Scope & topics I·HE2023
Scope of the conference
The Innovating Higher Education conference focuses on trends and high impact factors in global and European higher education. This year's theme is:
Accelerating towards a digital and inclusive campus
Empowering Learners: Microcredentials, Generative AI, and Equity
The conference will highlight the need for higher education institutions to adopt a more digitally focused approach in promoting inclusive learning environments. It will examine the role of microcredentials, generative AI, equity as well as a range of other themes accelerating digital transformation. A full list of topics for I-HE2023 is available below.
We welcome contributions on the following topics:
A consensus is emerging that blended education, a term that embraces various combinations of classroom presence and online study, will become the most common approach to teaching and learning in higher education. Technology is now widely accepted as a normal part of university education, by both students and teachers, and is seen by many as the solution to problems such as scaling up with limited funding.
Online and Distance Education
Online and distance education is based on a course design with a continuing physical separation between teacher and learner. We welcome any contribution addressing the principles and logics of the different elements interacting in an educational online environment. From the foundations of distance education and its different pedagogical approaches and the different role that teachers have to play, to the learning design of a course, the way you can orchestrate your classroom when moving to online, how to assess and evaluate, and what the emerging trends and technologies are that will let one to innovate in teaching.
Synchronous Hybrid Education
In synchronous hybrid education, both on-site (‘here’) students and remote (‘there’) students are simultaneously included (synchronous) in the learning. Hybrid synchronous learning is often regarded as the most flexible form of education. Yet, there are important pitfalls and a lot of instructional design choices have to be made. We welcome contribution that tackle the concept of hybrid learning & teaching, discuss student engagement in this context, and help understand the spatial and technological needs.
Chat GPT, Generative AI and Large Language Models (LLM)
The popularity of ChatGPT has grown in recent months in direct proportion to the suspicion of this new technology. Yet, ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for higher education by providing students and teachers with a wide range of resources and assistance to improve teaching and learning.
Generative AI and LLM Large Language Models can be used in a variety of teaching and learning activities. They can support acquisition and investigation of knowledge by providing users with relevant information on a wide range of topics., as well as facilitate discussion and collaboration by allowing users to generate and share ideas and thoughts in a written format. It can also be used to support productive and critical thinking by providing users with suggestions and prompts to help them organize their thoughts and consider multiple perspectives on a topic.
A "green campus" refers to a college or university campus that is designed, built, and operated in an environmentally sustainable manner. This can include a variety of initiatives such as energy efficiency, use of renewable energy sources, recycling and waste reduction programs, sustainable transportation options, and conservation of natural resources.
Green campuses also often include green spaces, such as gardens and parks, that provide habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation for students, faculty, and staff.
In higher education, green campuses are becoming increasingly popular as universities and colleges strive to reduce their environmental impact and create a more sustainable future.
Widening Participation, Study Progress, Retention and Student Support
Some institutions are seeing a decline in the number of students in online distance learning. Reasons may be an increase in the cost of tuition fees or an increasingly competitive job market. In addition, technological advancements may have made traditional education more accessible and affordable, which may have led students to opt for a more traditional educational experience. Finally, distance learning can be perceived as isolating or students fear a lack of sense of community that traditional student life offers. This needs to be investigated.
We welcome expertise on methods that give students the digital edge to succeed as an online learner at university and set them on the path to achieve learning goals.
Under a student-centred learning perspective, giving support to students is a powerful tool to engage them and increase retention, enhancing their academic performance, integration and satisfaction and promoting sustainability and continuity of education, that is, long life learning.
Diversity and Inclusion in Open and Online Education
Open Universities and many other education institutes have the dedicated task to organise education for disadvantaged groups of students, by offering them easily accessible learning paths made fit for a great diversity of students. We welcome any expertise on institutional strategies, expertise and experiences on diversity and inclusion.
Micro-credentials for continuing education (Short Learning Programmes & MOOCs)
Young adult learners are looking for small units of study that meet their goals and develop higher education-level skills. They want to be awarded with qualifications recognising the depth and level of learning based on a trusted assessment.
(International) micro-credentials are already awarded to MOOC-based programs worldwide (Micro-Masters, nano-degrees, ), organised by universities and MOOC platforms. Also, short learning programs for continuing education / continuing professional development deliver a variety of awards (certificates, diplomas, .), many times irrespective of the level and size of the program. As a consequence, it is almost impossible for academics and employers to estimate the value of these awards and learners can’t valorise them appropriately.
