Higher Education & Challenges of the Digital Age

Higher Education & Challenges of the Digital Age
  • We live in the 21st century and technology has become increasingly important in all aspects of our lives, including education. Children are accustomed to interactive white boards and the use of iPads for their ICT lessons from a very young age. It is therefore no surprise that higher education students are demanding innovative, engaging ways of learning and teaching. Universities have started to use technology to meet those demands, however, if they do not keep up with the changing environment and meet the challenges of the digital age, they risk becoming irrelevant.

Having a teacher impart knowledge while standing at the front of students sitting at rows of desks is simply no longer enough.
Having a teacher impart knowledge while standing at the front of students sitting at rows of desks is simply no longer enough. It is just too one-dimensional. This is why universities should embrace change and introduce some or all of the following technologies:

Video platforms
We all learn at different paces and video can provide a flexible and personalized approach to learning to a generation of students that expects an abundance of technology in the classroom. Those who cannot always be at lectures in person now have the ability to access their lessons and other teaching activities live or on-demand. Video footage can be used for revision purposes or to return to and review previous lectures that may have been on a particularly complicated topic. A managed, secure video platform could potentially open up a whole new world of teaching techniques, including innovative approaches such as pre-recording lectures that can be shared with students ahead of their lesson so that time in class is only used for discussion and therefore more productive. Video could also potentially open up the doors of higher education to those who cannot afford to pay for life on campus.

Wearable technology
Wearables are making headways in all sectors and education should be no exception. While it is still early days, wearables like for instance Google Glass can potentially dramatically change life at university for the better and its uses could be countless: incorporation into university sport or drama activities; real-time, interactive experiences to difficult-to-reach locations; remote lecture participation and teacher training (when a teacher wears Google Glass in class); open days for remote prospective students; first-person experience of graduation for those who cannot attend. The list could go on.

Digital badges
Digital badges, which are currently also being used in the workplace to improve and monitor employee engagement, can be valid indicators of a student’s specific skills, experience and achievements like for instance the accomplishment of a particular task. To teachers, they can signal a school life of active learning, engagement and ongoing development. Badges might end up replacing diplomas and other certificates entirely or at least be used in combination with them as additional, backup information.

The commercial and private use of drones is rising, more so in the US, but in the UK and Europe too. Some students in the US are already bringing drones on campus, bringing the BYOD concept to the next level. Drones can be used to boost teaching and learning and to carry out surveys and research like 3D archeological mapping, the gathering of geological and environmental data and wildlife study. Unique footage of university’s everyday life or special events can also be captured.

3D printing
Thanks to ongoing technology breakthroughs, we can do today what only a few years ago was unimaginable. While 3D printers are particularly popular in specific departments like engineering, art and design and technology, more and more schools are purchasing these printers for use across all areas. With prices of 3D printers likely to go down, this trend is only set to continue to increase.

Technology is dramatically and rapidly changing the way we teach and learn. Traditional one-to-one teacher-student interaction remains incredibly important but students simply cannot be expected to accept this conventional teaching model as the only possible one. Innovative approaches to teaching might well become one of the deciding factors for students when it comes to choosing a university.