Guest post by B. A. Birch.
Academics are now able to broadcast their lectures over the internet. Online developments have made distance-learning students be able to interact with their lecturers much more easily, and much quicker. Social media is slowly bringing down walls between disciplines within HE and bringing down barriers between researchers and the general public, writes Eliza Anyangwe at the Guardian.
Other projects include Figshare which encourages academics to not just share but also publish negative results and unpublished figures.
Considering the impact of the internet on higher education, blogger Andy Shaindlin, said we’re at the beginning of digital technology’s influence over education.
But what are the inherent risks of embracing the web and replacing conventional processes? asks Anyanqwe.
Unlike published hard copies, the British Library speaks of the “transient nature of the Web [which] means that new information replaces older information constantly without any records of the previous state (or versions) of the same information.”
In an attempt to prevent “a significant gap in our knowledge of the historical web and potentially in social history” the memory institution is archiving and preserving websites.
Christine Hine, senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Surrey says “[universities] should be careful about splashing out on flash technology, but not too careful”.
“One of the key problems is that often there’s real uncertainty about which platforms to invest in – and that goes for individual academics and for whole institutions as well. Nobody wants to be left out of the next big thing, but investing in particular platforms can also be a major commitment – one that can backfire. It leads to what I’ve called the “dance of initiatives” with institutions in particular circling around trying to be part of any significant moves without over-committing to any one solution.”
“Higher Education is a good environment for innovation, but only to an extent. I think a lot of students (and many lecturers) find most Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platforms a little clunky, sometimes extremely so. There can be for-good reasons of course, such as ensuring accessibility for diverse students, keeping it simple for lecturers and so on, but there does seem to be a tendency for VLEs to lag in some respects, and certainly such applications don’t seem to resemble cauldrons of innovation.”
However, Guardian reader and commenter @pat3460 commented that “universities need to be explicit in their social media policies if academics are going to use them openly and confidently:
“What we’re seeing is that some (probably most) institutions are using some form of social media to engage applicants. The picture when it comes to teaching is rather different with some having policies that encourage their academics to make use of social media, others having policies that say “It’s there but beware the university’s reputation if you use it” and others developing their own social software for teaching. So it’s a real mixed bag. What needs to happen is that the fear needs to be dispelled for the “beware of the reputation” brigade and the best practice needs to be shared amongst the others.”