Back in November the Government published their Higher Ambitions paper through the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). The paper sets out a range of proposals for the future of higher education. Its aim being a blue print for “how universities can remain world class, providing the nation with the high level skills needed to remain competitive, while continuing to attract the brightest students and researchers.”
One area that is seen as key is higher quality through greater awareness of choice. The report suggests more help for students who want to “progress through more vocational pathways, or study more flexibly, by varying the length or the intensity of study, studying remotely, and using the latest technology.”
The importance of improvements to the e-learning infrastructure is highlighted in recommendation 31: “The Government, working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, should prioritise investment in e-learning infrastructure to extend the possibilities of remote and online learning.”
To carry out this recommendation a task force led by Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, has been established. The task force will be looking at how the UK can be world leaders in distance learning and increase its market share by 2015. This will underpin the best use of digital technology and e-learning for home students, including as a tool for widening access.
The task force will be meeting during 2010 and making recommendations to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and other relevant government agencies, a final report is due out in October. See the task force page on the HEFCE site for more details.
Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of HEFCE, explained: “The task force intends to encourage debate and discussion on an increasingly important topic in higher education: how to maximise the potential of online learning and technology in order to satisfy the needs of students, education providers and employers.”
It is likely that many of the lessons learnt and technologies examined will have much to offer employees of higher education institutions who choose to work remotely. It is also true that the experiences of those working remotely and in virtual teams may have much to offer those researching distance and e-learning.