Delivering Multi-Campus Learning
Continuing with my recent blog commentaries on the theme of Learning and Teaching, I want to start a conversation with other academics and related audiences to address a unique challenge being faced by my new institution – delivering a high quality, consistent and ‘efficient’ student experience across 4 regional campuses. The ethos of the multi-campus model is to provide opportunities for students to attend university close to their homes and for the institution to serve its regional stakeholders (businesses, local authorities etc) in a more proactive manner, building long term relationships grounded on a commitment to the area and it’s constituents.
But how do we deliver HE products across 3 or 4 sites without simply requiring roving lecturers to spend a high proportion of their time travelling around the country? In the increasingly harsh HE funding environment the sustainability of this model is questionable and so we need to think creatively about the alternatives. Clearly, the most obvious solution is to engage technology to overcome physical obstacles. We have the wherewithal to operate virtual lectures, podcasts and other technologically aided techniques, but in judging the most appropriate tool we must apply the test of student engagement and, ultimately, of student understanding. If we can utilise ‘new’ technologies to create learning communities beyond geographical boundaries then we can make multi-campuses work. If we create alienated students through the poorly conceived use of technology as a means of generating ‘efficiencies’ alone then we will fail miserably. It is my view that technology can be empowering, enlightening, exciting, efficient AND effective. But we need to talk about our hopes and fears about technology if its role in 21st C education can be rigorously evaluated.