Sustaining and Embedding Innovations - wiki JISC Sustaining and Embedding Innovations / Understanding future educational scenarios
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Understanding future educational scenarios

Educational futures

Institutions should aim to better understand what future scenarios of education may look like in order to help them create appropriate organisational structures and manage innovation. At the JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010, Keri Facer (Professor of Education at the Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University) gave a keynote presentation which drew on a two-year strategic futures project (Beyond Current Horizons, 2007-2009) that examined a wide range of future scenarios for socio-technical change. The programme addressed questions of demographic and environmental change, new debates in intelligence and identity, and divergent possibilities for democratic and economic future scenarios. The session also drew on Keri’s book ‘Learning Futures: Education, Technology and Social Change’ (2011) in which she talks about the increasingly urgent need for educational institutions to act as democratic and experimental public spaces in which questions about possible futures are debated and in which educators, students and communities can design, test and build equitable alternatives. Keri suggested that we need to look beyond the usual educational audiences in having this debate - other networks, initiatives and groupings are addressing similar issues and we need to connect with them to build sustainable futures. Educational institutions will need to become borderless in a more radical way than by providing a layered offering to different markets and audiences – by connecting with their communities. In the on-going conference debate, the question 'Will there be a role for the physical institution?' produced a near consensus and there were some interesting observations on the social aspects of learning and the value of the physical institution as a site of shared experience expressed by Tony Bartley, by saying 'there are great opportunities for accessing learning in new ways and for creating flexibility in the way we receive education and interact, but that physical spaces where people get together and share ideas and experiences will remain very important.'


You can view the recording of Keri’s (Elluminate) session and download her presentation.


Visioning and scenario planning “Scenario planning” is a technique for anticipating the future by understanding the nature and impact of various driving forces & creating a series of “different futures” which stemmed from uses in corporations such as Shell. JISC infoNet has published guidelines and tools in relation to scenario planning which institutions can adopt to support them in anticipating educational futures.


Educational futures for curriculum design delivery and assessment

As part of anticipating educational futures, it is important that curriculum design, delivery and assessment adapts to meet the needs of society. Already we are seeing demographic changes in those undertaking further and higher education, with widening participation and a shift towards work-based and distance learning. All this is requiring FE/HE institutions to become more mature in terms of partnership working between themselves and with employers and to develop more business-like ways of working. Progression will become of increasing importance and this is reflected by Scotland’s creation of “articulation” (or progression) hubs that are strongly focused on facilitating seamless progression paths for learners e.g. from vocational to academic study.


This section will not explore how curriculum design, delivery and assessment will likely adapt – but there is a great deal of knowledge and expertise available as a result of a range of JISC funded programmes to support institutions in adapting curriculum design, delivery and assessment – which have involved a wide range of HE/FE institutions working in collaboration (e.g. in CAMEL cohorts):



At the JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010, three projects from the Transforming Curriculum Delivery through Technology programme highlighted their own approaches to sustaining curriculum delivery innovations across three very different institutions:


  • Cascade Project (Oxford University) – presented by Marion Manton (eLearning Research Project Manager at Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning – TALL - in the Department for Continuing Education).
  • KUBE Project (Kingston College) - presented by Phil George (eLearning manager with responsibility for teacher’s professional development and training in eLearning and blended learning practice).
  • eBiolabs (Bristol University) – presented by Gus Cameron (Research Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry).


Further project info is available at projects have often had to take pragmatic approaches to sustainability that reflect institutional responses to challenges brought by the current economic climate.


The key areas that the presenters found to be challenging to sustaining curriculum innovation in delivery were captured in the following mind map:




You can view the recording of the conference session and download the presentation.


JISC has also published Effective Assessment for a Digital Age  which draws on JISC reports and case studies from different contexts and modes of learning to explore the relationship between technology-enhanced assessment and feedback practices and meaningful, well-supported learning experiences.


At the JISC Innovating e-Learning Conference 2010, Professor David Boud (Professor of Adult Education in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney) focused specifically on the future of assessment in his session Transforming Assessment for a Digital Age. David states “Assessment exerts a powerful influence of learning whatever the environment in which it operates. We need to think carefully about the influences of assessment and conceptualise it well if learning is our prime concern. This session explored how we can frame assessment to promote longer term learning and focused on how a digital environment can help us achieve more than is possible in face-to-face situations. It discussed some of the traps of the digital environment for assessment for learning, as well as what is enabled and raised questions about what we are to focus on if we are to be serious in transforming assessment for learning and maximising the effects of our courses on what students can do.”  


You can view the recording of David’s session and download the presentation.


By better understanding how curriculum design, delivery and assessment will adapt, institutions will be able to create appropriate organisational structures. For instance, this might mean:


  • A shift to using part-time academic staff (on different contracts) who can balance academic and vocational modes of teaching, learning and assessment.
  • Creating dedicated units for work-based learning and employer engagement (e.g. Middlesex’s Institute for Work-based Learning).
  • Greater integration or alignment of academic support services to support programme design and review (e.g. QE, blended learning, information and library services etc., employer engagement).
  • Greater internal and external partnership working.
  • Shared services (internal and external).