Andrea Jenkyns, the Head of RISE, has delivered an invited keynote talk entitled ‘Levelling Up with Digital Learning’ at NEON’s Summer Symposium 2021.

The event, which focused upon access to higher education, took place on Friday 2nd July.

Andrea’s talk examined how new developments in digital learning can make world-class educational opportunities available to students in parts of the country that do not have universities on the doorstep. Her speech highlighted how…

“…with digital learning, we don’t need to design and build new institutions from scratch, or open up new campuses. Working from home and accessing learning online presents us with an opportunity to allow young people in Rotherham, Birkenhead, Doncaster or Gateshead to access a world-class university education via their laptop or smart phone.

That might mean some students would miss out on some aspects of the social life and networking that comes with physically being on campus, but this would be their decision. Importantly, it would not force them to choose between home and all of the things that can entail – family, friends, belonging – and receiving a degree from a leading university.”

As part of the talk, Andrea introduced delegates to RISE’s ongoing research into digital learning, which is being conducted in partnership with NEON and Leeds Beckett University. Andrea said:

“The first part of our research will look at what other countries’ leading universities mean by ‘digital learning’. Is it just a case of transferring what they already do online, with lectures being given over Zoom? Or is it something fundamentally different, with students engaging with online learning materials in their own time?

We’ll be asking about the drivers and challenges of digital pedagogy, how students find it compared to in-person teaching, and what impact it has upon their academic performance.

In addition, we will also get perspectives on how institutions approach the adoption of digital learning and whether this requires a top-down implementation or if it can happen organically, department by department.

By building a picture of what successful digital learning looks and how it can be implemented, we will report on strategies and approaches used around the world that UK institutions can learn from.”

During her presentation, Andrea also gave a frank account of her own educational background, including how she had completed an online degree with the Open University whilst in employment and campaigning to win her Morley and Outwood constituency.

The talk was well received by delegates, with one attendee describing Andrea’s journey as “inspirational” and thanking her for the powerful examples of how digital technologies are transforming education around the world.



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