Small Steps Across the Chasm: Ideas for Embedding a Culture of Open Education in the University Sector


  • Lisa Harris University of Southampton
  • Lorraine Warren University of Southampton
  • Jean Leah University of Southampton
  • Melanie Ashleigh University of Southampton



The authors critique the commonly accepted notions of "digital native" students and the widening generation gap between them and "technophobic" faculty. Their case studies, from UK higher education, demonstrate that attempts to introduce new models of learning are inhibited by 1) prevailing structure and culture within universities and 2) expectations (or even a stated preference) for traditional delivery and assessment of knowledge by the students themselves. The authors recommend a strategy for more systemic integration of social technologies and new learning styles into the curriculum to help ensure that universities remain relevant and add value to learners and employers in the digital age.

Keywords: digital native; technophobic; higher education; social technologies; learning styles

Author Biographies

Lisa Harris, University of Southampton

Lisa looks after the MSc in Digital Marketing in the School of Management. She is co-chair of the University’s Digital Economy Research Group and a member of the Centre for Innovation and Technology in Education (CITE) management team. She was previously Course Director of the Brunel MBA at Brunel Business School where she also led a team to develop a cross-faculty undergraduate degree programme in e-commerce. Lisa is a qualified e-tutor for the University of Liverpool online MBA. She is currently working on research projects investigating the role of social media in supporting live events and community building, how small firms are promoting themselves and growing their businesses using Web 2.0 technologies, and the integration of digital literacy into the MSc curriculum. Before joining the education sector Lisa worked for several years in marketing roles within the international banking industry. To get in touch, please email l.j.harris <AT>, via Twitter on or check out my blog

Lorraine Warren, University of Southampton

BSc (Hons) Swansea, MSc (Computing) Bradford, PhD (Chemistry) Swansea, PGCE (Huddersfield). After completing my PhD I spent two years as a Research Associate in the USA (SUNY Binghamton). On returning to the UK I established two small businesses, and undertook a number of training and consultancy roles. I returned to full-time academia 17 years ago, undertaking research, teaching and consultancy initially in the area of management systems and information systems in large and small organisations. More recently I have focussed on the complex dynamics of innovation systems, particularly early stage concept development, the latter developed through evaluation of best practice in the US, in particular North Carolina State University and the University of San Diego and have advised Russian technology institutes on issues of technology transfer. I have explored these issues within the Connecting Communities for the Digital Economy initiative (EPSRC) and am on the Steering Group of the University's Web Science Doctoral Training Centre and a member of the University's Digital Economy Research Group.  I head the INSPIRE Strategic Partnership with IMSciences in Pakistan. 

I am a member of the British Academy of Management, the European Group for Organisation Studies, an Associate of the Chartered Management Institute, an Associate Member of the KITE Center at Newcastle University and a Visiting Scholar at The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

Jean Leah, University of Southampton

Mrs Jean Leah is a Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator at the University of ... Southampton, UK

Melanie Ashleigh, University of Southampton

Melanie Ashleigh gained her honours degree in psychology (1995) and was awarded her PhD in engineering (2002) from the University of Southampton. She spent a year as an occupational psychologist for the Employment Services, before entering academia in the School of Management in 2003. Melanie gained a Senior lectureship in 2006 and is currently programme director for the MSc International Management programme. Originally an HR specialist in industry, Melanie has a wealth of experience in managing people and is also experienced in training teams within both educational and commercial business settings as well as being a trainee counsellor with the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC).

Her latest book The Psychology of People in Organisations (2012) Peason’s UK was shortlisted for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) book awards 2013 under the Management and Leadership category.

Her research interests cover a broad spectrum of topics including; human-system interaction, trust in teams and technology; virtual learning environments and e-learning; team training, collaborative learning, shared leadership, transactive memory and cultural diversity. Melanie’s current research projects include; Leadership in the third sector; How to develop trust in Leaders in Health Professionals and How to measure Health & Safety. She is also interested in the development of pedagogical congruence in HE and particularly how HE institutions are meeting the needs of their growing diverse student population.

Melanie is interested in supervising Phd students in any of the above topic areas. Please apply through the formal postgraduate process via the Management School.