Young people who are entering higher education today have grown up connected to the internet. They expect to have access to mobile devices, wireless technologies, and the social web and to be able to use these tools in their learning. Information technologies such as social networking, digital resources, and mobile learning offer unprecedented possibilities for education and instructional approaches which were the stuff of fiction just a few decades ago. Universities have the opportunity to incorporate educational technologies and provide the learning experience which satisfies student needs and expectations; arguably, something they have been failing to deliver in recent years. Taking soaring tuition fees and uncertain job prospects into consideration, more and more educators are agreeing that change is needed in higher education. And new technologies are the solution.
Improving learner experience
Meeting in person for a discussion, group project or a study group can be time-consuming, tiring, and hard to fit into each person’s schedule. Here social media are a perfect way for students to connect and work together even when spatially or temporally dispersed. Using a social media application, or an LMS with some social media-like features creates the opportunity for collaborative learning. Collaborative learning methods are becoming increasingly popular because they involve all students in the process of learning. The essential premise underlying the use of any Social network application is that students enjoy the freedom to produce their own content and study pathways. Furthermore, students are so eager to interact with teachers and one another, to share resources and exchange ideas, that they will usually do so through unofficial social networks if one is not provided to them. YouTube channels, Facebook groups, and Twitter are all frequently used for this purpose. Students may need some guidance in order to make their online collaboration as efficient as possible. However, if given sufficient instruction and time, they are usually able to support one another towards achieving mutual goals. Most importantly, this method has considerable social benefits and positively impacts the overall learning experience.
Incorporating informal learning strategies such as mobile and collaborative learning into higher education is a sure way to improve the learning experience for the modern student. Making materials and lectures available online is extremely important for students who have busy schedules or are unable to attend lectures. The possibility to do some work at one’s own pace allows students to organize their time and relieves a lot of pressure. The blended learning approach creates an environment where everyone has the freedom to experiment, pursue their individual interests, and take control of their learning. With the plethora of online teaching tools (videos, podcasts, etc.), learning can take place anytime, anywhere, making it much more interesting and convenient. This type of learning is easy to pursue due to high levels of flexibility and student engagement. As written in the Educause report, “Emerging models, such as hybrid learning and competency-based education, are revealing the inefficiencies of the traditional system for nontraditional students.”
Improving career opportunities
Employment success of graduates has not been a top priority in tertiary education. There is little investment in the career success of graduates and the focus is placed on a university degree as the credential, versus specific courses and acquired skills. After graduation, students have to use their classroom knowledge to transition into a professional setting. But there is a gap between what students are learning in school, and what they need to do once they enter the workforce. Many professionals say students lack the intangible skills they need in order to build a career. Businesses are no longer willing to invest in training recent graduates and unpaid internships are replacing paid training programs. This indicates that businesses find recent graduates unprepared for productive work.
Charles Fadel, founder and chairman of The Center for Curriculum Redesign, and chair of the Education Committee of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee said the goal of education should be to teach students how to navigate the professional world. “In an age of search, fact-based knowledge is still important but not as important as the competencies we need to understand and use that knowledge like critical thinking and meta-learning (learning how to learn), as well as behave and engage in the world.” New technology available to higher education is capable of creating a workforce that is “updated”. Traditionally, internships and practical training served this purpose. Conventional training solutions as one-off opportunities do not fulfill the needs of the new generation. Today, they are present in digital form. Job-readiness is creating new and significant technological needs for a unique learning experience. A Learning Management System can facilitate successful cooperation between businesses and higher education institutions. With corporate insight, education can be adapted to what is a necessity in the workplace.
Decreasing tuition fees
The cost of a college education has increased over three times, adjusted for inflation, over the last four decades. However, we have not seen a comparable improvement in value. There is no hard evidence that education is better or more marketable. We’re now at the point where many parents between median income and the top 10%, cannot afford to provide a quality college education similar education for their children, similar to that they experienced themselves. The change is made possible by the advent of educational technologies, but it will be driven by economic conditions. Universities with high fees and will face declining enrollment as parents find new ways to provide education and professional success to their children.
Online education works, and one can see many opportunities to dramatically change the landscape of higher education in ways that will enable greater career success and dramatically lower costs. Digital resources, LMSs, and the like cost significantly less than traditional instructor-led classrooms. Much more important than saving on printed course books, an eLearning approach would allow students to cut costs on a residential, facilities-based approach that drives high fees and requires them to travel and reside away from home. Furthermore, it helps to make higher education more accessible to those who are unable to attend on-site courses. At the same time, it helps these schools and universities reach a larger audience and provide education to many more students than could ever fit into a lecture hall, or even on campus.
While no one can predict exactly to what extent technology will change higher education in the years to come, the past years have already witnessed an increasing interest in eLearning solutions. Most likely online education and distance learning will only become more popular, accessible, and affordable in the future. Technology will not render universities obsolete, but universities will have to adopt new technologies or risk being surpassed by those who have. Students today have great expectations, combined with soaring tuition fees and uncertain job prospects, more and more educators agree that change is needed in higher education; and eLearning is the key. It is up to the institution to ensure that new ways of using technology are implemented and that student needs are met. YouTestMe is a great place to start if you are interested in eLearning and how it can improve your teaching.