Executive Summary

What a student will be like in 15 years time

It is envisaged that students of the future will be diverse both in terms of their background
as well as their educational needs. This will manifest in a demand for flexibility of access to
University resources and also in the teaching strategies adopted. In particular the need for
on demand video access to teaching material e.g. lectures is foreseen to provide both
flexibility and back-up. They are also expected to be more demanding in terms of
perceived value for money e.g. wanting more quality contact with staff. Students will want
more personal interaction with staff and to assume responsibility for their own education.
This is expected to be reflected in less didactic teaching (spoon feeding) and more
personal investigation/exploration of their subjects. It is recognised that not all students
will want to adopt IT extensively in their education.

Current students are desirous of better and timelier feedback on assessments of all types,
including examinations and of a more personalised educational experience. These students
also wanted more quality interaction with staff on a face to face basis and for teaching to
be more students centred e.g. problem based involving more peer group/team interaction.
Great emphasis was placed by students upon the teaching of small groups with much more
student social interaction. Students identified that social skills, student study groups and
team working were all invaluable educational experiences. It is anticipated that these
requirements will become even more dominant in the future.

What the University environment will be like in the future

When describing the university environment of the future it is important to consider the
learning environment as a whole. This encompasses not only the campus of the university
itself but the linked environments of home and work based placements where learning and
even assessment is and will be continued. These areas are also considered in terms of
learning provision by students and staff when commenting on their future requirements.
The importance of flexibility of learning and support throughout a 24 hour period has been
raised. It is still seen that the campus will provide a central point for co-ordinating these
facilities but this will take the form of a one stop learning centre combining student
support services (Careers, CENSA, counselling etc.) cyber-cafe, library and information
facilities, and IT support, with quiet study areas and meeting places for formal and
informal group learning to occur.

While some of these requirements may be met by improvements and advances in
technology, providing access from off campus through a single customised portal, it is
clear that a physical hub for students and staff to access these resources is still important
to facilitate both staff and student socialisation and learning. There seems to be a need for
staff and students to have somewhere to go where they can choose whether to study
alone quietly or in a group and access the materials and resources to support their
learning. Changes in the mode of assessment and the increasing use of computer aided
assessment for both formative assessment and feedback and summative assessment may
necessitate the provision of designated spaces and facilities. Standards across the
university, at home and on placement should ensure that staff and students are not
disadvantaged wherever they choose to learn.

What IT tools for higher education will be like in 15 years time

For the most part, there is not likely to be any fundamental change in the IT tools over this
time scale. The web and Internet will continue to rise in importance, and wireless access to
the Internet will become ubiquitous. Video will become commonplace, and audio perhaps
less common, as there will be a move to richer and more interactive forms of learning

technology. However, there are significant forces at work – more of these IT tools will be
the result of open source and collaborative development projects. The latter will apply
especially for high-cost tools such as discipline-specific simulations, and those which are
shared commitments for higher education. This will be promoted by the active support of
organisations like JISC. Email is likely to remain a dominant communication medium,
although tools to support its effective use and deal with the weight of spam are sorely
needed. Added to it will be increased use of options such as instant messaging. There is
likely to be substantial growth in IT tools to support assessment of all kinds, both for
student feedback and for grading and staff and student access to University systems and
personal files from off-site will be standard.

Currently the limiting factor for these tools is not the technology, but our ability to use it
effectively to enhance the students’ learning. Over the next fifteen years, the emphasis will
be on developing staff skills and on consolidating IT tools that deliver a clear enhancement
to the students’ learning as well as the institution’s efficiency.

What IT support for higher education will be like in 15 years time

As IT becomes more strategic to the University the reliability of its IT infrastructure also
becomes a key strategic issue, consequently reliability of our IT infrastructure is seen as
being the most important future focus of our IT Support. This support will be required 24/7
and 365 days per year. It is further envisaged that a much more flexible approach to the
adoption of IT standards will be necessary to enable more flexible access to the
University’s resources by staff and students and to enable educationally richer and more
varied teaching strategies to be employed. The scope of IT support will be extended to
look after students’ personal IT equipment, where this has to interface with the
University’s IT infrastructure and could involve the management/maintenance of IT
equipment leased to students.

What a University teacher will be like in 15 years time

Teaching staff will spend less time administering courses and will be developing more
interactive teaching and assessment schemes. There will more flexibility for staff to
develop novel teaching methods and to use technology for communication and discussion
with students and colleagues alike.

Teaching staff will be able to work from home more and have access to all the university
systems from their home computers. Or perhaps they will use university owned wireless
laptops both on and off campus for all work purposes. They will have to be more
technology literate and open to the new types of IT that will be available and willing to
engage in CPD for their teaching skills.

Teaching support will need to be flexible and available both on and off campus for all staff
in 15 years time with more administrative functions built into the IT structures of the
University. This will increase ease of use and access by staff.

Working group membership

The membership of the Principal’s Working Group was as follows:

Graham Castle
Valerie Cooper
Stewart Cordiner
Lesley Diack
Norrie Edward
Keith Fraser
Avril Milne
Colin Milne
Andrew Morrisson
Laura Muir
Robert Newton
Peter Reid
Judith Smith
Susan A Smith
Stuart Watt

Table of Contents

1.       Introduction .............................................................................................. 7
     1.1. The Task Set .............................................................................................7
2.       Background ............................................................................................... 8
     2.1. The view from the Schools ..........................................................................8
     2.2. Other departments ....................................................................................9
     2.3. Distance learning ..................................................................................... 10
     2.4. Attitudes to information technology in learning ............................................ 10
     2.5. Common issues ....................................................................................... 11
3.       Methodology............................................................................................ 12
4.       Students in 15 years time........................................................................ 13
     4.1. Students will be diverse............................................................................ 13
     4.2. Students need to maintain and improve their key social interaction and
             professional skills................................................................................... 13
     4.3. Students will work together more .............................................................. 14
     4.4. Students will be independent learners – they will have a hunger for learning .. 14
     4.5. The proportion of overseas students, and its impact, is unclear ..................... 16
     4.6. Students are more likely to be studying through partnerships with other
             institutions ............................................................................................ 16
     4.7. Students will be using many different learning resources .............................. 17
     4.8. Some, but not all, students will want to use IT extensively as part of their
             studies ................................................................................................. 17
5.       A perfect student environment in 15 years time...................................... 19
     5.1. There will be flexible social and study spaces .............................................. 20
     5.2. There will be spaces for study groups to meet and work effectively ................ 20
     5.3. Learning will be both work and play ........................................................... 20
     5.4. Timetables will allow free blocks of time for students and staff ...................... 21
     5.5. Information technology in a supporting role rather than a leading one ........... 21
     5.6. Increased use of blended learning, CPD, and similar mixed modes of learning . 21
     5.7. Better use of information technology to support learning during placements ... 22
     5.8. Access to email, software, data, learning materials and resources off-campus . 22
     5.9. Assessment systems will provide better student feedback ............................. 22
     5.10. There will be a proper Learning Resource Centre, acting as a single point of
             student contact for IT, Library, and other student services, with some level of
             provision 24/7. ...................................................................................... 23
     5.11. Students with special needs will have all the support they need to study
             effectively. ............................................................................................ 24
     5.12. RGU will become listening institution, responding to student feedback ............ 25
6.       IT tools in 15 years time ......................................................................... 26
     6.1. Better and more widespread use and consolidation of today’s software
             technologies, rather than innovation ........................................................ 27
     6.2. Differences in pedagogy between discipline areas will remain ........................ 27
     6.3. There will be an increase in the availability and impact of open source software
              ........................................................................................................... 28
     6.4. There will be a move to richer and more interactive types of teaching medium 28
     6.5. Assessments will be supported by a dramatically enhanced ‘drop box’ system . 29
     6.6. Email spam will be a thing of the past ........................................................ 30
     6.7. Mobile phone communication will not make dramatic inroads into University
             communication, although there may be focused applications ....................... 30
7.       IT support in 15 years time ..................................................................... 31
     7.1. IT provision will be reliable, and available with good bandwidth 24/7/52 ........ 31

     7.2.There will be clearly set and adhered-to downtimes for the IT infrastructure ... 31
     7.3.Students are more likely to have their own IT equipment, and to want to use
           this with the University IT network infrastructure ....................................... 32
   7.4. IT will be implemented through a more open, more modular, architecture ...... 32
8.     Academic staff in 15 years time .............................................................. 34
   8.1. There will be ‘in service’ days to support staff development .......................... 34
   8.2. There will be better training to support learning, integrating training on the use
           of technology ........................................................................................ 35
   8.3. There will be staff spaces away from students ............................................. 35
   8.4. There may be a specialisation of staff, with some teaching face-to-face and
           others wholly online ............................................................................... 35
   8.5. There will be increased and better use of postgraduate research students in
           teaching, and of practitioners to support teaching in some disciplines ........... 36
   8.6. Teaching and research will continue to be linked ......................................... 36
   8.7. Research students continue to have distinctively different needs ................... 37
   8.8. There will be an ‘Robert Gordon University Press’ – possibly electronic ........... 37
9.     References .............................................................................................. 38
Appendix A. Student survey ...................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.40
Appendix B. Staff survey ........................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.46
Appendix C. Student survey – detailed quantitative analysis...... Error! Bookmark not
Appendix D. Staff survey – detailed quantitative analysis .......... Error! Bookmark not
Appendix E. Student survey – open-ended comments Error! Bookmark not defined.76
Appendix F. Staff survey – open-ended comments .. Error! Bookmark not defined.142


1. Introduction

This report summarises the findings of the working group established by the Principal to look
at the future of learning in RGU, with special attention to information technology and the role it
may play in future learning. The report is intended to fit in with current larger works such as
the IT Future Vision and Estates Masterplan, but it has come from a very different direction,
being driven by the needs of the students and staff involved in the day-to-day processes of
learning and teaching.

