How Technology Is Reshaping The Education Landscape – Part One
Technology is changing the way we learn, and in the process, it’s reshaping the education landscape.
This transformation presents new opportunities for tertiary institutions to adapt – and thrive – in a competitive marketplace. By tailoring learning and teaching delivery to student expectations, universities and vocational institutions can attract more students and effectively service their needs.
Changing student preferences
Education is becoming ever more accessible, and as a result, the student population is expanding. We have seen an increase in enrolments overall, including more demographic groups than ever before – which means more varied preferences and needs.
Students are changing
Increased accessibility, enabled by technology, has seen a proportional increase in non-school leavers enrolling in higher education. These include international students, people living in remote or regional areas, as well as older people, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Australia currently educates the third largest amount of international students in the world, after the US and the UK – and researchers are expecting to Australia to overtake the UK in 2019.
This more diverse student body holds varying expectations, depending on which segment they belong to. Mature-age and part-time students, in particular, have strong views around what facilities are needed, particularly regarding student support services. They expect technology to be more widely used and integrated into learning activities, and they gravitate toward blended learning modes over traditional classroom settings.
Students are showing an increasingly strong preference for blended learning (a mix of traditional classroom-based learning and learning delivered online). Students who have experienced both the traditional learning experience and online learning tend to prize flexibility, despite some perceived advantages of face-to-face learning, according to a study of Australian undergraduates published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.
Blended learning has become a fairly standard teaching method across large universities in Australia. In their on-campus courses, institutions such as Monash University, The University of Melbourne and Swinburne University use online Learning Management Systems to deliver learning resources, such as readings and multimedia. Recording lectures that students can access online, if not ubiquitous, has become the norm. In Australia, on-campus students who commute are spending less and less time on campus. Whether that’s due to an increase in studying at home, difficulty commuting, or increasing commitments outside of the study, like work and family, they’re focused on meeting degree requirements and expect flexible learning a blended delivery mode.
Alternative study modes
Alternative study modes are rising in popularity, according to a 2017 study of 740 Australian undergraduate students.
1) Popular online study modes
A combination of online and time-sensitive learning, this may include video conferencing, small group learning and email. Associated with increased retention and reduced cost.
Teaching delivered entirely online. Does not require students to engage at specific times, but does include deadlines. Best approaches include structured online discussions, with active and engaged instructors that give continuous feedback.
Also sometimes known as ‘hybrid’, this mode combines traditional face-to-face learning and online delivery. This is becoming increasingly common practice and most traditional classroom learning experiences contain some aspect of online delivery.
Often includes the use of learning management systems such as Blackboard and Moodle, which allow teachers to upload lecture slides, include links to online readings, and online discussion forums. In some cases, students watch lectures online and study the materials, using in-person classes for interactivity. This practice has become known as the ‘flipped classroom’.
Online collaborative learning
Breaking away from traditional education models which regard teaching and learning as the ‘transmission of knowledge’ from instructors to students, this model allows students to create knowledge by working together. Encourages skills that are increasingly needed in the 21st-century workplace, like innovation, information-gathering and problem-solving. Here, the teacher acts as a facilitator and as a link to a knowledge community.
Open education resources
Also known as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) these free resources are available online. Despite the potential, these need to be very well-designed to be of value for learners. Some predicted that MOOCs would undermine the former models of online study, but it hasn’t happened yet and doesn’t look likely any time soon.
2) Popular learning technologies
Learning Technology is computer-based learning and multimedia materials that contribute to how students consume course content, enhancing the overall study experience.
Learning management systems
Virtual learning environments such as Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, Canvas
Real-time collaboration platforms
A category of business software that enables networking capabilities for work processes, such as Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, Big Blue Button, Google Docs
Lecture recording technologies
Lecture capture and video platforms such as Echo360, Top Hat, and podcasts
Digital assessment materials such as e-portfolios
How do study modes affect student preferences?
The above study found that while 6 factors influence students’ decisions when choosing what and where to study, and these two highest ranking factors are directly tied to the availability of study modes.
For many students, their primary concerns are flexibility and convenience, making this factor directly related to delivery mode. Older students, particularly, are discouraged by the time demands of conventional face-to-face learning. Offering online or blended delivery as a standard part of the learning experience can have a positive effect on student satisfaction and completion rates, especially amongst the mature-age and part-time segments.
Teaching and learning
This factor has everything to do with how a course or subject is taught, rather than the actual content. It’s to do with the delivery and structure of a course. For instance, how do students engage with the academic staff? How do they access resources and study materials? You can have truly stellar content, but if the delivery is lacklustre the reputation of your institution’s teaching will lose its shine. As you’d expect, this is of paramount importance to online students and affects retention in a big way.
By focusing on people and how they learn best, and using technology as a means to implement new approaches rather than upgrade old ones, education providers can keep up with technological innovation and get the best possible value out of technology – and the best outcomes for students and educators alike.
Check out part two here, where we cover what emerging technologies to watch out for, skills for the 21st century and more.