Technology Trends Transforming Higher Education

By Sarah Sorensen
June 18, 2010 | Comments: 1

Higher education institutions find themselves having to rethink almost everything they do in today's highly-connected, highly competitive digital age to ensure they maintain their pivotal role of advancing the opportunities of individuals worldwide by providing a productive, efficient learning environment.

The key is to set a technology agenda within higher education that can create opportunities and save time, energy and effort on a scale that can truly make this world a more sustainable one. A few of the major technology trends that are playing a large role in shaping the future of education are ubiquity, mobility, personalization and virtualization.

The 21st century is already an era of "pervasive connectivity," a world networked through devices rather than people. Soon, virtually every device we touch will be "smart" and equipped to communicate over global, high-speed networks. These pervasive networks ensure information is instantaneously available almost anywhere, and as applications increase in sophistication (such as augmented reality and 3-D simulated reality apps), they will increasingly mimick and enhance the experiences we receive in the real world. Learning environments need to capitalize on this ubiquity and incorporate it into their curriculum to add relevance and value. Just think of how powerful online courses for a multi-national student body that can interact live from wherever they are around the globe could be - the possibilities are limitless.

In the last decade we have begun to see the emerging outlines of a truly wireless society. Mobile communications devices, commonly in the form of cell phones, are produced at a rate of over 1 billion units per year. Universal broadband connectivity, which can support data, including video and multimedia, delivered over advanced wireless network technologies, such as 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, and WiMax, provide on the go access to information that can enhance the learning experience and expand the educational opportunities. Already we are seeing professors sending quizzes, games, tests, test-preparation, opinion polling, reminders, classroom discussion, tutoring information to student's phones. For those universities that can enable mobile learning environments, the learning will know no bounds and never has to stop. No longer is the university bound to the campus, rather learning can extend to the far reaches of the globe - this is important for universities trying to attract students and build a worldwide repuation.

Both products and experiences are being personalized to the level of the individual consumer. Highly customizable products are readily available today (such as made-to-order electronics from Dell and clothing from Nike). Where is higher education in this landscape? The phenomenal growth of MySpace and YouTube demonstrate how much demand there is for personalization of the online experience and these tools can be adapted to create online educational communities and learning centers. Imagine a world with individualized curriculums and course work that can be continuously adjusted to accommodate the retention, interests and speed of an individual student.

Virtualization has various meanings for information and communication technology. One is technical - the ability to create virtual instances of applications or machines that can be consolidated onto fewer resources, which maximizes the utility of your physical devices and provides an environmental benefit by reducing the amount of power and cooling required to keep multiple functions operational. The other meaning relates to the simulation of reality in electronically created environments. It is this definition that has the potential to drastically change the learning environment.

Simulators for job training are fairly commonplace and electronically created 3-D worlds, such as Second Life and multiplayer online role-playing games, are emerging into widespread use. Already, there are people whose livelihood comes from working in virtual worlds. Those institutions that incorporate digital media and virtualization into their curriculum can extend their reach. We have already seen social media tools provide ways for faculty and students to share information and ideas, collaborate and problem solve and schools and educators take advantage of virtual classrooms and resources. It's a powerful learning tool that can be used to really immerse students in all aspects of a particular subjects and bring those subjects to life. Think about how much you could learn if instead of opening a text book, you could virtually walk down the the streets of ancient Rome, or be in the crowd to hear Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address, or view the displays of the first World's Fair.

Those institutions that are able to effectively harness the power of all these connections and digital tools are going to be able to attract talent, improve the quality of their education experience, and create a more collaborative and productive learning environment that will sustain opportunities for students around the world.

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1 Comment

We are hoping to have a real test soon with testinside

any idea what to do next.

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