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August’s Industry round-ups

In August, the news focused on how universities are preparing to welcome students back to campus, as well as controversy in the UK around exam results determined by an algorithm and how this might impact universities and the “covid generation” long term.

Feature: How will the A-level U-turn affect UK university admissions?
The Guardian, 19 August
This article explores the impact the A-Level U-turn will have on UK universities and considers the impact on social mobility as poorer and more disadvantaged groups have suffered twice-over during this crisis, first by being awarded downgraded exam results, then again by potentially missing out on oversubscribed courses that they now have the grades for. It concludes that there needs to be a formal review of what has gone wrong to avoid it happening again. 

Opinion: 2020 shows us that high-stakes exams have a lot to answer for
WONKHE, 19 August
This opinion piece argues this year has shown that traditional high-stakes exams are out of date, risky and inadequate forms of assessment. It states that the reliance on teacher predictions in a pre-qualification application system has been known for a very long time to be a weak basis for offer-making, not because teachers are unreliable, but because there is already mystification in the examination system: grade boundaries move, standardisation happens each year, and young people do not make linear progress through their learning. Instead, it argues that educational continuity and learning are what matter most – not the normative sorting of learners into rank order. It claims that if one good thing were to emerge from the distressing chaos it would be a renewed focus on the learner and on learning, as opposed to testing. 

Opinion: Opening up campuses is harder than closing them
THE, 18 August
In this article Neil Quigley, vice-chancellor of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, talks about the experience of reopening campus and the challenges they have encountered. He reflects that despite the difficulties, “the pandemic has hastened positive change by forcing us to rethink the student experience in light of the new options that technology gives us to promote quality teaching, learning and assessment.” He concludes that “the cohesiveness of the university community has also been enhanced by the shared response to adversity. But unless we can safely reopen our borders to international students, more challenging changes are going to be forced on vice-chancellors very soon.”

New research: Most US colleges will adopt a hybrid learning model for fall 2020
ICEF Monitor, 5 August
A new survey conducted by the Institute of International Education (IIE) indicates that most students enrolled at US colleges and universities this fall will be learning according to a hybrid model. Only 5% of reporting institutions said they plan to offer exclusively in-person learning this fall, representing a sea-change in the way students were learning in the US compared to September 2019. In fact, 92% of institutions said that their instructional plan for fall 2020 is completely new, different than anything they’ve ever done before.

New research: The Global Learner Survey 2020
Pearson, 10 August
This week Pearson released its second annual Global Learner Survey, capturing the voices of over 7,000 people worldwide from seven countries. The research found that 88% of people globally believe online learning will be part of the higher education experience moving forward and 78% believe online learning will give people more access to a quality education. Additionally, 88% say people will need to take more responsibility for directing their own learning or upskilling for their job. At the same time, 77% agree reopening universities is vital to the economy, but 87% agree that colleges and universities need to adapt faster to the needs of today’s students. 

New research: A global perspective on teaching in the pandemic age
Education Technology, 12 August
According to the Kahoot! EDU Survey for the Back to School Season 2020, nine out of 10 educators claimed that they had learned something positive from having to adapt to teaching remotely. Over 75% felt that the same could be said for their pupils. 85% of teachers said that they had changed their methods to better support diversity and inclusion, with almost half having tailored instruction to meet students’ individual learning needs. Additionally, 22% of educators said that remote learning had increased their motivation to teach.

Editorial reporting: Major US research universities to share courses online
THE, 5 August
At least seven major US research universities have agreed to share some undergraduate courses, marking another cost-cutting reform accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement will let students at the participating universities take one online course per semester from a partner institution at no extra cost. The initiative will join students as far apart as Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and the University of Nebraska, more than 1,200 miles to the west. Other initial participants – known collectively as members of the Big Ten sports conference – are the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Pennsylvania State University.

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