Virtually It's Our Best Shot @timeshighered

Interesting story.

E-learning allows universities to reach more people, to improve their teaching and, potentially, to keep costs down. It also offers a way forward for the Western academy, argues John Hennessy

No topic in higher education is more hotly debated today than online education. Much of the conversation and speculation revolves around “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), on which hundreds of thousands of students have enrolled. But MOOCs are just one part of a much broader range of online educational technologies – and perhaps not even the most important part.

Clearly, the extensive deployment of online education is still in its infancy, and it is too soon to predict the outcome from a handful of experiments. But one thing is clear: online education offers tremendous opportunities for universities to improve the way they teach, to reach more students and, potentially, to decelerate the rapid rise in the cost of education relative to family income – which, if unimpeded, will make higher education increasingly inaccessible.

Read full story.

Academic Digital

Live Chat with @GdnHigherEd

In my efforts to declutter & streamline, I totally missed the following ‘live chat’ on Guardian Higher Education (thanks to Justine Mortimer for bringing it to my attention), seeking to find effective ways for social media to be used in HE, rather than just leading to fatigue:

Matt Silverman writes for Mashable: “When it comes to higher ed, there are not only opportunities for digital learning, but digital marketing too.” Social media can allow universities to advertise to prospective students, to share class announcements and to allow alumni to keep in touch. In the academic community, social media offers a chance for collaborative work, networking and profile building.

Check out the full story online, or like Guardian Higher Education on Facebook.


The need for Universities to engage (properly) with social media

A great story in the pull out on the World University Rankings in Times Higher Education, encouraging universities to move properly into the digital age.

The increased importance of brands has been paralleled by rapid growth in the channels of information that shape reputation and transmit brands. Social media outlets have proliferated, diversifying the ways information is spread. There are live chats, blogs, interactive bookmarking and video sharing. All can and do shape reputations.

Universities have been slow to react to the shift in the media environment. They have one foot in the print and post era, and one in the online age. Yet they often engage social media on the same terms as they engage mass media: fixed and formal messages, static images and long production cycles.


To achieve this brand leverage, universities have to engage with social media platforms and listen to many active voices. And they have to be quick about it because messages on these platforms move fast and reach many.

For example, a single student’s “status update” on Facebook at midnight about University X will reach on average 130 friends. If 15 of those friends comment, their messages will go to more than 1,000 individuals. Some will post a related message on Twitter. A complete stranger who searches for University X on Twitter will see this post; they could write a blog and reach another group of readers. Before University X’s communications office has opened, a message about the institution has been created and spread.

Read full post. Many lecturers are still treating social media as something optional … but we live in a digital world and we need to engage with it!

Academic Digital

Universities: Valuable Social Impact! #LoveHE

The social impact of universities over and above their direct economic contribution to the UK is worth £1.31 billion a year, a report published as part of Universities Week says.

The attempt to quantify the sector’s unseen value takes into account such factors as health and well-being, “citizenship” and political engagement. Compiled for Universities UK by the new economics foundation (NEF), the report, Degrees of value: how universities benefit society, measures the “social return on investment” in an attempt to put cash values on societal outcomes.

It says it is “an initial attempt to evoke discussion about the broader public contributions from the diverse ways in which everyone profits from the university sector”.

Faiza Shaheen, the author of the report and an economist at the NEF thinktank, argues that universities need to become more vocal about the public value they deliver.

“Everyone knows that higher education is essential for a thriving economy,” she said. “But universities deliver much more than just economic benefit to the UK. They’ve been helping to build a ‘Big Society’ long before the current concept had been conceived.”

Read full article, and download the report.



The Assault on Universities…

Hundreds of academics, writers and other campaigners from across the world have signed a “manifesto” calling on the coalition government and UK universities to reverse policies that they say are leading to the commercialisation of higher education.

The itemised petition, created as part of a new book by two academics on the impact of the government’s reforms, calls for public spending to be brought in line with other European countries and asks for an end to the culture of “customer satisfaction”.

The signatories include academics and leading officers from student unions as well as more high-profile figures, including Neal Lawson, chair of the think tank Compass, and Labour MP John McDonnell.

One of the project’s creators – Des Freedman, reader in communications and cultural studies at Goldsmiths, University of London – said the idea originated from the protests against tuition fee increases late last year. The groundswell of opposition had demonstrated that many people across society, not just students and academics, were concerned about the direction of education policy worldwide.

The book, The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance, to be published in the summer, will look at how market forces have altered the purpose of universities, including the effect on the nature of teaching.

Read full story, and visit the publisher’s site.