Westminster Higher Education Forum

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
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The future use of digital technology and remote learning in Higher Education

TO BE PUBLISHED August 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference is focusing on the next steps for the use of digital technology in higher education settings.


The discussion comes in the context of the commitment by Jisc to implement the recommendations of the OfS Digital Teaching and Learning Review in higher education during the pandemic.


The conference will be an opportunity to consider the way forward and implications for HEIs, their staff, and their students, and key issues raised in the Review, including:


  • an increasingly central role for online learning in the future of the sector
  • differing levels of confidence between teaching staff and students over the ability to deliver and benefit from digital learning
  • course success being dependent on approach and design, digital infrastructure, and a consistent and inclusive strategy, rather than actual means of delivery
  • recommendations on increased student involvement in course design, taking account of students’ digital access, and staff digital and communication skills development

We are pleased to be able to include a keynote session with Jonathan Baldwin, Managing Director for Education, Jisc.


There will also be a keynote contribution from Professor David Hopkins, Chair of Educational Leadership, University of Bolton; Chief Adviser on School Standards, Department for Education and Skills (2002 - 2005); and Education Policy Lead, RISE (Research Institute of Social Mobility & Education). Professor Hopkins will be outlining work that he is currently undertaking on a global comparative study - including the UK, US, China, Taiwan and Australia - on digital learning and teaching in HE, exploring what HE institutions around the world are doing in terms of digital provision and what UK universities can learn from international best practice.


The agenda will bring out latest thinking on:


  • key lessons learned regarding remote education in HE during the pandemic, and the outlook going forward
  • improving student engagement and satisfaction, adapting pedagogy to online settings, and ensuring access and inclusion
  • safeguarding academic integrity in remote education
  • priorities for further driving the use and availability of digital provision in higher education

The agenda


  • Next steps for improving digital learning - priorities for policy and practice
  • The experience of digital learning in HE during the pandemic - student satisfaction, quality of remote provision, academic integrity and online assessments, and what it means for post-pandemic practice and blended learning
  • Designing digital courses - best practice in adapting pedagogy to remote settings, improving student engagement and inclusivity, quality assurance, and aligning with the needs of employers
  • Future rollout of digital provision in HE - tackling challenges for infrastructure and connectivity, accessibility and digital inclusion, staff skills and confidence, tech-friendly classroom design, and security and safeguarding
  • Digital learning globally - what UK universities can learn from international best practice

The discussion in detail:


The Digital Teaching and Learning Review:


  • implementation of the OfS recommendations
  • how individual HEIs, and the sector more broadly, can improve performance in the key areas it sets out, including:
    • planning ahead - sharing best practice in implementing flexibility in possible future instances of needing to shift to digital provision of higher education
    • developing digital skills:
      • improving communication with students regarding the digital skills necessary for study
      • assessing staff digital skills levels
      • ensuring adequate access to resources and opportunities for improving upon them
    • student feedback:
      • broadening opportunities for students to have a say in what works for them in remote learning
      • strengthening available mechanisms for acting on feedback provided by students, and implementing improvements

HE digital learning during the pandemic - what can the experience bring to possible future practice:


  • quality:
    • next steps for assuring the process of promoting high standards in remote education and improving academic rigour
    • opportunities for harnessing the strengths of remote learning
    • challenges encountered in courses requiring more hands-on learning, and ways to incorporate blended learning going forward
  • student satisfaction:
    • comparing satisfaction levels with remote higher education to the more traditional in-person experience, balanced with what can reasonably be expected in unprecedented circumstances
    • latest developments in emulating the social and cultural experience of higher education in remote or blended provision, as well as providing students with value for money
  • academic integrity:
    • ensuring students are well supported in their academic journey and do not feel compelled to resort to essay mills or other forms of misconduct
    • encouraging students to reach out for help early on, and options around better integrating personalised and consistent mentoring relationships into remote study

Digital course design:


  • adapting pedagogy - best practice in:
    • structuring and executing remote courses to play to the strengths of online platforms
    • promoting team-based learning, and building learning communities online
    • use of interactive exercises, such as live polling or problem solving, in remote settings
  • improving engagement and inclusivity:
    • effective monitoring of student engagement levels and consultation with student bodies, as well as options around co-creation of learning sessions
    • broadening approaches to teaching course content, incorporating flexible learning, and providing a range of learning materials for improved inclusion
    • specific considerations around ensuring accessibility for students with SEND and disabilities
  • quality assurance and employability:
    • improving employer trust in skills learned from remote learning, especially in terms of in-person and social skills
    • options for harnessing remote learning to improve graduate digital skills, and helping address the skills gaps in the labour market

