Tutors failing hi-tech youth

January 30, 2004

Higher education risks failing to meet the needs of students because it is out of touch with modern life, writes Olga Wojtas.

Mary Stuart, pro vice-chancellor at Sussex University, gave this warning at a Learning and Teaching Support Network conference at Glasgow University on "Rethinking the curriculum for 21st-century students".

Dr Stuart said young people coming into higher education saw the world very differently from most of the people who taught them, and lived a much more "connected" lifestyle of mobile phones, texting and chatrooms.

"The world they are in is much faster, and their expectations of immediacy and feedback are much stronger than those of students 20 years ago," she said.

"What they are coming from is increasingly disconnected from the way higher education teaching operates. In many universities, we are still looking at academics who work with chalk and talk."

Dr Stuart said higher education could harness information technology to promote greater personalisation. In the US, software packages ensured that entrants had a range of information before they arrived, while personal tutors could gain a more rounded picture of who their students were.

Simon Lee, vice-chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, said inertia had prevented higher education from changing the curriculum. Universities had traditionally set out expectations of students, but had not been held to account by students' expectations. But this was changing as students were becoming more demanding because they were paying fees, he said.

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