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14th December 2009, 1:55pm
Universities should look back to move forward
Digital technologies are changing the shape of higher education Understanding the history that shaped today's universities is vital to successfully mapping out their future, said academics at the University of Lincoln's third annual Learning Landscapes conference.

Researchers are developing a new toolkit to help universities trace how traditions have influenced their campuses, classrooms and customs and from there, to plot the future trajectory of teaching and learning in their institutions.

The toolkit will be one of the key outcomes of the national Learning Landscapes research project, which is being led by Lincoln in partnership with 11 other major British universities.

The project explores the relationship between the physical environment of universities, academic and support staff infrastructure and methods of teaching and learning. It is funded with almost 300,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

The conference, 'Learning Landscapes: Making Working Spaces Work', included a presentation from the team leading the research, who are due to publish their final report in 2010.

Professor Mike Neary, Learning Landscapes Project Director and Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln, said that in order for real innovation to take place in the sector, universities must first consider their institution's origins.

"We really need to ask some fundamental questions about the role of higher education. To do that, we need to understand the history of higher education and the university," he said.

The conference, which attracted academics, estates professionals and support staff from universities around the country, featured a keynote speech from a leading authority on the use of digital technologies in higher education, Professor Diana Laurillard, from the Institute of Education.

She said the Learning Landscapes project was asking important questions about the nature of higher education and attempting to anticipate how universities must adapt to meet the demands of 21st century society.

Professor Laurillard explained this means striking a balance between conventional methods of teaching and learning and use of emerging digital technologies.

She said: "It is really not possible to achieve what our society needs to come out of higher education without changing the way we think about models of teaching and learning."

For more information on the Learning Landscapes project, visit

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