The UK think tank Demos has recently published a report on the state of higher education in the UK, “the edgeless university“. In particular the report points to technology as a driver of change and as [part of] the solution for edgeless universities that are:

“no longer contained within the campus, nor within the physically defined space of a particular institution … This is driven by people finding new ways to access and use ideas and knowledge, by new networks of learning and innovation and by collaborative networks that span institutions and businesses.”

As Christopher Barnatt in a recent article suggests (International Journal of Management Education, 2009), the impacts of such change can be seen in students demands for multi-modal delivery, the availability of open learning resources (Open University or iTunesU, and in academic self-branding as well as requiring an institutional and professional mash-up mentality to emerge.

Of course, the implications are not simply ‘outward’ facing but may have profound implications for how universities organise and staff themselves – and so transform what might be meant by a university as an institution. As a recent article Zeitz (2009 International Journal of HRM 20/2) stated in the context of wider environmental (social, economic, etc.) change: “It is argued that networked organizations provide the requisite flexibility and innovation by making making extensive use of external companies and independent workers as suppliers and partners”. So a mash-up mentality extends from a multi-modal delivery of learning to more flexible, fluid and multi-modal approaches to knowledge production all occuring in an edgeless institution as network. The technology is here but as ever its a question of institutions supporting the changes in practices required.

In some ways, the issue comes to a head in the debates around the future of the VLE as discussed by @timbuckteeth here. In terms of both this discussion and other developments such the open learning initiatives, the adoption of personal learning environments as well others mentioned in a recent article from Fast Company the obvious tension is less with technological futures or pedagogical considerations both rather with the blend of notions of knowledge as possession and a managerial urge for control and a particular view of the value proposition of HE which is in part about its brand and position – certainly to its ‘stakeholder’. Maybe the way forward is as suggested by Dan Stucke here where small parts are loosely coupled but clearly branded (as in easy to find!).

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