March 16th, 1pm-2pm GMT
During the pandemic platforms like Zoom and Teams became central to the core operations of the university, enabling teaching and research to continue in the absence of face-to-face interaction. The radical change involved in what has been called the online pivot built upon a much longer term process of growing reliance upon digital infrastructure across higher education. Each operation of the university has been changed through cloud based services to the extent the university itself could be argued to increasingly resemble a platform, enabling individuals to work together at a distance while the system itself quietly shapes their interaction.
The online pivot wouldn’t have been possible without these platforms but there are crucial questions we must begin to ask as we move into a new phase of this crisis. How are decisions about them being made? How are they changing working life within universities? What influence do the firms operating them have over what we do? What does our institutional dependence on them mean for the future of the university?
In the first DTCE Forum we’re pleased to welcome three leading experts in this field for a dialogue about whether Big Tech has too much power in the post-pandemic university. Dr Janja Komljenovic, Professor Susan Robertson and Dr Ben Williamson will reflect on these questions in conversation with DTCE’s Dr Mark Carrigan, with plenty of opportunity for audience participation.
Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash
If big tech did gain power during the pandemic, it is because of administrators and educators who failed to prepare for a crisis which they were warned about years before. The pandemic was expected, and some institutions had policy, procedures, training and practice drills in place. Even where this was not the case many individual academics took the initiative to be ready.
I vividly remember an emergency staff meeting in early 2020, where we were told the university faced an “existential threat”: could we quickly move to online learning? I had spent years training to teach online, including in an emergency, so put up my hand and said “yes, I am trained to do this”. Those who had spent years saying online education did not work, and would never be needed, started asking how to do it. In the short time available the few of use prepared could do little more than show the others the basics.
Questions about changing future of the university are ones which some of us have asked, and been working on answers to, for years. Unfortunately many have spent that time denying there was a need for change, and now find themselves trying to catch up.
See: “Responding to the Coronavirus Emergency with e-Learning” https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2020/04/responding-to-coronavirus-emergency.html