Training Systems Policies and Development

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