Thursday, May 28, 2009

What happens when most students are off-campus?

My university (Kalmar in south-east Sweden) had 40% of its students as distance learners in 2008. The figure has been steadily climbing for several years and the question is whether the off-campus students will some day be in the majority. Many universities have already crossed that line, though few have actually made the psychological adjustment. Throughout history schools and universities have been seen as places where people come to learn. Generations of students have developed high levels of loyalty to their alma mater represented by the campus area and the often impressive buildings there.

What happens then when most of a university's students hardly ever visit the campus and learn instead on the net? This is taken up in an article in the magazine Inside Higher Ed, The Distance Ed Tipping Point. Traditions and loyalty are much harder to maintain on the net though some are trying to counter that. Bryant & Stratton College in the US, for example, are holding a virtual graduation ceremony in Second Life for 40 of its distance students, complete with avatars in academic robes (see article in Campus Technology).

So what has to change as the university goes more net-based?
  • When most students are on the net suddenly net-based learning is core business and administrative routines have to be revised accordingly.
  • The role of the teaching staff changes when lecture time is no longer so relevant.
  • Staff training has to focus on the new skills of teaching effectively on the net.
  • Digital competence becomes a key factor in staff recruitment.
  • The use of campus buildings, classrooms and infrastructure needs to be reviewed.
  • Many universities are supported by local authorities and industry and are seen as integral to the region's development so what happens when most of the students live outside the region?

No comments:

Post a Comment