Edited by Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
“In the digital age every aspect of the Further Education and Training (FET) and Higher Education is impacted on by technology in some way – according to new research by PC Training and Business College.
While Europe and the United States are usually the trendsetters in this regard, developing countries in Africa and Asia often reap the greatest rewards as constant technological advances have allowed education to become available to greater portions of the population.
And keeping abreast of the latest trends requires constant vigilance and innovation in order to provide the most efficient, user friendly and reliable tools, applications and equipment. Tertiary Institutions that provide their students with a solid IT backbone will be best placed to deliver a quality education, efficiently, effectively with the least impact on the environment.
The opinions of several leading international and local educators has been gathered to provide an indication of what the future holds regarding Educational IT and its impact on the Tertiary Education environment:
1.Big Data beyond basic analytics.
William Morse, chief technology officer at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, said that 2013 is the year that institutions will begin to see big data, those large data sets that cannot be processed using traditional database management tools or applications, as more than just an analytics tool.
“Big data is about collecting far more information on our students than we once did,” said Morse. “We can now go beyond academic performance and build complete student profiles using the big data that we have at our avail.”
These student profiles will allow institutions to develop internal models to determine, for example, which student characteristics will be most applicable to translate into educational success as well as how to maximise the appropriateness of course content.
2.Faster reaction times courtesy of technology.
Also on the topic of Big Data, Sharon Biederman, interim associate provost at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi’ says that universities are leveraging their constant flows of data to “make significant real time changes in student learning.”
Collecting feedback on a course and then revising it could take years. “Now we can quickly see what students are and are not using and what they think about something,” said Biederman, “and then adjust accordingly.”
3.Bring Your Own Device or BYOD.
College networks will require careful management in order to be able to cope with the ever increasing demands of a variety of devices that are linked up to them.
Jay Ramnundlall CEO of South Africa’s PC Training and Business College’ who introduced Tablet PCs to students registering for full time courses in late 2011 says: “all 70 of our campuses throughout South Africa have robust wireless networks that allow our students access to our Virtual Learning Environment. As our institution has provided the Tablet PC’s as part of the program, we have managed to reduce the stress on the network as we are able to ensure compatibility.”
William Morse has said that some college IT departments over the last few years have learned how to integrate almost any device seamlessly into their networks in a secure and manageable manner.
Smartphones, Tablets, Macs and PC’s will be able to access the colleges Learning Management Systems which can maintain virtual desktop environments allowing students to access any of the colleges lab software wherever they happen to be, regardless of which device they want to use.
This is undoubtedly, where student orientated software development lies so that student’s connection to study material, administrative communication and research documentation is seamless and uniform.
California State University, Long Beach has recently introduced a public mobile app to deliver important campus information (such as news, athletics, maps, directories, and bus schedules) to Android, iOS, and Blackberry-toting students, faculty, administrators, and alumni.
These advances allow colleges and universities to reduce paper based communications thereby reducing costs and improving their “green” profile simultaneously.
“Campus Technology” reports that Social Medias importance has grown in educational value and that we can expect to see teaching staff figuring out how to successfully integrate Facebook, Twitter, Google+,
and other social media tools in the college classroom in 2013. “We’re beginning to see the educational value associated with these platforms,” said Lori McClaren, director of online programs at William Peace University in Raleigh, NC, “and for the real-time collaboration that they enable.”
McClaren says that Social media is also gaining ground as a digital media literacy tool in Tertiary Education and creates an important link for students as they prepare for their careers. “Employers expect students to be able to use social media effectively,” she said. “What better training ground for that than Tertiary Education?”
In recent years, online educational resources have grown exponentially, starting 10 years ago when MIT began their Open Courseware Initiative.
With information being abundantly available, the challenge is to make effective use of it for knowledge and learning creation. Models that are focussed on embedding open resources while still protecting their academic value and acknowledging authorship are being explored.
Mobility has become a fact of life, resulting in students being able to carry their college in their bag.
“Mobile computing devices have become far more affordable and some institutions like our own, PCT&BC, are making Tablets freely available to students in order to make education more accessible”, says the Director of the Distance Learning at South Africa’s PC Training&Business College, Professor Ahmed Sadeq Adam.
It has recently been reported that the number of students in the US with a tablet has more than tripled in the last 12 months. “Something as simple as being able to read course material on the move, either on a smartphone or tablet has proved to be massively beneficial to students and as technology and software develops so will the Virtual Learning Environments. This will lead to hundreds of thousands of students having access to education at low cost within an environment that equates to one on one learning resulting in much improved achievement scores,” comments Professor Adam.
Daphne Koller, the co-founder of Coursera, has expounded the virtues of ‘On Line Learning’ citing several advantages to this approach to education. Coursera has in excess of 600 000 students in 190 countries
who have watched over 14 million videos.
“When moving away from the restraints of a physical classroom and designing content for an online course you have the advantage of being able to break the content down into 8 to 12 minute modules as opposed to the 1 hour ‘one size fits all’ standard lecture. This means that Students can use the material to their greatest benefit allowing them to follow a much more personalised curriculum” states Daphne (TED Ideas Worth Spreading).
10.Massive on line open courses (MOOCs)
Education experts attending The World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland agreed that MOOCs are here to stay. The Presidents of Harvard, Stanford and MIT declared that MOOC experimentation would
lead to radical change in the Tertiary Education space. The reasons for the massive growth in on line education are multiple and include teaching techniques, affordability, mobility and the Individual tutoring effect of the Wireless Learning Environment.
The trends listed above will have a very positive effect on the availability of education to countries around the world that have traditionally been disadvantaged in providing tertiary education to large portions of their populations owing to insufficient funding, a lack of resources and infrastructure. Lifelong learning can become a reality and with a more educated populace, a wave of innovation can be expected which in itself should have a dramatic influence on socio economic conditions.
So 2013 is set up to be the year that higher education undergoes a major metamorphosis!