Few other institutions have undertaken such a long-term review of the future possibilities, and
as such there is not a very substantial literature to build on, although with the advent of widely
accessible Internet technologies in high education, in some cases, there have been predictions
of extreme change. For example, Peter Drucker has said:

        “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't
        survive. It’s as large a change as when we first got the printed book.” (Quoted in
        Lenzner and Johnson 1997)

In practice, we have found no real evidence for such a radical shake-up in high education. If
anything, most involved in the development and use of new technology to support learning in
higher education are taking that stance that there is more likely to be an integration of new
technology within the leaning process – an integration that will be pedagogically-driven in the
long term – and that the current distinction between distance learners off-campus and
traditional students on-campus is likely to become gradually more blurred.

        “Learning from the Internet will complement rather than supplant on-campus
        traditional higher education. Peter Drucker notwithstanding, one should not expect
        residential colleges and universities to disappear within a generation. … Rather than
        today’s dichotomy between ‘traditional’ and ‘nontraditional’ students, more students
        will earn their degrees by taking a mix of on-campus and Internet-based off-campus
        modules.” (Baer 1998)

Based on this evidence of an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary change in higher
education, we looked at the kinds of change that were most likely to have an impact on the
future of learning. However, the political structures of higher education are changing in the UK
with a frequency that is for the most part completely unexpected. These changes are not
generally similar to those elsewhere in the world - the centralisation of higher education has
been more forceful here than in almost any other country in the world (Woodhouse 1996). This
makes the task of predicting future change rather harder than it might be, as there are
undoubtedly going to be unanticipated changes driven by forces outside RGU as well as within.

1.1.   The Task Set

We were presented with the initial brief:

   What a perfect student environment will look like in 15 years time
   What a student is going to be like in 15 years time
   What IT tools will look like in 15 years time
   How and what IT support will be available in 15 years time

In addition to these, it quickly became apparent that the tutors’ key role in supporting the
learning process also needs to be evaluated, so we added an additional two wish lists of our
own, which we believe are needed to round off the picture. These two additional tasks might
be phrased as follows:

   What a teacher in higher education will be like in 15 years time
   What teaching support will be available in 15 years time

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

2. Background

To begin, we reviewed the current work on advances in learning, and in information
technology to support learning, from around the Schools. Importantly, this has a very different
emphasis from that of the central IT systems, which are primarily set up to administer learning
rather than support it. Many of the issues were shared by several or most Schools.

2.1.   The view from the Schools

Health Sciences – Significant growth in the number of courses and open and distance
learning has required adoption of new techniques and re-examination, for example of
assessment techniques. Computerised assessment has been adopted to help relieve the
burden on staff and is working successfully.

In the first year of an undergraduate course there is the need to relay information to large
student numbers. As courses progress this moves to deeper learning and specialists teaching
small groups. This environment offers significant opportunity for sharing more resources
across the University. There may also be the opportunity to fee staff time for student contact
by relaying more basic information via electronic or distance learning means.

Despite increased use of IT resources, problems securing clinical placements may make the
practical elements of courses more important in future. Balancing with this is an expected
increase in experienced students returning for continuing professional development (CPD) may
counter this.

Greater collaboration with the University of Aberdeen is expected in future.

Nursing – A major advantage has come from the move to Garthdee, working and learning
from and with other Schools in the Faculty. One example is use of e-learning and its
incorporation in courses. However it is questionable whether the University has the site
structure to make the most of e-learning in courses. The move to more integrated modules
and courses should be a big issue for the University.

Pharmacy – The Scottish Executive has given funding currently for a shared learning project
to be developed between RGU’s Faculty of Health and Social Care and the School of Medical
SciencesUniversity of Aberdeen. The project includes some virtual work as well as online
courses for students which successfully replicates a professional situation with which they will
have to deal. Discussions have just started to extend this project to the University of
Edinburgh’s medical school (Professor Ian Pirie is involved in a separate bid for Design and
Technology where each participating School will digitalise its material, retain copyright and
buy-in by sharing its own material).

It was felt that there is a gradual move towards more shared resources, forming consortiums
with different schools, institutions and universities merging their learning resources. Global
virtual campuses already exist in medicine and nursing in the shape of IVIMEDS/IVINURSE
established by the University of Dundee. To make more effective use of the significant
resource and financial investment in preparing course material e.g. case studies of patients,
educational institutions seem to be moving away from the competitive environment into a
much more collaborative one and there is a growing need for common IT gateways to facilitate
this. Aberdeen City Council has also expressed an interest in helping with the shared learning
and the development of online resources for professionals and students alike. Discussions on
this project have just started.

Reservations were expressed by some in the use of a common pool of information – focusing
upon how universities would add value via their staff and how the information is used.

Aberdeen Business School – Distance learning has provided an opportunity to reach more
students and emphasised the importance of good quality tutor support. Developments in on-


line group working are ongoing. Distance learning has required immense and ongoing changes
in teaching and how students learn. Others are envious of the University’s Virtual Campus but
while there has been good investment in IT applications this has not been matched with e-
enabling of staff e.g. distance learning teaching from home.

The School has begun a move to wireless networks, allowing more flexible use of space but the
biggest challenge is handling big numbers of students e.g. in the initial stages of
undergraduate courses. Use of IT to relay basic information has proved very successful in
such circumstances. Often tools are available to develop skills which currently or previously
required practical experience. However these need e.g. sophisticated simulation techniques
and other tools which in turn require more sophisticated networks and external access.

Efficient use of resources can create new courses utilising repackaged existing components.

Gray’s School of Art – Here teaching requires some hands on practical work. The need for
site re-development is critical but being looked at. Much of the teaching is on a 1:1 basis.
While different teaching styles are experimented with there those adopted are additional as
there is a reluctance to drop existing practices. Currently distance learning is not offered by
the School. There is no social space at Gray’s which is felt to have a big impact and is needed
to improve interaction for staff and students.

Scott Sutherland – The School is gradually moving from large scale studio work IT based
work, with currently a mix of the two. Use of IT reduces interaction for students. The
University IT facilities are far too basic for what the School requires, even to keep up with the
new tools being used by professionals. Personal input is a strength, but students also want
flexibility, for example, in seeing tutors. The content of professionally accredited courses is
often dictated externally, and conflict can arise.

Engineering – Employers are seeking team-working and problem solving skills rather than
practical ones in an environment where practical tools are fast changing. The School’s aim is
therefore to provide the basics but strengthen student’s ability to learn from experience and
engage with others when they leave.

Computing – There have been several steps into improving the students learning experience.
The School now uses QuestionMark extensively for both formative and summative assessment
in some classes. Elsewhere in Scotland, Strathclyde University have moved computing to
studio based learning with learning through peer groups rather than traditional lectures, and
influenced by this, the School has begun using the Personal Response System used in this
model, with some promising results. The School is also currently working to build a learning
infrastructure that will enable it to deliver continuing professional development more
effectively. However, these innovations are to some extent limited by having to reside outside
the University’s core learning infrastructures and log-in systems.

2.2.   Other departments

Library – while discussing shared resources the question was asked whether the Library or a
proposed Learning Resource Centre should be the focus for this. It was agreed that there is a
wide range of resources scattered throughout the University and significant scope for sharing
these with a small amount of customisation.

The scale of the current restructuring and re-focus of Library resources was highlighted, along
with the tasks set for the new Director who has recently been appointed. The new focus will
extend well beyond the maintenance of current library sources to other resources and
improved utilisation of library staff skills. The relationship with academics can be developed
into a partnership working to improve the student journey. A period of change has begun and
input is being sought on future needs.

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

The development of stronger links between the University Library Service and the Department
of Information Management was identified as offering significant opportunities. There may
also be benefits derived from the library and other internal infornation providers, such as the
careers team, working in partnership.

Department of eLearning – the provision of the iNet and the Virtual Campus were generally
welcomed, and for the most part were in active use throughout the Schools. Where there were
differences, they tended to reflect discipline differences in pedagogy. A few Schools had
developed complementary systems which supported discipline-specific parts of the learning

2.3.   Distance learning

Overall, we expect students to become more diverse in the future, with many studying while in
work, through (possibly overseas) partnerships, as continuing professional development, and
in other flexible ways. We felt that use of distance learning was essential to ensuring that the
institution can respond to the diverse needs of these students.

There was considerable debate within the Group over a move away from separating out
distance learners as a separate group of students. The view of the majority was that all
students want quality staff and peer contact and interaction – be they full time, part-time or
distance learners. What will develop from this is a growth in blended learning. There will be a
common core element in all courses immaterial of the mode of delivery. Only the mode of
delivery, how the contact time is provided and the extent of contact time will vary.

A range of technologies already exist which do provide distance learners with staff and peer
contact. In the future the University should be fully equipped for such technologies to be used
on a widespread basis. Examples included video and audio conferencing, instant messaging
and chat rooms. These learning resources should be built around a social hub, breaking down
barriers and perceived territorial issues.

Currently the support available for distance learning students is limited out of hours. A
number of universities are looking at providing 24 hour academic and Library support via links
with other HEIs in other time zones. The motivation, especially for a distance learning
student, from knowing that they are not working in isolation is too great to be ignored. There
is perhaps scope for improving this via links and collaboration in Australia and elsewhere –
providing 24 hour cover and increased/faster service provision by sharing duties with the time
difference. However alongside this the strain on staff created by providing on-line academic
support e.g. via instant messaging must be managed and is significantly different from that in
a lecture room environment.