Challenges for improving digital provision:


  • staff knowledge and skills:
    • provision of high quality digital skills training and professional development for staff across HEIs
    • ways to guard against increased workload for lecturers and HE teaching staff
  • digital infrastructure - looking at:
    • assessing the quality of networks on university grounds, and ensuring good connectivity in communal learning spaces
    • liaising with student accommodation providers to meet student needs for network connectivity when learning remotely from student halls
    • wider considerations around regional connectivity, and the impact of 5G roll-out on driving digital provision
  • learning space design:
    • options for incorporating EdTech and digital technologies into classroom and lecture theatre design moving forward
    • assessing optimum set-ups for supporting agile and interactive learning that utilises digital technologies when returning to in-person learning
  • accessibility and digital inclusion:
    • policy and wider options for supporting students to ensure they have adequate access to learning materials, and tackling digital poverty
    • improving communication early on with students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help address issues around access to devices
  • security and safeguarding:
    • examining the preparedness of universities to guard against and combat cyberattacks, and deal with emerging threats, as well as priorities for safeguarding student and staff data
    • improving the sharing of best practice between the higher education sector and cyber security professionals
    • incorporating education around online harms and safeguarding into online provision, and driving up support for students with experience of online harassment

Relevant developments:


  • Gravity Assist - the recent OfS review of digital teaching and learning during the pandemic:
    • finding that:
      • teaching staff are in need of increased support in designing online courses, while 49% of students felt very confident that they had the abilities to benefit from online learning
      • an increasingly central role for online learning is foreseen, with assessment of the effectiveness of courses based on approach and design rather than delivery method
      • adequate digital infrastructure as well as inclusive and consistent strategy are considered to be essential to its success
    • recommendations which included:
      • increased student engagement in curriculum design
      • that courses take student’s digital access into account
      • support for staff to develop digital skills, and clear communication of the skills needed to engage with the course before students start
  • ransomware and cyberattacks - following the recent alert from the National Cyber Security Centre:
    • warning of an increased number of ransomware attacks on the UK education sector
    • recommending that institutions have procedures to test and patch system vulnerabilities, and maintain up-to-date and secure offline backups
  • Student digital experience insights survey 2020/21 - the recently published Jisc report on the student perception of digital learning, finding that:
    • students are becoming increasingly pleased with the quality of online provision
    • frustrations remain around Wi-Fi and campus connectivity, lack of opportunities for interaction and communication with lecturers and classmates, and the digital and pedagogical skills of lecturers
  • Education: The Journey Towards A Digital Revolution - the recent Oxford University Press report on digital learning:
    • predicting that it will be retained as a core element in teaching practices into the future
    • cautioning against the adverse impacts on learner and teacher wellbeing and socio-economic attainment gaps
    • calling for the Government to work with institutions to address the digital divide and incorporate wellbeing into policy
  • The positive impact of digital pedagogy - the recently published QAA report on best practice in digital education, finding student satisfaction and engagement to correlate with:
    • a consistent approach regarding course design and student workload
    • opportunities for interaction and discussion with classmates and teaching staff
    • the incorporation of practical experiences as part of blended delivery
  • The impact of Coronavirus on the higher education experience 2021 - the recent HEPI report on the student experience of higher education finding that:
    • 54% of students are satisfied with the online replacements for in-person teaching
    • a majority of students do not expect to receive any more face-to-face teaching in the academic year
  • Survey Report: The present and the future of higher education IT - a recent research report from Citrix and One Poll surveying UK university students, leadership and IT staff regarding their experience of remote education during the pandemic, finding that whilst the majority found learning and submitting coursework online easy, only 25% considered their course to be offering them value for money
  • Digital estates within Higher Education White Paper - a report published by Manifesto that aims to discuss the challenges faced within the Higher Education sector in relation to digital transformations

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.
Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from senior representatives from universities, university estates, programme coordinators, teachers and teaching groups, student unions, EdTech providers and tech companies, education charities, skills and employment platforms, as well as individual academics and researchers with an interest in this area, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



Shortly after every Westminster Higher Education Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes

Presentations

Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval


Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda

Q&A

Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Articles

Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates