About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 219-222
Publication year: 2019
ISBN: 978-84-09-08619-1
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2019.0101

Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain

THE FLEXIBLE UNIVERSITY: INNOVATION, EFFICIENCY, OR EQUITY?

J.P. Egan

University of Auckland (NEW ZEALAND)
In the 21st century, universities increasingly operate as digital institutions: nearly every aspect of today’s university teaching and learning enterprise is mediated by technology—either technology enhanced or technology enabled. As a result, the online, face-to-face, blended delivery mode typology is becoming irrelevant: fewer courses are delivered wholly face-to-face. In other words, it is not a question of whether technology will be used—nor are the key questions when or how technology is used—though those retain relevance. Instead the ascendant question is why technology, and by extension, why flexible delivery?

To a technology fetishist (Marx and Engels, 2011), the answer is often innovation: doing something wholly new, in terms of technology, pedagogy, or both. For university senior leadership, efficiency is often a driver. Leaders see university teaching as a process best served by rationalising academic staff time in ways that maximise research productivity. They also see teaching resourcing efficiencies routinely via online or blended learning as offering a potential solution to teaching space constraints. Enroling more students online without needing concomitant physical space costs is—ostensibly—more efficient. Though in fact, this often merely shifts resource requirement rather than produce savings. Instead, I propose equity—particularly improved access to university study—is a better rationale for moving towards flexible delivery of course and programmes.

In the New Zealand domestic context, persons living in regional NZ lack access to university study, which particularly impact Māori. In the Pacific region, New Zealand’s position is also a consideration: in these island nations, there are few opportunities for local university study. Further, university-educated professionals (teachers, nurses, physicians) frequently need to withdraw services to pursue postgraduate study, sometimes with no one to replace them whilst away. But for local, urban students there are also equity considerations. Most of today’s university students need paid work while studying; many have family care commitments to manage as well. With the amount of paid work required for study often proportional to family resources, it is students from economically deprived families for whom this process is particularly daunting. Flexibly delivered courses create more bandwidth in which to manage their study, work and social care obligations.

Whilst not to be wholly disregarded, both the efficiency and innovation discourses present less compelling arguments for greater flexible delivery at university. Flexible delivery to create a more equitable university, by improving access, is a stronger argument. Regardless, the shift toward flexible learning necessitates greater investment in learning design: increased blended and online offerings is a pedagogical, rather than a content migration, endeavour.
@InProceedings{EGAN2019FLE,
author = {Egan, J.P.},
title = {THE FLEXIBLE UNIVERSITY: INNOVATION, EFFICIENCY, OR EQUITY?},
series = {13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2019 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-09-08619-1},
issn = {2340-1079},
doi = {10.21125/inted.2019.0101},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/inted.2019.0101},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {11-13 March, 2019},
year = {2019},
pages = {219-222}}
TY - CONF
AU - J.P. Egan
TI - THE FLEXIBLE UNIVERSITY: INNOVATION, EFFICIENCY, OR EQUITY?
SN - 978-84-09-08619-1/2340-1079
DO - 10.21125/inted.2019.0101
PY - 2019
Y1 - 11-13 March, 2019
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2019 Proceedings
SP - 219
EP - 222
ER -
J.P. Egan (2019) THE FLEXIBLE UNIVERSITY: INNOVATION, EFFICIENCY, OR EQUITY?, INTED2019 Proceedings, pp. 219-222.
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