2.4.   Attitudes to information technology in learning

There was a clear consensus that the University does not – and should not – need to be at the
leading edge of IT. Developments in software and hardware are to be expected but no-one
expects a major sea change in ICT over the next 15 years. Within the University existing
technology is not being used to its best advantage by all in the University, and this must be
the primary change over the next 15 years. This change needs to be properly supported by
investment, both in the people and in the technology:

   To permit staff the time needed to develop and deliver these courses at a level and
    standard the University should expect.
   In the existing support infrastructure to ensure resources are not spread too thinly,
    presenting a risk to the University of a course failure.
   To develop and support the skills needed to deliver courses on the Virtual Campus. Staff
    require training both in the setting up of on-line courses and their delivery.


   To meet the costs of software and capacity to make a wider range courses from all Schools
    accessible via the Virtual Campus.
   Virtual Campus course development needs to maintain links with research to keep up to
    date. What is delivered should be informed by action research but again staffing support
    and the support of staff and students are required.

2.5.   Common issues

Although many of the topics discussed by the different Schools focused on distance learning
and electronic transfer of information, the role and importance of face to face contact in any
teaching was regularly emphasised, as was the need for the University to recognise this while
it is committed to 4 year degrees on campus.

Discussions revealed clear areas of commonality and differences within the University.

  The value of face to face contact although its focus may differ
  The benefit students can gain from real, hands-on experience
  IT resources are being extensively used but in different ways – this perhaps offers the
   opportunity to learn from each other
  External pressures e.g. from professional bodies cannot be ignored

   Teaching strategies vary from School to School
   The degree of use of distance learning varies from School to School
   Assessment strategies vary from School to School

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

3. Methodology

The working group used a variety of sources of information in looking at the future of learning.
These sources included:

   Internal discussions and experiences from the people involved – these represented a wide
    range of different perspectives on the learning experience
   A literature review – conducted by CELT, which provided a good overview of similar work
    in other institutions, although in practice there was remarkably little on the long-term
    vision of learning
   A survey of both students and staff from around the University – including both some more
    quantitative aspects to focus on the clearer predictions from the other components of the
    work, and open-ended comments to help gather an insight into the needs of both students
    and staff as they work to improve the effectiveness of learning in the future.

Few other institutions had conducted similar studies – generally either they followed a much
shorter time-scale, or they were published by organisations with a special interest in the
promotion of information technology to support learning, or they were focused on the US,
which has a very different educational model. Where there were lessons to be learned (e.g.,
Thornburg 1996), they were used, although far and away most of the points they raised were
independently found through the survey that we conducted.

JISC also maintain a list of articles about the future of higher education, at the following URL.
This was also checked for relevant sources, and many found their way onto our reading list.


Much of the report is based on the survey we conducted, which was mailed to all students in
the University, identified through the Novell directory in December 2004. An equivalent survey
was also sent to staff registered with the academic schools; this contained a wide mix of those
directly concerned with teaching, and those involved in the administrative aspects of student

In addition, the summary results from the following other institutional surveys was
investigated, although these do not in themselves look at the future of learning.

   Virtual Campus course appraisal survey
   RGU course appraisal survey
   LibQUAL+ library service survey (RGU summary only used)

The surveys for both students and staff are available in Appendices A and B. Summaries of the
quantitative data are available in Appendices C and D. Finally, a complete list of all open-
ended comments returned from the surveys is available in Appendices E and F.

                                                                           STUDENTS IN 15 YEARS TIME

4. Students in 15 years time

The staff survey indicates the wish to see students as more independent learners and less
spoon-fed. Further discussion of this issue queried whether contact time with students could
be overdone creating dependence and the scope to increase the use of mentor/buddy systems
and self-help groups which it was felt created more benefits and independence for the
students. This supported the argument for more focussed, student contact with its quality
increasing rather than the quantity of time involved.

Experience of overseas students currently indicates a greater dependence. A growth in
numbers, if it can be maintained with the development of overseas higher education, will
require improved support structures.

Due to the forecast major demographic change impacting in 2011, we may see more
undergraduates working and learning while working i.e. employers offering incentives to
attract school-leavers who then wish to combine work and study.

The growth of continuing professional development (CPD) on and off campus is expected i.e.
more mature students with non-academic skills and experience placing different demands
upon staff.

4.1.   Students will be diverse

There is evidence that different students will have significantly different needs. The following
groups seemed to distinguish themselves, and each seems to benefit from different teaching
strategies and staff with different approaches to teaching.

   First and second year students – especially those from school
   Third and fourth year students
   Degree link students, on 2+2 programmes
   Masters students
   Research students
   Students undertaking continuing professional development (CPD)

Students will also be diverse in terms of their background and their reasons for studying: we
expect a significant proportion of overseas students to continue, although the countries of
origin may change, and an increasing proportion of students may be studying after retirement
or to support their careers.

        “The atmosphere at ABS is typically undergraduate. Post-graduates need to be made
        to feel a bit special and valued. I don't know of any other university which has no
        special dedicated provision of space for post grad students to interact and develop.”
        (Comment from a member of staff)

        “I teach postgraduates via the Virtual Campus and I am really not sure that
        undergraduate online learning would be successful. My postgrads have to be very
        committed people to undertake this type of learning and need to be very motivated
        and self-reliant. In other words, more mature than the average undergraduate. I also
        think that all students get a tremendous amount out of class interaction which you can
        not get online, even using discussion forums. Yes, there is a place for online learning,
        but it should not replace on-campus teaching. It also places a tremendous burden on
        staff.” (Comment from a member of staff)

4.2.   Students need to maintain and improve their key social interaction and
       professional skills

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A very significant proportion of student comments were about the social infrastructure in one
form or another, both inside and outside the learning context. There was no clear evidence of
a significant change either towards or away from distance learning in the future; instead, it will
provide additional support and access not achievable through traditional channels.

        “For some, university is not just for study but also for the social learning experience,
        making friends etc. I do not feel the need for this will reduce in later years. However, I
        think having the possibility of studying a degree online is a good one and would open
        doors for a lot of people whom otherwise may not be able to study.” (Comment from a

These skills are also increasingly emphasised by professional societies, who now expect
graduates to be qualified to work in a team, and demonstrate the other social and professional
skills expected by their discipline.

Even distance learning students stressed the importance of the social dimension to their

        “I am a social work distance learning student and I feel the course has been very well
        organised and managed. I am offered very good support from the Uni, but the support
        I get from the other distance learning students is equally important. Taking part in
        tutorials or study groups with the other students is crucial to the completion of this
        degree.” (Comment from a student)

4.3.   Students will work together more

Many students emphasised the amount of group work that they undertook within their
learning, and felt that this was an area where there was a clear need for better support, to
help them build independent learning skills. Much of the supported needed was infrastructure,
both in terms of providing structures which could help groups form and spaces for them to

The same applies to distance learners, where on-line and off-line group discussions, and joint
problem-solving (which is more difficult to use, but pays real dividends for the learners) are
just as important to establishing these independent learning skills.

        “Study groups for students during reading weeks, including tutor support.
        Examinations can be very daunting and the option to join study groups, where
        students can exchange thoughts and ideas could be very beneficial.” (Comment from a

        “More & better rooms suitable for teaching small groups” (Comment from a member of

4.4.   Students will be independent learners – they will have a hunger for learning

This is very much on our ‘wish list’ but there are several forces at work here. Some students
find it easier to learn by asking staff for answers than they do by finding out for themselves.
This is especially the case if staff are always on hand to help, or if the amount of contact time
is high. In the future, we need to work to reduce any excessive dependency they may have on
their tutors.

A number of student comments appear to reflect a somewhat immature attitude to tertiary
level learning and more reminiscent of the approach at secondary school. This is, perhaps,
inevitable from first or second year undergraduates. One area, therefore, where ICT may

                                                                            STUDENTS IN 15 YEARS TIME

enable and enhance learning in 15 years times is in the fostering of individual, student centred
learning, encouraging all learners to take greater responsibility for their own studies.

Our graduates need to be able to work independently, and we are not doing them justice
unless we help them learn to become independent. Our students do not see themselves as
being as strong in these skills as they are in the knowledge, reasoning, and professional skills.
In addition, there is evidence that this is what our students want, as shown in the following

        “My own experience is that the realisation that education is a greater responsibility for
        the learner than anyone else and I feel that this aspect is underplayed. Immersion in
        an active learning community is the greatest thing a University can provide.”
        (Comment from a student)

        “The university exams for computing do not require independent learning at all - the
        only time I was forced to learn independently was on my work placement because
        nobody there had a clue. The reason one doesn't have to learn independently at RGU
        is because the lecturers will answer any question (about their subject) that you ask
        them. You are NEVER told to learn it for yourself, they will tell you everything you
        want to know. This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing.” (Student in Computing)

It is very clear that students want to be respected by staff, and want staff that they can talk to
effectively, many commented that they wanted to reduce the gab between students and staff
– and an attractive social infrastructure open to both would be one way of helping achieve this.

         “Remove the 'them and us' barriers presented by many lecturers” (Comment from a

        “I have asked myself if many of the lecturers actually want students to pass with good
        grades. It seems many lecturers have a very high opinion of themselves and a pretty
        low opinion of the student and often present demotivational barriers and comments in
        the path of learning. Surely it is the responsibility of the University to provide the best
        opportunity to each student to reach maximum achievement?” (Comment from a

There is evidence that both staff and students feel they will be working harder and achieving
higher skills in the future. There is a tension here between the demand for greater staff
contact time, and the need for staff to have space and time to provide a more considered and
planned learning experience – as well as meeting other University commitments.

The problem is more obvious with some overseas students, coming from different educational
cultures which can lead to pressure for a culture of dependency which can absorb immense
amounts of teaching staff time. There is a need for better support structures (e.g., more
complementary teaching systems such as Supplemental Instruction, more peer learning and
self-help groups) to avoid this. Increasing contact time is not an option – there is clear
evidence that this makes the problem of dependency worse rather than better.

