Uninstitutionalising Institutions

The numbers of years undergraduates spend in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are relatively short compared to their entire careers throughout which they will carry-out lifelong learning. This leads to the question: ‘do institutions need to change the way they deliver learning and manage their learners?’

To explore this question further, it means, in these times of Cloud Computing and large amounts personal data being stored in the Web Cloud, should institutions continue locking learning and personal development processes behind institutional passwords which expire when students leave the institution. Do HEIs need to adapt their delivery to enable students to continue using their learning (materials) after graduation?

This question isn’t just related to post HEI learning, but also learning and online activities students are involve in before and during University. When students arrive at an institution it is likely they have an email account on Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo (other services are available), that are attached to online services such as social networks. Therefore this provokes the question: ‘should students be asked about a preferred email address?’ This will not only make it easier for their course tutors and alike to make contact, but also ensure students are receiving their learning where they want it to be delivered.

This approach will also enable learners to organise their learning in a way that suits them. Instead of delivering learning via institutionally structured, formal Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), student can organise their learning within Personalised Learning Environment (PLEs). These environments can then be integrated with other online activities outside of the institution structures and systems.

Furthermore, if institutions were encouraging students to carryout Personal Development Planning (PDP) in non-institutional environments are students are more likely to continue the process post-university?

This became more evident to me whilst at the Centre for Recording Achievement Residential 2008. During the Residential there was a question and answer session with a recent graduate, she described how she carried PDP activities in an institutional VLE. When I asked the question “what has happened to all that information now?” she answered “I don’t know” and went on to say how she can no longer access the materials because her account had expired. I found this shocking – valuable developmental material was lost due to institutional processes. This could be easily resolved by allowing her to manage the process herself by using tools that are familiar.

To come back to the original question, I can only conclude, for students to get the most value out of their learning, institutions are going have to become more flexible in the use of Cloud Computing to accommodate the way which learners manage their online materials.

Matthew Mobbs

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  1. bdra

     /  March 6, 2009

    Hi Matthew – great point. One of the courses that I participated in at USQ (University of Southern Queensland) was called ‘Emerging environments for learning’, and most of the activities for this course were undertaken in a ‘tikiwiki’ site, which was separate from the university’s VLE (which was WebCT at the time). It was a great resource because it contained all the work of previous students, as well as current students on that course and other courses. Past students were encouraged to remain involved and contribute actively to the ongoing discussions, which many of them did. Since then, the designer of the course, Peter Evans, has made the site available in the public domain, with permission from all contributors. If you’re interested, see http://www.baker-evans.com/knowledgegarden/tiki-index.php – it might go some way towards being a model of what you are proposing. (Although I haven’t yet got the PLE thing sorted – looking forward to hearing your tips on that in future postings!)

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