In reading Part 1, the current 19th Century industrial model of education that universities still cling on to is all too familiar. While many will see what Bates is proposing as being too radical and unlikely to be achieved, it is exactly what many of us are working to achieve in our roles as teachers and educators within the HE system. The idea that a model designed for an era of elite education, when around 8% of 18 year olds entered university, can still be effective in an age of mass education, when around 40% now take up university places, is one that is difficult to fathom. Over the past 20 years or so, universities have spent increasing amounts of their budgets kitting out their teaching and learning spaces with technology. However, this has brought about little or no change in the way we educate. The technology has been used to do what we always have done, rather than to bring about change ( see an earlier posting on this subject). What has been missing is the vision and leadership needed to bring about transformative change.
In Part 2, Bates goes on to describe the “visions” that are required from the various stakeholders in HE., e.g. government, academics, students, administrators, IT managers, in order to bring about change. While technology can support this change, it requires structural and cultural changes before the current model can be dismantled and a new one put in place. In describing the implications of such change for institutions, Bates outlines 10 things that will change as a result of his own vision. I think that the most significant one relates to the changes that would take place in the way we assess learning. At present, we insist on a one-size-fits-all model, usually in the form of an end-of-course exam or a set essay. For me, I don’t believe we can realistically expect any change until this model is replaced by one that involves student choice and negotiation in how they demonstrate to us, not only what they have learnt, but also to what level of understanding they have learned it.
While I agree pretty much with everything Bates puts forward, I think that he misses the point that, within his vision of universities of the future there will still be a place for the niche institution – one that continues to offer a traditional, 19th Century industrial educational experience.