Several students commented that they wanted considerable additional staff contact – we do
not feel that this is actually in their best interests, but managing this demand, and helping
these students to become independent learners as well, will be an important challenge in the

        “I would be much happier if there was a tutor onhand constantly for us to discuss
        things with. again more tutors are needed for this to be possible.” (Comment from a

        “Although the internet is a great gate way to the world, students only learn by
        teaching, i.e. someone with them to show them how it works. I don’t think the

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

        University should lean towards distance learning because although it may get you a
        degree, when it comes to a work environment you will have no idea what to do, there
        is a lot more to a degree than sitting exams. Work placements should also be used,
        whether it makes the degree accredited or not they are a brilliant idea.” (Comment
        from a student)

4.5.   The proportion of overseas students, and its impact, is unclear

Schools already experience significant fluctuations in the number and country of origin of
overseas students, and this is expected to continue for the medium term. Whether all
countries will be running their own higher education provision, and whether Scottish higher
education will retain its valued status, is not clear in the long term.

However, it does seem clear that the overseas student market is likely to become increasingly
competitive, especially through the use of new technology.

        “The global spread of ICT and the English language are now providing the conditions
        for the development of a truly global market in teaching and learning in higher
        education” (Newby 1999)

4.6.   Students are more likely to be studying through partnerships with other

This may come in many forms, e.g.:

   Degree link with further education colleges
   Partnerships with overseas higher education institutions
   Interprofessional education initiatives between multiprofessional groups of students (this is
    already happening within the Faculty of Health and Social Care Shared Learning Initiative
    with the School of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen.

One possibility that was discussed was an increased trend to specialisation among teaching
staff. For example, some staff might specialise on teaching first and second year students,
others on teaching third and fourth year students, still others on postgraduates.

        “Encourage communication and exchange of ideas with people from other universities”
        (Comment from a student)

         “The faculty should have or may introduce a new internet link with other universities.
        We can have our own exhibition web page online as well. this will allow students from
        other universities to view our work, and on the other hand if other universities do
        provide a web page for their student exhibition, this might be a good learning place or
        web page that can let us got a different idea what other people are doing. We even can
        have a small discussion corner in the web page to allow student around the world to
        give comment or ask questions.” (Comment from a student)

One of the more elegant solutions to this – one suggested by both our own students and which
has shown to be successful elsewhere – is to use videoconferencing technology to widen the
teaching body, creating a ‘virtual department’ which can include staff from other institutions or
from practitioners in the community (Andrews and Klease 2002).

        “Greater use of video conferencing to discuss with respected lecturers and designers.”
        (Comment from a student)

                                                                          STUDENTS IN 15 YEARS TIME

4.7.   Students will be using many different learning resources

There was clear evidence that the Internet is here to stay as a learning resource, despite
concern over the quality of those resources from all sides. It is important that we continue to
maintain our students’ information literacy skills to equip them to be able to judge the quality
of these resources effectively.

        “Feel there is a huge need to educate students to question the negative side of all this
        new technology/ information available "on line" (internet sources etc) "Just because
        it's on the computer doesn't make it true!" Students have to be made aware of the
        unreliability of some the resources, and of the inaccuracy of a lot of the information
        available. Basically anyone can put anything on the internet - and ultimately a huge
        amount of the material "studied" by students online is absolute rubbish!” (Comment
        from a student)

The same issue has been found elsewhere:

        “Students expressed a concern regarding the reliability of web-based information.
        When prompted about the accuracy of web-based information, 57% of the 142
        students indicated that they considered the source to determine if information is
        credible” (Thomson and Stringer 1998)

There is a demand from the medical and health and social care schools within Scotland for
there to be a federated learning environment where learning objects can be stored and shared
between all parties concerned.

4.8.   Some, but not all, students will want to use IT extensively as part of their

A significant proportion, although definitely not all, students saw themselves using IT very
extensively in the future. Others felt that the face-to-face element was far more important and
needed to preserved and even enhanced.

        “I think the university of the future will be mostly i-net based, with virtual tutors
        running online classes which can be accessed continuously you can pop in
        and out when you need info and when it suits you, as well as online continual
        assessments” (Comment from a student)

There remain, however, cost and access factors which need to be considered, and despite the
reductions in the cost of equipment in recent years, cost issues have not gone away.

        “I have had to install internet access in my home which is costing money which I can ill
        afford as a lone parent. I feel that this is an added pressure financially which detracts
        from the course as I have yet another bill to pay, not to mention the need to buy a
        computer.” (Comment from a student)

        “Although Information Technology and in particular, computer software can enhance
        learning, not all students find this an effective learning strategy. However, the old
        adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words" is as relevant today as it has always
        been. Students enjoy videos, DVD's etc. and combined with a discussion group (even
        in a lecture theatre) this can be an extremely effective way of learning. Computer
        programmes which provide interactive scenarios are an excellent learning tool in
        nursing and the university would benefit from such programmes.” (Comment from a
        member of staff)

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However it was felt that the lesson learned by the Virtual Campus should be recognised. The
level of provision should not be solely aimed at the lowest level of software/hardware being
used. Instead, a more flexible approach is needed.

Other institutions (e.g., Edinburgh) have gone down a route of leasing laptops to some
students, and allowing them to buy the equipment outright at the end of their studies; this is
an approach the University may wish to consider for the future.

                                                        A PERFECT STUDENT ENVIRONMENT IN 15 YEARS TIME

5. A perfect student environment in 15 years time

The main four key themes that we found were likely to be important in the future of learning
were the infrastructure, the social environment, teaching and learning, and assessment.

The infrastructure

Students want a more flexible informal 24 hour access environment to work individually, in
groups, to meet other students and have access to IT facilities. This will require a different
approach. In 10-15 years this could see some teaching staff working in shifts and more
flexible 24/7/52 support – especially for distance learning overseas students and part time or
distance learning students working largely off campus.

Significant resourcing requirements for wider access students were discussed. It was felt that
the infrastructure to support e.g. students with special needs should be properly resourced as
current constraints here are placing considerable pressure on academic staff. When
considering the need for different tools to support distance learning students, including those
for pastoral care, the question arose - Do they exist?

The social environment

A one-stop shop for students to provide support and a work environment with a social
atmosphere is needed. This would combine a number of facilities such as a cyber cafe,
careers, counselling, student records, finance, ITS and library services as well as a range of
study environments, including quiet study. The survey confirmed that students are looking for

Teaching and learning

Several factors influenced our ideal student environment for teaching and learning the future.
First and foremost, students’ quality time with their tutors needs to be maintained – and there
was some fear that distance learning technologies would be used to replace face-to-face
interaction between staff and students, which was highly valued by both. However, there are
opportunities for improving the flexibility of the learning, for example using videos of lectures.
We anticipate significant growth in ‘blended learning’ – mixing on-campus taught sessions with
distance learning, especially for continuing professional development and for more mature
students in employment. This will partly be driven by the professions, who will increasingly
require continuing professional development, and expect it to be tailored to their needs.
Placements are a very widely valued aspect of our students’ learning – we expect this to
continue, and we feel that there are some good opportunities to improve the effectiveness of
the placements through additional support, for example through distance learning.


A key demand for students was increased feedback during term, for example on essays and
following exams. The tool QuestionMark already offers one opportunity in this area but others
are possible. We also discussed an enhanced ‘drop box’ type system, but designed to allow
student feedback as well as the submission of assessments. This would need to

For feedback, in an ideal world it would be possible to have a voice-triggered over-typed
annotation of the submitted work. There are already tools available – even through Microsoft
Word, which can be used this way.

While a need for and wish to provide increased and improved feedback was agreed the time
pressures involved were seen as an overriding constraint. The ability to provide improved
quality, prompt feedback while still meeting grading deadlines was felt to be unrealistic under
current circumstances.

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

5.1.   There will be flexible social and study spaces

Students expressed a definite preference for working and studying in small groups, yet they
felt that there was no ideal support for this in RGU today.

        “As a comment specific to this university, the social facilities for both staff and
        students are pathetic… People learn by talking to other people - to do this requires an
        environment conducive to talking - not simply an environment designed around either
        the architecture of the building or the available space. Some of the best learning
        environments are the most surprising, and often the least expensive!” (Comment from
        a student)

Several students commented that this kind of space was needed in all buildings, not just
centrally – so that students working together on related courses could meet more easily.

        “Provision of informal (real... not virtual) space where you might go to sit and have a
        chat over a coffee about something - preferably in the building (the situation at the
        Scott Sutherland school is pathetic!)” (Comment from a student)

5.2.   There will be spaces for study groups to meet and work effectively

        “I find that I learn most through group discussions with my fellow students and tutors.
        It helps me keep an open mind by hearing other people's opinions and also I need to
        hear criticism about my work so that I can learn and gain from my faults, this
        improves me learning. The institution should continue to encourage group learning
        sessions.” (Comment from a student)

        “Facilitate small group seminars where importance is placed on participatory
        discussions rather than listening to a lecture delivered over 3 hours to a class of 250+.
        This method can feel impersonal and intimidating resulting in people in the lecture
        holding back from voicing their thoughts/ ideas. A combination of both lectures
        followed by separate seminar discussions is perhaps more effective than lectures
        alone.” (Comment from a student)

Much the same concern is found among distance learning students, where the ‘spaces’ are
more virtual than physical.

