Congratulations to the Phase 2 Institutional Innovation projects on reaching a big milestone in the journey. I am really pleased to be seeing their final reports and project outputs. Phase 3: keep calm and carry on! The support team (SSBR) is being reshaped and refocused to concentrate on synthesising the outcomes from what has in many ways been a visionary programme.
Taken individually these projects have all achieved great things at the practitioner and institutional level. Taken collectively, the outcomes of the programme are going towards helping to define what we can imagine as the future higher education space. This is a space where we might see institutions be (virtually) disaggregated and recombined at various levels into novel partnerships and associations with other institutions, enterprises, firms and civil society bodies at the regional, national and even global levels. Alongside this reshaping of the institutional space we will see novel frameworks for accreditation supporting more and increasingly flexible pathways for progression, personal and professional development and lifelong learning. New literacies and practices for the digital era are being developed by teachers and learners (are we not all in our ways researchers, mentors and designers of learning?) and these will be set against new knowledge frameworks for validating academic knowledge and assessing and recognising achievement: while still early days, for example, there is an assault on the hegemony of print as the medium for storing valorised propositional knowledge; how do you cite and annotate a podcast; what are the real challenges for providing audio and video feedback? We are already seeing the physical and digital worlds becoming more and more mutually interpenetrating as reconfigurable learning spaces are built and connectivity and connected devices become ubiquitous. All this, of course, means that there is a lot of work still to be done on the semantics of access and discovery; it is not just identity management, but a new web of people and things articulated through new standards and practices: what Tim O’Reilly recently called the operating system of the Internet. And, of course, all this means that the notions of “traditional” and “non-traditional” learners and learning breaks down. Will the new higher education space be one where participation in learning is accessible to all who need and want it? I would hope so, but we need to recognise that the space is still contested (and costly) and that there are many drivers for change: political, economic, pragmatic and – mediating between these – JISC programmes. In the months to come I will producing a number of reports and briefings for senior managers, higher education leaders, and the JISC. I look forward to reflecting on the meanings of these achievements.