Innovating Processes to Determine Quality alongside Increased Inclusivity in Higher Education

Innovating Processes to Determine Quality alongside Increased Inclusivity in Higher Education

Nick Kelly (University of Southern Queensland, Australia), Rory Sie (Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands) and Robert Schuwer (Fontys University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8856-8.ch004
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The higher education sector is changing alongside developments in information technology. This chapter describes the increased inclusivity the internet has facilitated and functions of the university in determining quality of educators, learners and educational resources. It explains a tension between increased inclusivity and the function of determining quality in two higher education developments: open educational resources (OERs) and massive open online courses (MOOC). An example of the development of quality within an OER repository is described. Wikiwijs is an online space for OERs that has been experimenting with ways to provide quality alongside increased inclusivity so that teachers from primary to university level can find, use and adapt learning materials. Potential higher education futures with even greater inclusivity are discussed. Areas for further innovation in distributing determination of quality in higher education are described.
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Recent advances in technology have made it possible to radically increase the scale at which learners, educators and learning resources can be included in higher education. This greater inclusivity has created challenges around maintaining quality across many university functions. These challenges can be considered as a part of the broader context of open learning in higher education. We adopt a definition of the open learning movement as the ongoing process of removing barriers to learning, be they geographic, economic, individual or educational (Lewis, 1986; Rumble, 1989). In this chapter we focus not upon the removal of these barriers, but rather, the baggage that comes with their removal – the challenges of determining quality in a higher education system that has been ‘opened’ and the type of innovation required to make this sustainable.

Universities are by their nature resistant to change. Of the 85 institutions in the Western world that have survived from the year 1500 to the present day, 70 of them are universities (Kerr, 1982). In this duration of half a millennium the processes of universities can be seen to have changed significantly, yet their function within society remains remarkably similar. Despite this long history, it is common to hear claims that many universities will not survive the challenges that are being brought on and are due, largely, to both information technology and globalisation (Newman, Couturier, & Scurry, 2010). Two specific developments that are being referred to as disruptive to the sector are open educational resources (OERs) and massive open online courses (MOOCs) both of which can be considered as contributors to more open higher education. Based upon these developments it has been suggested that “over the next 10-15 years, the current public university model in Australia will prove unviable in all but a few cases” (Ernst & Young, 2012, p. 2) and that “not all U.S. colleges and universities will disappear as a result of new technologies, but clearly some will… To survive, they must change their existing business models” (Lucas, 2013, p. 64). Strong claims such as these ought to be juxtaposed with the long history of higher education institutions, many of which pre-date the industrial revolution. However, the possibility of disruptive change and the evidence of it in other sectors of society provide motivation for both analysis and prediction of the effects of technology within the higher education sector.

In this chapter we discuss increasing inclusivity as one of the identifiable ways in which higher education is becoming more open. Students can access university in greater numbers and with more flexibility in modes of study (Wade, 2013), whilst the OER movement is changing the way in which resources are developed and accessed (Richter & McPherson, 2012). We can define inclusivity as the participation in a process. That is to say that in a population N a subset n is involved in a process. Increasing inclusivity refers then to increases in n such that the population in the process is seen to grow. Increases in inclusivity create challenges for determining quality in many facets of higher education, yet these challenges may hold value for higher education institutions.

We argue in this chapter that innovation is required to resolve this tension between increasing inclusivity and university functions that determine quality. Both MOOCs and OERs can be seen as examples of developments based upon increasing inclusivity through technology; the former in students that can attend, say, a unit of study and the latter in the educational resources available to educators. Computers and the internet enable information to be duplicated and communicated at a negligible cost. Both MOOCs and OERs take advantage of this shift to facilitate increased inclusivity. They can be seen to create value according to Siemens’ (2011) ‘duplication theory of educational value’, which holds that the elements of an education system have value to society based upon how difficult they are to duplicate1. Thus, with current technology, the digital online content of a course represents negligible value, whilst the integration of support and assessment in MOOCs holds more value. A function of higher education that maintains its value despite current advances in technology is its role in establishing quality.

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