        “Have more interaction with the students on distance learning courses to enable the
        support network to be more cohesive.” (Comment from a student)

5.3.   Learning will be both work and play

Many students were studying for reasons of personal interest, and because they enjoyed the

        “Make it fun to learn.” (Comment from a member of staff)

        “Perverse as it may seem they should greatly improve the social and sports provision -
        healthy bodies and minds.” (Comment from a member of staff)

        “I believe that a constructivist approach to learning is one of the most productive
        learning strategies. This means emphasising experiential learning, project-based
        learning and research. … Examinations which simulate real situations should be used in
        favour of written test papers etc. This is a much better way of assessing learning and
        more engaging for students.” (Comment from a member of staff)

                                                      A PERFECT STUDENT ENVIRONMENT IN 15 YEARS TIME

5.4.   Timetables will allow free blocks of time for students and staff

In 15 years time, we believe that a centralised timetabling system sending personalised data
to individuals should be standard and well established. Currently timetabling problems create
an unprofessional image for the University. Timetabling was a concern for both staff and
students – both wanted structures which would free up blocks of time in a way that they could
use more effectively, but they also felt that the timetables needed to be more accessible,
readable, and part of an individual student or member of academic staff’s portal.

        “Having timetables that are easy to read” (Comment from a student)

        “Work on timetables a bit more, the past 2 years my timetable has been a shocking
        disgrace and it just means I have to put far much more effort in to travelling. This may
        not sound like a problem, but it gets to the stage where you just can't be bothered
        staying in town for say 1 tutorial that takes place 4 hours after a morning lecture,
        etc...” (Comment from a student)

        “Sort out timetabling/rooming issues as this has an immediate and negative impact on
        students' motivation and attitude to the institution.” (Comment from a member of

5.5.   Information technology in a supporting role rather than a leading one

A number of respondents interpreted the survey as advocating IT – and this was not the case,
it was prepared to allow respondents to speak both positively and negatively about it. Both
positions were taken, but there was a clear consensus that it was effective as a supporting and
complementary teaching technology.

This is especially true in distance learning, where technology needs to remain a medium for
delivery and interaction between students and tutors, not a driving force or replacement for
that interaction.

         “The core assumption in questions 4, 14 and 15 is that what we need to teach is
        technology. The core problem in RGU is lack of personal contact, aggravated by the
        combination of high student numbers, low teaching loads and a fatal over-emphasis on
        lectures as a mode of delivery. Students can sink without trace.” (Comment from a
        member of staff)

Incidentally, in response to this particular comment, students were significantly more positive
about lectures than staff were. There was no evidence that lectures (or exams, for that
matter) were on their way out; instead, they play a part like other teaching mechanisms. What
is needed is a way of adjusting the balance between teaching media to reflect the needs of
students, and these needs vary substantially as students progress.

5.6.   Increased use of blended learning, CPD, and similar mixed modes of learning

With professional and other accreditation bodies are now requiring some element of lifelong
continuing professional development, this is likely to be an important and increasing factor in
the future. The introduction and development of e-portfolios will be a feature of the increased
demand for CPD provision amongst professional groups. Collaborative learning will also play an
increasingly important role in this mix of teaching styles. The re-emergence of individual
learning accounts is also an opportunity for the University to build an effective combination of
learning structures to deliver professional skills.

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The evidence we have found indicates again that this will involve online learning as part of a
mix of teaching styles appropriate to the needs of the particular students, rather than a ‘one
size fits all’ solution.

        “I don't think people can fully benefit from learning online. Especially in pharmacy,
        there has to be people/ patient contact.” (Comment from a student)

        “Practical art work is quite old fashioned in that students need to be on campus using
        facilities and developing ideas. With increased use of digital media in creating art and
        viewing art/transmission it is possible that more off campus work could be done. Even
        with increased online learning, I believe that especially young students have neither
        the discipline or focus to work on their own and a great deal of social skills and
        teamwork, communication and interaction with tutors and other students would be
        lost.” (Comment from a student)

5.7.   Better use of information technology to support learning during placements

Placements were very much welcomed and clearly played a very important role in learning
where they were used. They were widely cited in the student survey as one of the most
important learning contexts, yet in many cases there is currently little in the way of learning
support provided by the institution during the placement itself. For students isolated from the
University by geography especially on placements abroad there needs to be a robust
communication and teaching system that allows them to feel part of the institution while they
are pursuing their studies overseas. One student from RGU on placement in rural France last
year had computer access in her place of employment but it was expensive for her to use,
slow downloading material and unreliable because of the many thunderstorms that crashed the
system. She was 30 miles from any internet cafes or a large town with library facilities.
Placements are vital to students but good quality access also needs to be established.

While we expect that wireless technology and the world wide web will continue to become
embedded over the next 15 years, the need for this support during placements will remain.

        “I especially valued work placement experience and feel this is an important
        component of learning.” (Comment from a student)

5.8.   Access to email, software, data, learning materials and resources off-campus

There is clear evidence that email is one of the most important communication media between
staff and students, and that it is expected to increase in importance over the next fifteen
years. There are currently significant obstacles to this:

1. Access to email off-campus is awkward and slow
2. Email spam is adding hugely to the amount of email people have to deal with, and this is
   compounding the first problem

There was very significant demand for access to the same kind of information technology
structures that are available on campus while students were at home, or working elsewhere.
On campus, students were eager to use the wireless technology infrastructure that is currently
being embedded.

        “Secure remote logins to access local files (H drive) without having to use CDRWs/USB
        memory sticks or emailing files.” (Comment from a student)

5.9.   Assessment systems will provide better student feedback

                                                       A PERFECT STUDENT ENVIRONMENT IN 15 YEARS TIME

On the whole, staff were more pessimistic about exams than students. Although a few
students did suggest abandoning them entirely, more were seeking to incorporate them more
effectively into learning by providing better feedback systems.

        “Don't do away with exams they are good, and prove you can learn all the topics and
        remember most of them.”

        “Change learning to be more coursework based and phase out exams. Exams are all
        down to your performance on that day and not continually throughout the year. We
        seem to be heading in that direction anyway. I believe that RGU should lead the way
        as an up to date University and not let traditional Universities old techniques influence
        the way our future students should learn. No peer grading - there is a tendency to be
        bias.” (Comment from a student)

On a wider note, feedback was an area of concern for other types of assessment as well,
although most other types of assessment already provide some feedback, and those with the
greater feedback systems were generally better received. Students do not like grades being
the only feedback they receive.

        “To give more feedback on formal assessments eg. give students their exam papers
        and go through the paper as a class so students can find out what mistakes they made
        and learn how the questions should have been answered. The same goes for
        courseworks: it would be useful to see the markers comments and a sample answer
        too. At the moment, with exams and courseworks the only feedback we get is a grade
        (a single number that covers a band of up to 30%), never knowing which parts were
        right, which were wrong and what the answer actually is.” (Comment from a student)

         “More feedback on a personal nature. Felt like just a number. Felt lecturers were too
        busy to bother them with little issues, however, always found them approachable and
        eager to help when I did approach them.” (Comment from a student)

There seems to be a clear need for assessment systems and structures which can provide this
feedback, especially quick feedback to students. These may use new technology to support
students directly (e.g., QuestionMark), or they may involve supporting staff to speed up the
feedback processes. In both cases, these seems to be a drive to divide grading from feedback,
so that feedback can be provided quickly, while grading (and its accompanying review
processes) can take longer.

One of the clear likely changes is a move to flexible assessments, both in time and in place:

        “Investigate exams system via iNet. Electronic submission of official coursework
        assignments rather than paper copies” (Comment by a student)

5.10. There will be a proper Learning Resource Centre, acting as a single point of
      student contact for IT, Library, and other student services, with some level of
      provision 24/7.

Many students commented on library provision, and these results largely tally with the
feedback from the LibQUAL+ survey conducted by the Library (jointly with others) in 2003.

Key comments from LibQUAL+ at RGU included:

   Library staff were regarded as helpful and approachable by students
   Noise was an issue raised about Library facilities at Garthdee
   Students wanted longer opening hours, both on a daily basis and through holiday periods
   Students wanted more printers and photocopying facilities
   Access to books could be a problem, principally for recommended texts

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

   Book return was also a problem – a fine system was suggested and has subsequently been

In practice, students seemed to be looking for a wider learning environment than was
currently provided by the Library, and these covered a very wide range of issues, from the
opening hours to the information that was available.

        “I feel I would gain from a drop in service that was available from 9 - 5 Monday –
        Friday” (Comment from a student)

        “More support for students in the form of a guidance teacher.” (Comment from a

        “I had faced great problems when the university was closed for Christmas vacation.
        For around two weeks I could not do my coursework research with the computer
        facility, and I had four submissions in January. if the university could keep a room or
        couple open during these days, it would be very helpful for students like me. Also the
        timings of the library could be increased.” (Comment from a student)

        “Have more space at Garthdee, Phase I - particulary in the seminar rooms and the
        library.” (Comment from a member of staff)

         “The role of the library needs to be taken very seriously in the future - it would be all
        to easy to end up with a situation where people are expected to get all information
        online, etc.. Whilst more and more information will be freely available through open
        source journals, etc.., it is still important that there are places for people to read and
        contemplate away from a compute screen.” (Comment from a student)

        “Access to more online journals as I have had big problems trying to get hold of a wide
        enough range of journals for my project as the university and Aberdeen University did
        not stock enough of the journals that I needed.” (Comment from a student)

        “For the university to increase the amount of library material available, e.g. there
        should not be "poor" subjects with very limited number of journals.” (Comment from a

Noise at the Garthdee Library was a complaint that was raised by several students. It seems
that these facilities may be taking the place of the combined social/group study spaces that
are so much in demand from students.

