Day Two of the HE Summit. Some moments of good dialogue, amidst periods when we seemed to be witnesses to a platform for posturing and platitudes. Not really a problem with the speakers, more the rather general topics and reliance on questions from the floor.
An afternoon on ‘Students as Aggressive Consumers’ provided some interest. Lots of focus on students as co-creators of knowledge, rather than consumers of the core HE experience, but an acknowledgement that they are increasingly demanding customers of services such as 24/7 libraries and IT, childcare and accommodation. I was particularly impressed with a point made by a V-C from Washington U, to the effect that any debate about the quantity of contact hours (as in, I’ve paid x for this course so why did I only get y hours in class) misses the point, as what university provides is opportunities to learn – which come from many activities, including for instance work with other students and engagement with the SU… so if we start dickering over ‘how many hours’ we’ve already lost the real argument.
Guardian online picked up on some points made by Shadow Universities Secretary David Willetts, who seemed unaware that Unistats is offering much of the information he feels people need. Information clarity is obviously a good thing, though people’s selection processes may not be as rational as we think.
I ran a session with Philip Pothen from JISC, which seemed to go well (though as Iggy Pop once said, ‘It’s difficult to judge yourself in a mirror made of people.’) Philip gave an excellent overview of young people’s online behaviour, based on research which I’ll try and link to when I get home. I explored marketing aspects of digital technologies, in a presentation I can provide if anyone’s interested. One point I’d like to explore with colleagues at Edge Hill concerned the convergence of course delivery and marketing that will occur if the expansion of smaller-chunked lifelong learning develops as desired by the Government. In a scenario where we have large learner populations enrolled on modules, distributed across linked HE, FE and employer settings, ‘marketing’ will become as much a matter of encouraging progression as of recruitment to the start of a programme. Data and digital comms will become even more central to marketing in this scenario.