Education is a huge part of most people's lives today. In the western world time spent in education will constitute at the very least 15% of our entire life, and for a lot of people that enter higher education, even more than this. With such a massive proportion of our lives spent in education it is challenging then to see how far behind the education industry has fallen in relation to the arrival of the digital age. As education represents a 7 trillion dollar industry, more than the combined GDP of Italy, France and the UK, it is time this industry started investing in digitizing its service to support a more digital audience.
Digital technology has become so commercially accessible today that it is almost inconceivable that academic institutes could be so slow to adopt digital resources, converting to what is often referred to as blended learning. Blended learning is not about crowbarring digital experience or technology into the classroom, but is about making learning easier and more accessible, essentially enhancing learning experiences, through the precise application of digital solutions. Digitizing resources for the modern generation that is becoming ever more technologically savvy is paramount to meeting their needs and engaging them. Here are just a few digital solutions that could support a more stimulating learning experience in higher education today.
1. College Communication
A lot of academic institutes are still using email as a valid way of spreading important news or messaging, even in time sensitive scenarios. The reality here is that students just aren't checking their emails every morning and thus this is a very ineffective method of getting student attention. However, what the current age of tech savvy learners are doing is checking their social media every five seconds! By combining the importance of college messages with the casual access and style of social media like Facebook, you arrive at Yammer the enterprise social network. Yammer forms a private network where real time messages can be posted and people can respond and share on the go.
For instance a teacher could post in a specific group for his 10am literature class that the room has been changed and the students could access this on their mobile on the go without any hassle and avoid missing the lesson. Or Alex could miss this lesson due to "illness" and post to the group 'what was the homework assignment?' His classmate Katy could tell him what it is and ask if he wants to see her notes that she then shares as an accessible document for him to read. Katy can then message the whole group and ask what they think of her ideas on the book they are reading, and this can open a real time discussion as to the nature of the text, supporting learning outside the classroom and even more collaborative and ingenious ideas. Nice one Katy!
2. Digital Library
It could well be time to put an end to the back breaking, spine distorting hefty tomes that students call textbooks. While there is certainly value in owning certain books in hard copy, dragging heavy books to and from lessons should be avoidable in a digital world. And indeed it is! This is an area of education in which we are seeing huge growth. In the US a reported 19.5% of the total textbook market in 2014 is formed of digital textbooks, with this figure set to continue to rise next year. Certain academic institutes already pay for institute wide access to these kind of resources, such as academic journals and e-books, and by providing an easy to use e-library you are providing students the opportunity to really get the most out of their learning experiences, and to access learning material anywhere, anytime. This means Katy can validate her ideas against the latest academic journals online and Alex can catch up on reading that book that he missed last lesson without having to hit the library.
3. Video and audio lecturing
This is the biggest hot topic in education at the moment as we are seeing a huge uptake in online education courses. They are forming a new hot trend as they are flexible and thus able to be completed around the busy lifestyles of those seeking further education alongside their other responsibilities. More and more educational institutes are providing these types of courses as they realise that digital technology is supporting this type of learning. Applying this to traditional teaching environments could prove a huge benefit. Live lesson streaming could allow students that are unable to attend class due to unforeseen circumstances to participate, and recorded and uploaded audio or video lessons would accommodate any potential absences so that students never miss an important lesson. This content could be stored in a secure online location so that no insight is ever missed, and students are getting the full value out of every lesson. This online video teaching is already happening and now it's time for these digital trends to be introduced into the traditional classroom.
There is a simple way that all of these solutions can be achieved for an academic institute, and that is through an easy access student portal. This would form a one stop location for access to all student resources, and could also feature built in relevant apps and important and customisable links for each student. This portal could also feature a mobile app which is the next level of digital excellence, allowing modern students to engage with what they need, no matter where they are. A lot of colleges and other places for higher education learning might already have solutions in place but whether or not they support modern digital learning is the key to the success of their platform. The students of tomorrow will expect more and more digital experiences in the way that they learn and now is the time for the education industry to address modern learning habits and how they should be facilitating student learning with digital solutions.