Near Future Teaching Video Post #7: Values (1) – More than a Business and Diverse, Safe, Affordable

values safe scaledWe are nearing the end of this series of video posts emerging from the Near Future Teaching project, and it felt appropriate to conclude with two posts detailing the values emerging from the project. Staff and students spoke openly about what values they hope would be underpinning the future of digital education at the University. These values have implications for teaching and learning, as they position education as the core value of the University itself. This first values post explores two values: More than a Business, and Diverse, Safe, Affordable.

Values: More than a Business

Many expressed a hope that the university would try “not to fall prey to some of the more commercial interests that seem to impact on our work from time to time” at the expense of “respect for the students, respect for the teachers” (Varia Christie, School of Medicine). Others spoke about what this might mean in practice; how to use open and shared educational resources without promise of commercial gain; the need to understand students not as consumers or customers of education but rather as members of a community of scholarship; and the need to re-identify the values that shape our identity as a university.

The value of “not falling prey”, but rather maintaining a focus on widening access to education, was pronounced throughout the interviews:

Well, I only hope that the university will stay as strong as it is now. It will only aim in spreading education. Not to be shifted into, like, profit side of the education rather than informing more people, giving more experience to more people.

– Jamal Bjaly, MSc Financial Management

But in giving more experience to more people, some are wary of technology being used to plug resource gaps:

But my general reservation of such a large expansion is that we don’t sort of expand on all of the other resources. And maybe technology would be used as a substitute

– Bobi Archer, Edinburgh University Students’ Association.

Some called for a shift away from viewing students as customers, a shift that carries with it implications for teaching:

I think the mindset of students needs to be changed very dramatically away from this sort of customer point of view. That it is our responsibility to teach them. Where as, I think, my view is it’s our responsibility to create the conditions in which they can learn. You know, we have to bring tasks where we scaffold for them, that they have this sense of agency.

– Paul McLaughlin, School of Biological Sciences

Beyond that is a need to re-identify the value of the University as a university:

The university, although it is a business, although it does have some commercial aspect, although it does need to make money and cover its own bases, should be based on different underpinnings than commercial infrastructure. We should be starting from a different point of view. We need to take a step back and go, we’re not a unicorn tech start-up. We are not the next Facebook. We are not the next Google. We are a university.

– Melissa Terras, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science

Values: Diverse, Safe, Affordable

This second values video speaks to diversity and accessibility in learning. It highlights how the richness of our diversity as a community is often under-used, and how technology might play a role in emphasising that diversity, providing new ways to bring different people together. There was a palpable expression of the potential, if unrealised, learning value of diversity at the University:

Somehow there isn’t enough of an appreciation for the actual diverse group of people who are together, and learning from each other, because it’s still very top down, like, this is the university, and, yes, we’re bringing in all these diverse people, but, these are our principles, rather then, hey, this is a really mixed group of people from 200 countries, or whatever it may be, so how we learn from each other?

– Pushpi Bagchi, PhD Student, Design

This extends to diversifying course content, “to make sure that the way topics are approached, the readings assigned, the kind of research, is not favouring that kind of global north, but also thinking of global south perspective, or hearing multiple voices” (Marion Smallbones, MSc Digital Education). Diversity extends to the levels of equity involved in participation in the classroom:

One of my lecturers and I had a discussion about the content being quite difficult to discuss in discussion groups, in that, pretty much everyone, barring four of us, are very middle class, so when they were talking about development of self, cultural aspects, etcetera, the financial aspects were no issue for them.

– Luke Campbell, MSc Philosophy of Education

Ultimately, the University itself is defined by this diversity and by the levels of access that a commitment to diversity might engender:

From the aspect of supreme diversity, I think it’s all in the core values, that should really be promoted, to make education accessible to all people, irrespective of where they’re coming from. Irrespective of their nationalities and their backgrounds, and I think that’s one of the things that would really make the university to continue to stand up among others

–  Misbahu Ahmad, MSc Surgical Sciences

Therefore, there is a need to think critically about what role technology has in fostering this diversity in the digital university without undermining the core values that make us a university.

Michael Gallagher

Dr Michael Gallagher is a member of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at Moray House and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to mobile for development (M4D). His research focus is on mobility, mobile learning, and digital education to support teaching and learning in the humanities in higher education, particularly in the Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan African regions.

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