22 SES 09 D, New Perspectives to Learning
Among the economic, social processes surrounding higher education, globalisation that is unfolding with unexpected speed as well as the rapid development of IC technologies have played a defining role, and are also closely interrelated. Student population expansion is continuing further in higher education and the competition for resources is even more intense than previously, with particular attention to the financial and economic crisis that has impacted it since 2008. The paper presents the main trends and mutual correlations of these processes. The study is primarily directed at the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), and on the year 2015 in a highlighted manner. Specifically, that is when the most recent EHEA Ministerial Conference was held (in Yerevan), which reviewed and evaluated the trends of the past five years.
A consequence of globalisation is the connections and correlations becoming extremely complex, the rearrangement of power relations between regions, and the strong increase of differences between regions as well as between countries and even within countries. Emerging countries are developing their higher education rapidly and even developing counties are making great efforts in this field. This also means that by the time the EHEA formed, beside the system of connections within Europe, cooperation with other continents, regions is becoming increasingly important.
Student population expansion is continuing further in higher education, but with divergent meanings in each region. In developed countries the quantitative expansion of higher education is entering a new phase, which constitutes a transition from the mass-phase into universal access (participation ration 50-75%). In emerging countries, beside the development of top universities, the transition phase into mass higher education is commencing, while developing countries aspire to establish a few top universities and are initiating student population expansion.
These processes are connected by the ICT phenomenon, which constitutes a fundamental precondition of globalisation as well as further higher education expansion. In developed countries the transition into universal access is exclusively feasible with the introduction of new technologies, by various e-learning solutions, all the way to the MOOCs type system. The already established institutions of mass education also intensely utilize modern technologies, and are entering the contest that is ongoing for the students of other (poorer, more distant) regions, by exploiting the opportunities provided by the online system. Emerging countries will develop and broaden their mass education systems, but will mostly manage massification with MOOCs type solutions. Developing, poorer countries will presumably not even construct the infrastructure serving mass education; they will rather go straight to replacing it with online characteristic methods.
All of this suggests that in the future the ICT phenomenon will play a defining role in higher education worldwide, perhaps even in the mitigation of fundamental social problems, such as differing opportunity for access.
The European University Association, one of the engines of the EHEA, the guardian of academic aspects and European values, published the results of its research regarding the MOOCs phenomenon very early, subsequently to its explosion in America, in 2013 and then in 2014.The title of the 2016 annual EUA conference describes the opportunities inherent in ICT, in an even broader interpretation, Bricks and clicks for Europe: building a successful digital campus.
The 2015 Ministerial Conference of the EHEA proclaimed that education ministries will encourage and support higher education institutions and staff in promoting pedagogical innovation, a student-centered learning environment, and fully exploiting the potential benefits of digital technologies for learning and teaching.
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