Business and education partnership case study

Business and education partnership case study


With huge changes in the way in which people live, communicate and learn, Higher Education is changing too.

Universities, like many other sectors, are thinking carefully about “disruption”. Will they be disrupted and displaced by new “competitors”, or will they embrace change and evolve as quickly as their students and society expects? Just about every vice-chancellor is alive to this debate, and is forging ahead with plans to deliver digital education in some form.

I believe that rather than posing a threat, technology will help spread the UK’s reach and reputation even further as a global leader in higher education.

When I graduated from Hull in 1983 the structure and shape of the higher education was the traditional form of teaching that our great universities have employed for centuries. Learning was largely in lectures, seminars and tutorials, students were overwhelmingly full-time and lived on or near campus.

Today, there are vastly more students than in 1983, and the expectations and demands of the students reflect the significant investment they make in their education. The technology used, too, is transformed. In my day the OHP was revered as the must-have accessory for aspiring lecturers. Today, MOOCs, micro-credits and the competency-based education movement are just some of the new models that the digital revolution has brought to bear in higher education.

One of the changes in which Pearson, the company I lead, is most heavily involved is the development of online university programmes.

Building on years of experience, we’ve just begun to support two online Masters with Kings College London, and have further partnerships under consideration in the UK. Globally there are now 200,000 course enrolments on university online programmes supported by Pearson.

These partnerships bring together Pearson’s knowledge of the systems, training and monitoring that online learning needs to succeed, with our world-class university partners with centuries of expertise in teaching and academic resources. It’s a powerful combination, driven by a shared understanding that technology enhances great teaching, but it can’t displace it.
Crucially, the online content matches the ‘traditional’ experience step for step.

Students are able to access the same lecturers and content online as their peers taking courses on campus. They can also have regular interactive sessions using video conferencing and participate in group work, lectures and presentations online.

At the heart of this innovation is a simple offer to learners – access to world-class higher education that is flexible enough to serve a student body evolving both in its makeup and its expectations of HE.

There is an immediate opportunity to serve students who may previously have felt excluded from university study, perhaps because they have to work full-time or have caring responsibilities.

Looking just a little further into the future it is possible to see a world in which students build up to different qualification levels through personalised combinations of modules – genuine life-long learning.

Digital education potentially enhances the student-lecturer relationship, with online courses giving academics real-time diagnostic information on students’ progress and learning patterns. If we can unlock more effective teaching and scale up the results, the benefit to students, lecturers and institutions would be substantial.

The world around us is changing. A massive demand for HE (with heightened expectations from students paying significant fees) is colliding with technology that is evolving daily to disrupt traditional models of interaction in nearly every sector.

The challenge for universities – and businesses, which support more effective education – is how to make the biggest impact for all who want to make progress in their lives through learning.

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