        “[I want] libraries that are quiet, I find the library I use (Garthdee) to be too noisy, I
        have to rely on the library computing facilities to complete assignments. However I
        feel most times I am unable to as of the level of conversations taking place in the
        library.” (Comment from a student)

5.11. Students with special needs will have all the support they need to study

Many students commented on the range of additional supports they needed to study
effectively. Some of these supports were wholly non-academic, such as crèche facilities.
Others were referring to factors that more directly affected their academic studies, such as
management of periods of ill health.

        “I have a hearing problem and could not believe that a brand new state of the art
        building did not have a pa system in its classes. The air conditioning often drowned out
        what the tutor was saying, the acoustics were abysmal.” (Comment from a student)

                                                                            IT TOOLS IN 15 YEARS TIME

        “More help for students with children” (Comment from a student)

        “Crèches, child care facilities as children have half term and we do not.” (Comment
        from a student)

Academic staff were also seen as playing an important pastoral role.

        “Personal tutors should be more sincere in offering their time and advice (we don't
        want scared bunny rabbits), some students need serious advice on life matters, and i
        don't mean councilor advice!” (Comment from a student)

A number of students commented specifically on the provision for dyslexia and related
concerns. With the advent of SENDA, one of the opportunities offered by new technology is to
take away the ‘labelling’ of students and replace it by allowing all students to personalise their
IT provision, using style sheets and browsers which can meet their needs. Creating accessible
e-learning resources for disabled students will need to be adopted as the standard for all
courses with online components.

5.12. RGU will become listening institution, responding to student feedback

Many students were positive about the survey for an unexpected reason – because they were
being asked for their comments and suggestions about how to improve the institution. While
students are keen to receive feedback about their work, they are also keen to provide it when
it can help the institution to a better job.

A survey like this may a useful tool, not to be run every year, but perhaps every four years or
so, to keep track of student opinions, and help guide future policy.

        “The institution should allow students to give their feedback on a course while it is
        ongoing to identify any discrepancies or suggestion to improve its delivery. This
        feedback system should be monitored frequently to enable the institution to follow up
        on students comment.” (Comment from a member of staff)

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6. IT tools in 15 years time

There is apparently some reluctance to embrace fully to the introduction of new technology.
The emphasis is upon making what is available more robust, more available, and more
appropriately used. The Group agreed that, for example, videoing can be affordable. After
initial expenditure and input it can be used to show students rather than reading or telling
them. This can be a far more productive means of communication – even in short bursts.

The survey confirmed that quality of education is felt by students to be more important than
being lead by technology. The Group also acknowledged that new developments can pose a
risk of increasing expectations and with this a risk of greater dissatisfaction. As an example,
the iNet is used without control on the standards (and on the expectations of students) of what
is placed on it. By introducing the iNet the University is putting pressure on itself to make
more available electronically. The information is still usually eventually printed on paper
adding to students’ costs and resulting in criticism.

It is essential to maintain key social interaction and professional skills. IT is not seen as a
replacement for these but it can be used directly, or indirectly by providing flexibility and
freeing time, to improve their quality and the service provided to students. However, there is
definite scope to increase the use existing IT tools for communication with students e.g.
timetables and changes to them, notice-board items etc.

During discussion the Group regularly referred to improvements in and development of the use
of existing technologies. Supported by the student and staff surveys there was not felt to be
much need for new software but there is a definite need to learn to make better use of it and
to provide a better training and mentoring system for the use of IT. In effect, it was best to be
about five years behind the state of the art, to ensure that systems were robust and that
people had the skills to use them effectively.

It was felt that there would be a move to reducing IT lab provision especially in non-specialist
fields. Student’s wish to use their own equipment had already begun with the creation of a
wireless environment within the University. More developed examples are seen elsewhere,
including one Department’s provision of laptops to students in the University of Aberdeen.
This brings with it the demand for a new type of support and also some risks e.g. for system
security and questions over the integrity of equipment used to access the system. This can be
partly addressed by setting minimum qualifying criteria e.g. antivirus software and firewalls.
This approach would also bring operating problems such as the use of SPAM although there is
a widespread effort to address this which may be resolved in 15 years.

Staff and students would have access to their own data held within the University network and
the related software off campus. With specialist software it was acknowledged this would not
be a simple development, for example due to constraints in student hardware. For staff the
ability to access documents and information on or off campus also opens the opportunity for
hot-desking and increasing the amount of work carried out at home e.g. on-line assessments.
Although this latter issue raises questions over the audit trail and proof of identity for the
students involved. Open book assessments were considered but the appropriateness of this
approach varies between Faculties and subject areas.

Open Source Technology. The scope for use of open source software and systems was
discussed. For software it was felt that this would not apply to specialist software on non-
standard systems. These are currently niche markets requiring regular investment in
development and products which users could have confidence it. It was felt that this would
not be available outside a non-commercial, license-type environment. It was felt however that
back office IT use could see more advantages coming from open sourcing.

                                                                             IT TOOLS IN 15 YEARS TIME

                                 Back office – More open source options

Open source

                                 Specific applications – Slower uptake

Open sourcing also offers the opportunity for its use in obtaining teaching materials. This
presents for the University both an opportunity to reduce staff workloads and for the
development of teaching materials for wider distribution.

Continued Growth in Digital/Electronic Texts. A move towards the digital/electronic
provision of texts is expected and supported by the student questionnaire. There are also
already important early moves in the use of open source on texts and courseware. However
quality controls would be a necessary consideration.

The anticipated continuing growth of electronic texts raised the possibility of a Robert Gordon
University Press. In conjunction with the anticipated continued growth in open sourcing and
electronic provision of course materials this also presents an opportunity for staff to publish
their work and gain wider academic recognition for it.

Virtual Tools. The creation of virtual tools and electronic simulations presents a firm
opportunity for development within the University over the next 15 years. These can present
an opportunity for RGU students to work with their peers in other universities e.g. using virtual
studios. In practical tasks the virtual environment can offer opportunities, especially in the
early stages of skill development. This would however need to then be supported by hands
on, practical experience in many cases, especially for the professions related to medicine.
However these a specific area of concern was the upkeep of such tools. Following an initial
investment to develop or purchase them there is an ongoing investment need for their
development and upkeep. A failure to do this reduces the gain from the tool and hence
justification for the initial investment.

6.1.   Better and more widespread use and consolidation of today’s software
       technologies, rather than innovation

There was a clear message that pretty well all the technology that is needed is available today;
what is needed is a better way of using this technology, making it more streamlined more
integrated, and more reliable. This means learning how to make more effective use of the
existing technologies, rather than developing new technologies further.

        “No more please. The intranet is already severely impacting class attendance.
        Education should revolve around interaction with academic staff. If students sense
        they can get everything from the Intranet they simply do not turn up. Use technology
        to complement and support in class learning not replace it.” (Comment from a member
        of staff)

        Radical suggestion don't put class notes on the intranet use it to distribute
        supplementary material that will challenge their reading and interpretation skills in
        follow up tutorials!!!!” (Comment from a member of staff)

6.2.   Differences in pedagogy between discipline areas will remain

In particular, where software is important to professional skills, its use will remain.

        “Purchase industry relevant software. i.e software that is actually used in industry.”
        (Comment from a student)

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

        “New IT technologies and on-line learning will definitely have a place for many courses
        in the future, but for my particular courses there can be no replacement for practical
        classes and tutorials, it would simply be unsafe any other way.” (Comment from a
        member of staff)

6.3.   There will be an increase in the availability and impact of open source software

There are clear indications, through JISC’s policy of promoting open source software, that it
will have a significant impact on enterprise-level back-office systems, and on widely used
packages. Open source software may be less likely to affect niche professional packages, used
to give students the experience of using professional standard programs and equipment. There
is a need for the University to keep a watching eye on open source materials and to integrate
them where appropriate.

        “Make the software available from the inet, even just a trial version so students can
        use it in their own time.” (Comment from a student)

        “Also what is the deal with forcing students to Microsoft products, in particular Internet
        Explorer. There are some major display errors when using Mozilla (Netscape) to access
        the inet from home and when I asked the IT department I was told they don’t care
        cause uni is based on MS system and active X controls. The university should know
        better than anyone the risks of online security especially in the shoddy browser that is
        IE. Think of all the international students that use the machines on campus. I definitely
        do not ever access secure information from on campus.” (Comment from a student)

Professional standard lecture and case study materials are likely to have greater impact in the
future, with, for example, IVY Meds and IVY Nurse already available at a cost
(£25,000/annum). This represents a potential new market for the University as well as access
to quality material. It is likely there will be an increase in the development of repositories of
‘learning objects’ – especially through academic partnerships to spread the costs.

6.4.   There will be a move to richer and more interactive types of teaching medium

The working party recognised that simulations, for example, may be costly to develop, but
they could play an essential role in building and strengthening professional skills, especially in
difficult situations which are hard to replicate in the classroom context.

Students were also looking for technology to deliver a more effective learning experience –
one which would enable them to learn what they needed more easily.

