Unbundling Higher Education: A New Site of Contestation for Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, and Assessment?
Alan Cliff and Rebecca Swartz, Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT), University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Research Centre for Digital Learning Seminar, Tuesday September 12th, 12.30 – 2pm, Coach House, Hillary Place, School of Education, University of Leeds, UK
This seminar grapples in particular with the opportunities and challenges for curriculum (teaching, learning and assessment) presented by processes of unbundling in public higher education institutions in South Africa (and by implication in the U.K. and elsewhere). By “unbundling”, we refer here to the increasing presence and impact of curriculum disaggregation and “repackaging” occurring as a consequence of growing marketisation and digitisation of higher education in South African higher education and elsewhere internationally.
The seminar commences with a brief description of the research project which has brought us to Leeds at this time and on the collaboration between Leeds and Cape Town universities in the project researching unbundling in the higher education space. The seminar then moves in the main to a focus on the changing nature of curriculum offerings in an unbundling landscape. Given that the research project is currently at an early stage, this seminar offers primarily a theoretical and analytical perspective on challenges and contestations presented by curriculum unbundling, although some reference will be made to emerging empirical data drawn from initial interviews with South African higher education stake-holders.
The analytical aspects of the presentation will draw on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a lens through which to view unbundling, marketisation and digitisation as processes interacting with curriculum. Unbundling as process will be proposed as impacting on – and being impacted upon – by core components of what is referred to in CHAT as the “activity triangle”. If we assume “activity” here to mean a dialectical, goal-directed, purposive and socially-situated system, it will be argued that both curriculum and unbundling are constituted of these features. Using the key conceptual tools of CHAT – subject/object; means of production; division of labour; community; rules – the seminar will offer the “activity” of unbundling as being in dynamic and productive tension with the “activity” of curriculum. The seminar will argue this tension to be “real” and mutating and will propose responsiveness to this site of contestation to be a significant and “power-full” challenge in contemporary South African higher education.