Short Learning Programmes (SLPs) or short degree programmes are a group of courses (units, modules or other learning building blocks) with a common subject focussing on specific needs in society. In a modular design approach, they can be part of larger degrees. Different typologies and names exist throughout Europe. They are an essential contribution to continuing education professional development provisions, meeting shorter study time horizons of working learners and awarding them with a formally recognized qualification. SLPs therefore also play an important role in the discussion on introducing microcredential qualifications.
European Universities Initiative and University Networks
Universities are now engaged in European university Initiatives (EUI) in which they collaborate for developing joint programmes, in which staff and student mobility are organized. This requires new collaborative education and mobility formats, accessible by all students in a (joint) programme. Universities in the alliances were already aware that this was impossible without digital course delivery and mobility. By the COVID crisis, they were urged to accelerate these developments, sometimes improvising or capitalizing on each other experience and expertise.
Jointly with the growth of blended and online education, innovative modes for mobility are created as a complement to physical mobility enhancing the learning experience and opening new opportunities for intensive collaboration between universities.
Quality Assurance in Blended and Online Education
Quality assurance approaches in higher education are well-established, but it is important to develop quality assurance and enhancement methods which apply to new modes of teaching and learning. The teaching, support and assessment - whether online or face-to-face - needs to be of a high standard, so that students are challenged and engaged. Quality assurance frameworks can help to make this happen.
Contributions exploring the state of the art research and innovation as well as institutional strategies on artificial intelligence will be considered.
Staff Support Services in Digital Education
The Staff Support services focusses on the implementation and support of (new) educational concepts, approaches, structures and instruments within the student services & IT of our universities. The issues covered relate to all actions and regulations of supporting the Student Life Cycle.
Open Education and MOOCs, European MOOC Consortium
Open education is a collective term for institutional practices and initiatives that broaden access to learning outside of traditional education systems.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are open education offerings that have a global outreach to many students, because the are designed for large numbers of participants; the are accessible for anyone anywhere by the internet; they are open to everyone without entry qualifications; they offer a full/complete course experience online for free, optionally with a paid assessment.
Online assessments were practiced for formative evaluation as well as for examinations as an emergency solution during the COVID crisis. Assessment is an cacdemic responsibility which must respond to several criteria, which require educational experience and expertise. The assessment must be reliable, which means that it is really measuring performance avoiding "noise" and grades can be granted. It should also be valid, measuring learning outcomes or competences it is promising to measure in terms of content and level. In online examinations, it is also important that all conditions are fulfilled for ID verification, eg by proctoring or online techniques. Not fulfilling such conditions has already led to cheating and the rejection of examination results of large groups of studentsby examination boards. Formative assessment can deliver extensive data for learning analytics in order to improve both teaching and learning.
Recognition and Qualification of microcredentials, Short Learning Programmes & MOOCs
Continuing education and professional development become a core area of provision in the European higher education. In this area, microcredentials, short learning programmes and assessed MOOCs-pathways are new academic education formats which can be credited after assessment. They can be awarded with a qualification, notably after study periods varying from 5 to 30 ECTS, which are recognized by academia and by employers or professional organizations (eg psychology, medicine/health care, accountancy). To harmonize these qualifications, a qualification framework is needed, linked to ECTS, the European Qualification Framework and other criteria.
The Common Microcredential Framework delivers such framework for programmes with a bandwidth from 4 top 6 ECTS. These programmes offer opportunities for building degree programmes out of stackable modules and for organizing mobility by mobility windows. However, a comprehensive continuing education framework should entail a set of qualifications covering different programme sizes and levels by which universities can develop a continuing education policy.
Artificial Intelligence in Teaching and Learning
EADTU member organisations are exploring latest developments in the support of teaching and learning. In this respect, recent publications like machine learning, the use of artificial intelligence and learning bots are of interest to be further considered.
Artificial intelligence concepts in education can be used for adapting learning materials and exercises to the needs of each student, e.g. to bridge knowledge gaps or to enrich courses materials. It can individualize learning adjusting activities to the learning rate of students. It can differentiate learning according to personal interests or to specific scientific or professional competences.
Digital courses in 21st century skills
21st century skills comprise skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st century society, such as communication skills, social responsibility, creativity, environmental awareness, critical thinking and digital literacy.
There is a need for digital courses to be developed that can stimulate these skills for learners, on levels 5 – 8 of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).
OER and Sharing Content
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license. OERs have raised tremendous interest by higher education institutions worldwide. They are seen as a means to increase the accessibility and quality of higher education. We welcome contributions that provide guidance and orientation for institutions that would like to develop their own strategy.