        “As far as delivering information, I think electronic presentation of text and other
        media is fine just now, though I would expect delivery to become more slick. Surely to
        make it more effective as regards getting the point across lies not in the domain of
        technology, but psychology? But now you're asking.. i would like to have some sort of
        a bluetooth adaptor hard wired into my brain, and you simply have to turn up, get
        within 10yards of the info terminal and zap! 'you have successfully completed the
        tutorial.. have a nice day'.” (Comment from a student)

        “To view techniques required in nursing practice before and or during practice
        sessions.” (Comment from a student)

        “The new interactive toys <name withheld> showed where students could press a
        button for the answer like audience answers in Who wants to be a millionaire. This
        would allow students much more participation without showing them selves up in front

                                                                           IT TOOLS IN 15 YEARS TIME

        of them peers and yet they could learn the "correct" answer. It would be a great way
        to hold mini quizzes.” (Comment from a member of staff)

Media which were seen as likely to have an increasing effect during the next 15 years include:

   Video streaming
   Flash and Authorware
   QuestionMark
   Interactive web pages and sites

Some of the student comments were:

         “I study with the RGU 15 years ago and returned to study just recently. I have seen
        IT technology unfold which has improved study at least from my perspective with
        readily available information posted to Campus site. For part time students like myself
        I would say that it would be worthwhile considering "Net Meeting" style lectures where
        the student can log onto a website and participate in lectures. Practicality of such
        service and loading of networks make this a little prohibitive at present. Web
        Broadcast could be considered as an alternative.” (Comment from a student)

One of the most common student requests was for video lectures. Lectures were an interesting
case: there was a clear disparity between staff and student estimations of them – put simply,
students believe they learn more from lectures than staff think they do. Technology for
recording lectures and presentations is now widely available, and is seen as possibly filling an
important gap – capturing lecture material for later referral. They also open the opportunity to
widen the staff body through collaboration (even video) with other institutions and

        “Lectures recorded and somehow available through intranet instead of just notes so
        that if a lecture is missed through illness or work commitment it could be referred to at
        a later date!” (Comment from a student)

         “I am currently an employee of ABB Atomation Technologies and they have a system
        in place that uses Interwise software which alows interactive lectures to be broadcast
        worldwide over the intranet. These lectures can be recorded and kept so that they may
        be referred to at any time (when convenient) and it means lectures can be studied by
        students time and time again or if a lecture is missed through Ill health which is a big
        issue, we can address this problem. This method is particularly useful where IT based
        systems are the subject of the lecture, Computing lectures etc, also there is no reason
        why lectures can't be recorded the technology is there now it just has to be
        harnessed.” (Comment from a student)

6.5.   Assessments will be supported by a dramatically enhanced ‘drop box’ system

As part of the ‘wish list’ – feedback on assessment was an area where there is considerable
room for improvement, and where this would be strongly appreciated by both students and
staff. One possibility we discussed would be a radically extended ‘drop box’ system, but
extended to a point where it became more a student assessment feedback system than a one-
way channel between staff and students.

At a minimum, this would need to provide:

   Versioning – students can upload different versions of the same coursework
   Feedback – staff feedback could be provided through the system infrastructure, and this
    feedback will be context
   Data Protection and SENDA compliance
   Security and relaibility

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

In an ideal world, staff could use voice annotations or speech recognition systems to provide
quick and easy feedback to students.

6.6.   Email spam will be a thing of the past

Email was cited as one of the most common communication tool used by students (apart from
face-to-face interaction). As such, the problem of spam email is one that needs to be resolved.

        “Stop the ridiculous amount of spam email that gets through the system - how much
        time is lost across the university trying to filter this stuff out?” (Comment from a

Spam is not just a problem here – it is one of the main items discussed in the EDUCAUSE 2004
report on evolving technologies in higher education, which said: “Two things are certain in
Internet life in 2004: spam and outages” (Bartel, Bojonny et al. 2004). The figures are
significant: “For a campus of about 3,000 people, the number of monthly spam/virus e-mail
messages was over 500,000, an average of 167 messages per person.”(Bartel, Bojonny et al.

The EDUCAUSE report suggested that the IT infrastructures were being adversely affected by
the amount of spam email, and that this was the cause of a significant proportion of network
outages in some academic institutions. Although some technologies to block spam are being
developed, for the most part these are based on business models that will pass through email
from certified bulk emailers. Legislation is beginning to address this issue, but it is early days.

6.7.   Mobile phone communication will not make dramatic inroads into University
       communication, although there may be focused applications

Although a few students did mention using mobile phone communications more, there was no
wide demand for it or prediction of its increase among students. Staff did, however, predict its
use would increase. It seems likely that a few focused applications may be taken up more

        “A txt or sms system whereby the cancellation of classes can be advised before
        students leave from long distances to attend a class which has been cancelled. Only a
        problem for students without the internet at home but this still affects some students
        and could therefore do with some consideration.” (Comment from a student)

There are definite possibilities for use of mobile phones for the University, for example sending
reminders of deadlines for coursework or library book returns. They have the added option of
interactive responses. The University of Manchester has piloted the use of mobile phone
technology within a role playing scenario that they use with their inter-professional groups to
simulate real time working; through this they can drip feed messages to trainee Health and
Social Care practitioners, simulating being on-call. This is an excellent example of using new
technology well to build a realistic learning situation.

                                                                          IT SUPPORT IN 15 YEARS TIME

7. IT support in 15 years time

The overriding message from all sources is that reliability of IT support and clear
communications are critical. Improvements are and will continue to be essential.

The provision of a one-stop shop option of a large helpdesk facility linked to a Learning
Resource Centre, i.e. a Learning Resource and Support Centre, would be preferred by students
(and potentially staff). This would act as a single point of contact which would be continually
manned at an appropriate level to cope with the needs of on and off campus students 24 – 7 -
365. Even current distance learning students shows the demand outside of standard office
hours with peaks at 6.30pm and Midnight.

In terms of communication a set period of time e.g. monthly which were identified as ‘At Risk’
periods should be in place. During these periods any downtime, up-grades etc required would
occur. These periods would be well advertised and adhered to. General communication
regarding the University’s IT systems would be significantly improved by 2019 with the
responsibility for timely communication about any problems or IT issues to those affected
resting with those managing IT.

The University currently holds good data but its use is restricted and workloads affected due to
its not being drawn together. In 15 years time the University will have an integrated, single
point of contact information system for all its information. Individuals would have access only
to the areas they require. This would incorporate e.g. timetabling, SITS, CAMS and the
numerous other sources of data held in an SAP-type system. This may require a customised
system with the niche market nature of HE IT system provision and few providers. Significant
improvements would be needed to improve upon the current, overly complicated information
management model currently in place.

IT help to address the demands for internal information gathering and external reporting can
have an important impact on workload and staff time which would be freed to provide
improved quality, focussed, face-to-face student contact and increase research time.

The University IT support systems should include systems capable of improving and better
facilitating communication and collaboration – especially for staff.

7.1.   IT provision will be reliable, and available with good bandwidth 24/7/52

Reliability of IT provision was a concern for both students and staff. It was also rated highly as
an obstacle to development in online teaching.

        “Better IT without crashes every once in a while” (Comment from a student)

        “Ensure the reliability of our IT infrastructure.” (Comment from a member of staff)

        “Getting the basic IT material to work - often one turns up to teach and the internet is
        down or a comp does not boot up, so no PPT slides and a room full of bored kids!”
        (Comment from a member of staff)

7.2.   There will be clearly set and adhered-to downtimes for the IT infrastructure

The frequent lack of availability of IT resources was flagged as a key concern by both students
and staff. In common with other institutions, the suggested strategy was to implement a clear,
regular, and fixed ‘at risk’ system, so that downtime could be planned and managed by both
staff and students.

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7.3.   Students are more likely to have their own IT equipment, and to want to use
       this with the University IT network infrastructure

Many students put the case for wireless access, even though it is already well on the way to
being implemented. This offers real potential for improving the learning experience; for
example, groups of students can use laptops and pocket computers to help support group
work effectively.

        “WiFi network access for students within RGU - many of us bring laptops to support
        out learning. VPN to allow us to securely access all university resources from home -
        NetStorage isn't fantastic and there are areas of the intranet we can't access from
        home.” (Comment from a student)

        “Laptop users should be capable of connecting to the university network, and use that
        connection as the computers provided by the university would allow.” (Comment by a

        “I expect that Wi-Fi could aid in that area, allowing laptop users to remain mobile,
        while working with university material.” (Comment from a student)

        “The airport/wi/fi approach has to be embraced - if all students came with/were given
        a laptop - this could bring big gains in efficiency of space, time and communications.
        Other institutions have given out course materials on an Ipod (free to each student)
        this could sound like a gimmick but there is something in this which taps into the
        current students psyche and relates their learning to their own street culture - this
        could bring about some interesting benefits in terms of their "brand perception” about
        their institution - we need to use the technological tools which are desirable to our
        students” (Comment from a member of staff)

7.4.   IT will be implemented through a more open, more modular, architecture

There is a pressure towards a multiplicity of information systems, an effect the EDUCAUSE
committee called “portal overload”, where:

        “The vendors of student information systems, e-portfolio systems, course management
        systems, and library ‘automation’ systems all promise a customisable experience and
        interface for users. Each contents that its portal product should serve as the launch
        point for the online educational experience. Will users appreciate the patchwork quilt of
        options?” (Bartel, Bojonny et al. 2004)

At the moment, this is a problem. The institutions learning administration depends on a wide
mix of existing data sources, including:

   Module Database
   Programme Specifications
   iNet and Virtual Campus materials

Although all these materials exist, there is little integration. Data warehousing is not a
solution, as there is a wide mix of web and other information sources. The student portal is a
welcome start, allowing single login access; however, what is needed is a ‘one stop shop’
accessible from anywhere, even off campus. This will allow personalisation (for example, to
accord with SENDA). Some important components (notably Progress Files) are also absent
from the current provision – these will need to meet the wide range of needs of the disciplines
around the University.

