Our response to the regulator’s call for evidence, draws upon this experience and we have been able to identify five ways in which, sector leaders can create a level playing field for online and blended learning. There is a risk that some universities get left behind in this pivotal period for the sector. If some universities are not able to invest in technological innovation they will miss out on the many advantages of technology, creating a gulf between institutions and between the experiences of their learners.
We believe digital parity across the sector can be achieved by:
- Building capacity Ring fence capital funding to build capacity within institutions to drive digital HE:
- supporting providers to develop technical and specialist practical skills digitally.
- shifting away from traditional written assessments to more flexible, online and digital modes of assessment with appropriate levels of security.
- Tackling digital poverty Work with hardware and software companies to move students out of digital poverty.
- Equality of funding Widen the student loan scheme (UG and PG) to be more inclusive in terms of “non-traditional” delivery types and shorter degrees (PG Cert, Top-Ups, HNC, HND, short courses etc).
- Upskilling staff and students Ensure all providers offer digital skills training to both academics and students.
- Championing digital learning Achieve this by:
- promoting the benefits of digital learning across the sector granting it parity of esteem with on-campus.
- supporting the quality control of online delivery to build credibility across the sector.
- celebrating digital innovation across the sector.
Although there are challenges and pitfalls around online delivery, it represents an opportunity for the sector. Digital provides the chance to connect with learners in new ways, widen participation through flexible delivery, and appeal to new learner groups who may need to reskill to find work in challenging economic times.
Universities and policy makers have it within their power, working alongside the likes of Pearson, to provide the environment to deliver high-quality education flexibly. Achieve this and I strongly believe that the sector can not only survive this crisis, but will find ways to innovate and connect with new learners.