Andrea Jenkyns and Professor David Hopkins were delighted to appear on the ‘Future Rollout of Digital Provision in HE’ panel at last week’s Westminster Higher Education Forum conference.

Andrea Jenkyns MP chaired the panel which featured contributions from Graeme Knowles (Head of Education Innovation, University of Warwick), Jon Faulkner (Managing Director of Domain7), Ann Thanaraj (Assistant Academic Registrar, Teesside University), Francis Gaffney (Director of Threat Intelligence and Response, Mimecast), and Savannah Hanson (Education Officer, University of Sheffield Students’ Union).

The esteemed panel discussed issues including infrastructure, connectivity, accessibility, exclusion, skills development, digital pedagogy, and online safeguarding.

The panel was followed by a keynote address (also chaired by Andrea) which was delivered by Professor David Hopkins, RISE’s Education Policy Lead.

David’s paper, ‘Digital Learning Globally: What UK universities can learn from international best practice’, highlighted how digital learning was becoming increasingly popular around the world prior to COVID, but that shifts to online platforms were accelerated by the pandemic.

Whilst some countries have provided a high standard of online education during the pandemic, David also pointed out that some less developed countries could not do so, and that – even within rich countries – digital divides mean that the quality of education is not universal.

To this end, David reflected upon the findings of the Office for Students’ ‘Gravity Assist’ report, authored by Michael Barber. The report indicated that 36% of teachers had no technical support when faced with the challenge of moving their lessons online and that almost 20% were not confident they had the necessary skills to teach online.

This, David pointed out, is something that RISE’s current digital learning research investigation aims to understand more about. How do experienced online educators design and assess learning? How do they embed skills development opportunities? How do they overcome barriers, like digital divides or technical skills needs?

Professor Hopkins’ keynote concluded that, post-pandemic, three things are required:

  • Systematic response – whole system reform which sees the pandemic as an opportunity for positive change
  • Pedagogical skills – enabling teachers to make the best use of online learning and to use technology effectively
  • Skills development – enabling students to develop skills in self-motivation and independence of learning so that social mobility is possible.

If you are organising a conference or event and would like a member of the RISE team to speak on a panel or deliver a keynote, please get in touch with us.


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