Trends in universities worldwide

Shelleyann Scott and Kathryn Dixon (2008 ) in their edited book, The Globalized University: Trends and Challenges in Teaching and Learning, offers educational leadership a discussion about the changes information and communicate technology is bringing to their institutions. In many ways higher education institutions are under pressure and there are concerns for its sustainability. Also, there are questions about its post-industrial look as technology-based economies unfold. However, Scott and Dixon claim, “With vision and leadership, today’s universities can use technology more effectively in order to serve post-industrial societies” (p.7). If visionary change is not implemented, and traditions are maintained, they fear educational services and products delivered by the private sector that can address the learning needs of rapidly changing societies.

One concern is the exposure and scrutiny of educational material and educators in the transparent online world as well as the pedagogical and technological capacity of university teachers. On the other hand, instructors are resisting the management of their work from close monitoring and auditing causing them to feel less trusted. As well, increasing pressures to perform in higher education has negatively affected the collegiality within academic cultures.

In Canada, universities are typically underfunded placing the burden on students to pay higher fees, which have doubled in the past decade, forcing students to borrow from the private sector. There are concerns if they will continue to attract high quality students with high fees.

Chapter 2: The quality of teaching and learning and the student experience is becoming more important in higher education as student enrolment increases bringing diverse learners deemed as customers. Other contributing factors are global competition, reduced government funding and increased accountability. For instance, Australia’s federal government has established a national wide quality assurance framework that guides universities in producing and delivering quality services and products. These might include providing teaching and learning strategies, professional development, probation and promotion practices, teaching evaluation and student assessment.

With increased accountability and shared cost of education, students are viewed as customers and wanting more choice and their needs meet. They want the whole educational experience such as well designed courses, qualified and committed staff and instructors, responsive student support systems and a learning experience that engages and retains them.

The academic staff has multiple roles such as maintaining currency and expertise in their subject areas, using emerging technologies well, innovatively design and deliver courses, advise and mentor students, engage in professional development, research and lead teaching and learning on many levels, and manage courses with timely materials and support for students. Students are shown to want education that has “a design that uses an appropriate variety of interactive, practice-oriented and problem-based methods … capable, committed, accessible and responsive staff… efficient and responsive administrative, information technology, library and student support systems … [and] relevant, consistent and integrated assessment of university standard” imbedded in teaching and learning designs (p.26). However, few universities in the UK have developed, communicated to staff, provided professional development or evaluated teaching and learning strategies. More so, aligning strategies to university policies and providing staff incentives to achieve goals need to be addressed as well. However, there are varied views about using teaching strategies with academic staff concerned about poor implementation, unrealistic strategies, erosion of their autonomy, lack of local contexts and the bureaucratization of teaching.

Support of teaching and learning is best at the midrange level (the Central model) to be connected and integrated with the macro level (institution) and the micro level (individual). Though difficult to establish it connects central and local unit in academic development. However, some academic staff seclude themselves from development initiatives and rely on their “small, internally informed, and often unchanging knowledge base” while rejecting research-based practices (p.31).

Also, there is little evidence that LMS improve learning and teaching. As well, online service systems such as PeopleSoft have proven costly and complex though useful. It requires online support and effort to use.

A number of support systems could be student leaders assisting with learning and study skill development, a fellowship program for faculty to have the time to learn and develop online learning skills, awards and funds to support teaching excellence and high standards, and continuing professional development to move to learner-centred teaching, handle diverse cohorts, to use innovative technology, and research in teaching and learning. However, evidence shows that such initiatives might not be improving teaching and learning and professional development, though effective, might not be retained by staff. Yet, it was found that sharing ideas across and within disciplines raises awareness of issues and needs.

Added to this are proactive leadership, teaching and learning advice, PD and perceptions that initiatives and innovation are valued. Barriers to innovate included poor technical infrastructures, high workloads, lack of supportive leadership, policies and values about teaching. However, leaders who can implement a clear vision while being sensitive to the institutional climate and readiness for change were found to be effective. It also required allocating appropriate human, financial, and infrastructure resources, and faculty PD, rewards and recognition. Leaders must also appreciate and recognize faculty’s beliefs and values about teaching and learning, which range from transmission of knowledge to constructivism. This could be influenced by their discipline, such as soft disciplines tend to use a scholarly approach to their teaching. As well, institutions tend to reward research than teaching as fueled by the culture and reward structures.

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