IDEAS for Transforming Higher Education: An Overview of Ongoing Trends and Challenges

Keywords: higher education, educational technology, trends and challenges in higher education, higher education transformation, next-generation pedagogy, strategic and organizational planning


The recent unexpected impact of the global pandemic on higher education has caused universities, governments, students, and teachers to reexamine all components of existing systems, including how to become more effective and efficient in using technologies for education. We have seen that moving classes online—either blended or fully online—can be done rapidly, but early reports show huge variations in quality, acceptance, completion, and learning. Thus, it is important to examine the existing research literature on pedagogical innovations and practices that use technologies. To understand this complex situation, the present study examines the current technological, organisational, and pedagogical trends and challenges using an exploratory design carried out in three stages. In stage one, a literature review of the academic and grey literature was conducted, identifying 14 trends of interest. These trends were used in a workshop and interview discussion between leading experts in the higher education field. Stage two focused on identifying 108 initiatives that represent these trends. Finally, 30 of these were selected as cases for further exploration in stage three. Using thematic analysis, the 30 cases were condensed into 12 main themes that represent the innovative practices that led to development of the IDEAS framework as a signpost on the roadmap of next-generation pedagogy for transforming higher education. IDEAS is presented in the discussion alongside examples and ways to apply it in higher education contexts.

Author Biographies

Lourdes Guàrdia , Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Lourdes Guàrdia is Deputy Dean of Teaching and associate professor of educational technology, Department of Psychology and Education at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. She teaches courses on technology enhanced learning in the Master in Education and ICT (e-learning), and she is a member of Edul@b research group. Her areas of research include e-assessment, e-portfolio, competency-based learning, learning design methods and tools, teaching professional development, and emerging digital pedagogies. She is also Chair of the Curriculum & Course Design field of expertise at EMPOWER initiative led by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities. She has been involved in more than 15 funded European projects and 10 research national projects since 1996.

Derek Clougher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Derek Clougher is a research assistant with the Edul@b group at the Department of Psychology and Education at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. He received his BSc in Psychology from Goldsmiths University of London in 2017. Currently, he is completing his official accreditation MSc as a General Health Psychologist and is due to qualify in 2022. Apart from his research work at the UOC he works as Project Manager in an ERC project at the Universitat de Barcelona.

Terry Anderson, Athabasca University

Terry Anderson PhD is a Professor Emeritus and former Canada Research Chair at Athabasca University in Canada. He served as editor of IRRODL for 10 years and has numerous publications including many related to his work developing the Community of Inquiry Model.

Marcelo Maina, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Marcelo Maina is associate professor of educational technology, Department of Psychology and Education, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. He is the Director of the Master in Education and ICT (e-learning) and teaches courses on technology enhanced learning in the mentioned Master and on quality in education in the Master of Quality Assessment and Management in Higher Education.  He is also a member of the Edul@b research group. His research interests focus on open education, competency-based education, 21st century skills, e-portfolio, learning design methods and tools, and emerging digital pedagogies. He regularly participates in European projects regarding education innovation and technology.


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How to Cite
Guàrdia , L., Clougher, D., Anderson, T., & Maina, M. (2021). IDEAS for Transforming Higher Education: An Overview of Ongoing Trends and Challenges. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(2), 166-184.
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