                                                                      ACADEMIC STAFF IN 15 YEARS TIME

       “The existing technology works rather badly. It is slow, requires excessive amounts of
       pointing, clicking and processing, suffers from enormous duplication (why do we have
       three teaching systems?) inaccessible (why can't I post teaching material to VC
       directly?) and difficult to use (try to link course materials with teaching groups on the
       ABS INet). Web discussion groups on VC are virtually unusable in real time. It has to
       be redesigned for accessibility, speed and ease of use.” (Comment from a member of

       “The operation of the centralised student records/SITS function urgently needs
       resolving. If we must use a centralised student matriculation system, it is essential
       that this system assists Schools in the provision of all required documentation i.e.
       producing accurate class lists, including being able to split the student group into
       tutorial groups etc. It is also essential that this information is available to Schools from
       day 1 of Semester 1. SITS should also be able to provide class lists and student names
       for exams. None of this is available currently from SITS which results in Schools
       having to be able to provide this information themselves - which is time consuming
       and should be unnecessary. Schools lose over 40% of their budget to maintain
       centralised services, but are not allowed any real input into what centralised services
       actually provide and in what format - which causes frustration on both parts and some
       confusion for students.” (Comment from a member of staff)

The working group recognised that few providers are eager to work in the higher education
sector at present. This is for many reasons, not least because our information management
needs tend to be highly complex. Even so, the problems are real and are causing both
additional work and expense, and need to be resolved.

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

8. Academic staff in 15 years time

The aim is to use IT and on-line support to remove some of the demands on academic staff,
allowing them to spend more quality time with students, provide a better quality service and
free up time for research.

In 15 years time staff induction over a period of say 3 months will include the PG Cert in
Tertiary Teaching (or its equivalent) and training. Action will be taken to ensure staff have the
time to carry this out. This will mean that staff skills in teaching and the tools available to
support it will be increased and the tools more fully utilised.

While currently and for a wide range of reasons some staff are reluctant to adopt new or even
basic technology this will cannot be possible in the future. Support available and the
University environment will ensure the development of appropriate staff skills – there will not
be a repeat of the recent New Wave conference where only 118 out of around 1000 academic
staff attended or were able to attend.

Suggestions for improvement included an annual one day event which all staff are required
and given the time to attend or alternatively ‘in service’ days. The time would be used to
exhibit ways of using technology to support the academic process and promote RGU wide
knowledge sharing.

The student contact will not be restricted to academic staff.

   Postgraduate and research students will be used e.g. for tutoring and in mentoring/buddy
   The use of practitioners to provide professional input into courses is also expected to be
    seen more frequently in the future.
   In addition there may be scope to introduce specialist academic administrators,
    understanding the academic aspects of an area sufficiently to carry out a significant part of
    even the specialist administration. This would free up time for academic deliverers to fulfil
    their role.

Individual staff have different groups of skills best suited to different types of work e.g on-line,
written work or face to face delivery. Proper skill identifiecation is needed to match the
individual with the skills required and produce a better quality service to students. Not
everyone is trained or suited to teaching, tutoring or preparing the material for on-line delivery
and if all are forced down this route quality suffers.

Developing partnerships with other academic institutions e.g. further education colleges and
overseas universities, a change in the teaching model may be required. Increasing numbers of
students will arrive with existing skills and knowledge, changing the staff requirements
involved e.g. differentiating between those teaching undergraduates in years 1 and 2 from
those teaching years 3, 4, postgraduates and research students.

While staff interaction with students will be improved, there will be facilities to allow staff time
away from students to help them cope with and balance conflicting demands.

8.1.   There will be ‘in service’ days to support staff development

It was felt that there was a need to improve knowledge sharing around the University. The
working group itself has helped with this substantially, but it includes a relatively small number
of people, many of whom are ‘early adopters’. By setting aside additional teaching free days
(for example, the days following Aberdeen holidays) there is potential to improve institution-
wide knowledge sharing on innovative practice in teaching and learning. There also needs to
be a more integrated approach to staff development, bringing together the courses offered by
ITS, CELT, HR, and DeL.

                                                                       ACADEMIC STAFF IN 15 YEARS TIME

         “Provide time for and provide mentors to pull in good practice and share ideas across
        all staff and to ensure staff operate at their maximum potential and that hey have
        suficient resources.” (Comment from a member of staff)

        The university could have a formal induction process whereby core elements e.g.
        where to find things on the intranet, how to use a marking grid etc are explained.
        There are a lot of things already available to enable staff to deliver effective teaching -
        it's just that we don't know where to find them all.” (Comment from a member of

         “Provide opportunities for short-time assignments to organizations relevant to their
        subject teaching.” (Comment from a member of staff)

8.2.   There will be better training to support learning, integrating training on the use
       of technology

All teaching staff will need to be able to use the technology, and able to use it effectively as
part of their teaching provision to students. A solid foundation of IT competence (e.g., ECDL)
should be required, as well as the tertiary teaching certificate or equivalent expertise.

         “When new staff join they should be allocated a 3 month slot to complete HELT-The
        course is designed to improve our teaching but some staff can have delivered a huge
        amount of teaching before they attend HELT.” (Comment from a member of staff)

         “Most of the problems lie in the lack of training in learning design in the use of the
        technology by staff. Pedagogy is the problem not technology.” (Comment from a
        member of staff)

8.3.   There will be staff spaces away from students

Currently staff feel pulled all ways. Many staff said that they needed spaces where they could
work, and administrative support to enable them to focus on their core responsibilities. This
was especially true when trying to conduct research: staff found that juggling teaching and
research could be very hard without spaces away from students. It is important that they have
some opportunities to get away from students, for example through hot-desking facilities, or
being able to access information and work from home. Although there will never be the
situation where all staff actively want to interact with students, it is important that students
feel they can interact face-to-face with their tutors.

        “Allow staff who are good at delivering more time and not expect them to become jack
        of all trades.” (Comment from a member of staff)

        “Provison of more administrative support, so lecturers can concentrate on lecturing,
        not administration of courses.” (Comment from a member of staff)

8.4.   There may be a specialisation of staff, with some teaching face-to-face and
       others wholly online

This was discussed within the working group, although there were no comments on it in the
survey. However, it was felt that the skills needed for teaching distant students generally had
to be of a very high standard. This may result in increased specialisation among the teaching

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8.5.   There will be increased and better use of postgraduate research students in
       teaching, and of practitioners to support teaching in some disciplines

         “Reduce the amount of contact hours for example in labs by using post grad
        supervision or having unsupervised labs followed by supervised labs.” (Comment from
        a member of staff)

Another good example might be to bring in community pharmacists to participate in some
online MSc classes. These would not only help reduce some of the teaching burden, it would
improve the professional view for the learners.

8.6.   Teaching and research will continue to be linked

A number of staff in particular were sceptical about research funding. Given Government policy
documents which continually hint at a clearer separation between teaching and research (Ball
1992), this is an issue that deserved discussion.

        “Neither fundamental nor contract research necessarily enhance the quality of teaching
        – though they may do so – and it therefore follows that they are not a necessary
        condition for, or accompaniment to, higher education” (Ball 1992)

Despite Government’s occasional but persisting discussion of whether research is necessary for
teaching since at least the 1970s , policy has never yet gone so far as to sever the link,
because in great measure research does enhance teaching. Accordingly, despite these staff
concerns, there is no clear case that teaching and research will be formally separated. On the
other hand, the de facto separation through funding selectivity is likely to be continued.

Staff comments in this matter included:

        “Work with them - improve the Staff Student Ratio and jettison RAE Funding; employ
        enthusiastic staff who may inspire their students rather than stand and spit out of their
        old lecture notes.” (Comment from a member of staff)

Students seem to value the link between teaching and research.

        “Get more funding for research and for lecturers” (Comment from a student)

        “Challenge the students more and initiate a mechanism to involve more debate in their
        area of learning. At the moment most students appear to distance themselves from
        the learning process. Increase the number of seminars to which students are obliged
        to go to preferably during lunch time - if the University wants to engage in a research
        ethos then the framework to involve the student base must be put into place.”
        (Comment from a student)

There is one cloud on this horizon: research students. Throughout the survey, it was clear that
research students do have rather different needs from Masters students, and especially
undergraduate students. The report on the future of higher education from English higher
education sector did hint that there may be moves to future restrictions on research degrees:

        “In time, this might play into a model where postgraduate [research] degree awarding
        powers are restricted to successful research consortia”(Department for Education and
        Skills 2003).

The working party felt that research did enhance teaching, and that this link needs to be
maintained and strengthened.


8.7.   Research students continue to have distinctively different needs

Given the expected growth in research students, it was also important to see if their needs
were being met. In many ways, they were looking for the same things that other students
were: access to the library and laboratory facilities, and a good social environment. Their IT
needs were distinctively different from those of other students.

The process of learning for research students was also seen to be different, with supervision
and a ‘research culture’ seen to be most important.

        “Future 24 hour library, computer lab and canteen facilities based on potential usage.”
        (Comment from a student)

        “In the business school, there isn't really anywhere people can go just to hang out and
        chat. I think this is quite important.” (Comment from a student)

        “More up to date computers for PhD research, not 'hand me downs' and improved
        office accommodation - difficult to do research in a 'stagnant' environment where no
        one wants to be. Learning has an emotional and creative side - need facilities to foster
        and reflect this too. Physical learning environments are every bit as important as
        virtual learning environments.” (Comment from a student)

        “Employment of higher calibre research students in order to have some sort of
        meaningful scientific discussion… General-purpose courses such as PG Cert [Research
        Methods] should be much more focused on each discipline” (Comment from a student)

8.8.   There will be an ‘Robert Gordon University Press’ – possibly electronic

There is a need for better skills in writing distance learning materials, and this was a positive
suggestion for a ‘carrot’ which could help to enable this. Staff felt this was time-intensive (lack
of time was the most highly rated obstacle to development online learning).

If this effort is being put in, official recognition of the high-quality materials could be endorsed
through an ‘RGU Press’ label which would then be externally visible rather than for internal
consumption only. This recognition would reward staff who put in this additional effort.

        “Provide significant periods of dedicated time for staff to continually update & prepare
        teaching & learning materials that will entice students to engage in learning.”
        (Comment from a member of staff)

INITIAL REPORT – LAST REVISED – 23/01/2013 14:14

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