Tech savvy

January 7, 2016

For those of us who deal with instructional technology and educational research, the argument in support of technology for its own sake is flawed (“Future perfect: what will universities look like in 2030?”, Features, 24/31 December).

Enthusiastic technological determinists are usually from the hard sciences, technology enthusiasts and software vendors who have a stake in assuming and prophesying an educational future determined exclusively by technologies. Since the widespread introduction of computers, there has been little indication that teaching styles have changed radically. In fact, there is a growing critique of what exactly e‑learning has offered in terms of improvements beyond widening participation and empowering some who lacked traditional access to education. Technologies are not a solution but rather a facilitator and an enabler when used appropriately – a very old aphorism for those who do educational research. The radio did not wipe out newspapers. Television did not wipe out the radio. The internet has not wiped out newspapers. Co-existence of instructional media and a blended approach is the realistic way forward, and has been for a while.

Fortunately, some contributors did emphasise the need for cross-disciplinarity and a return to broad-range skills and competencies. The recipe for success for teaching and learning is simple. As far as possible, embed learning in real-life scenarios; contextualise knowledge and promote project-based learning; use technology as a facilitator of transferable soft skills; equip each graduate with the skills to carry out small-scale action research and grounded theory; acknowledge informal learning and connect it to a formal system of certification; and give good teaching the same rewards as we do good research.


With many students apparently unable to stay awake in class or follow complex arguments (as Warren Bebbington writes in “Future perfect?”), do busy university staff have time for the challenging diversion of solving “major societal problems” (as Dan Schwartz and Candace Thille argue they must do)?

Neil Richardson

Send to

Letters should be sent to:

Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday. View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Sustainability Projects Officer (ISO) UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH

Most Commented

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Home secretary says government will support 'best' universities

Man handing microphone to audience member

Academic attainment of disadvantaged students can be improved if they can decide how they are assessed, study claims

Italy's gold medallist

New measures to ensure universities are ‘not penalised’ for taking poorer students also outlined for next stage of TEF

Classroom, school

Higher education institutions can and should do more to influence education at a secondary school level, says Edward Peck