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Navigating edu tech - why universities need to up their game

04 April, 2018

My boss would probably prefer not to know this, but I was a bad student for most of my life. This was because I was very disengaged by the traditional, ‘teacher lectures and the student takes notes’ format. Fortunately for all concerned this changed when I attended university as it offered a more compelling learning environment.

Navigating edu tech - why universities need to up their game

I quickly found myself fascinated by opportunities to work with other peers within my Media and Communications major. The classroom became a ’hands-on’ workshop rather than a passive environment. Though studying theory is important - it was an essential aspect of my curriculum - a modern approach to education helped me become a creator rather than just a proficient reader and test-taker.

Now, two years on from graduation, I appreciate how a progressive and interactive experience prepared me for the professional world. With this in mind, I’ve taken a look at how technology is shaping current and future generations of academics.

Student behaviour is driving the change for campuses to not only be a location for libraries and classrooms, but more importantly communities. Students have hectic schedules – in addition to their lectures they participate in clubs, sports and group projects. They now need spaces on campus to collaborate and eat any time of the day or night. This has impacted the design and policy of many schools’ learning spaces, allowing students to socialise, share meals, move furniture to accommodate group work, and have 24/7 building access for late night projects and even to sleep. Though this may be a challenge for institutions with older buildings, redesigned spaces are important for supporting students and making them feel welcome.

An investment in the technological infrastructure across campuses, including libraries and other working spaces, is becoming more important. Students need to have the capability to create their own content. As was the case during my academic tenure, course assignments are becoming more creative and are demanding digital course materials more and more. During my lectures, professors integrated digital activities into their lessons by mandating that we engaged with them and other classmates over Twitter while in class. And at Oregon State University - just 45 miles north of my university – senior instructors are reshaping biology education. They are assigning their students projects to create their own media content and to share their stories across their class social media channel. There is an ever-increasing importance for all students, including those studying science and not just those in creative curriculums, to learn how to become storytellers and curators of digital media. It’s essential to develop these communications skills to effectively work and live in line with the 21st century’s demands.

Technological innovations are simply making education more fun and impactful. As an example, instructors are employing virtual reality apps that allow students to visualise concepts from a range of subjects. Software such as Unimersiv takes users into the human brain by visualising neurons and tissue, whilst Public Speaking VR creates realistic environments that help students prepare for a job interview or presentation. This beats burying your head in textbook!

There is massive growth potential for education technology. For example, a privately owned company in this sector called Magic Leap is valued at $4.5 billion, and they do not even have any products available for sale yet. Also, the InteDashboard is being adopted by lecturers in both the US and UK with the aim of enabling more learners to benefit from team-based learning in academic settings – something I know would have been far more preferable to me than just taking notes.

New age, 24/7 working spaces, collaborative multimedia projects, and VR are just some of the many trends shaping how our current and future students learn. It’s essential that educators continue to improve their offer by giving students experience with the technologies that they will be working with in their future. It’s both more engaging and essential practice for the real world. These are also the kind of tools that students want to work with and they will be more likely to choose the universities that invest in them. There was a time when I never thought I would be uttering these words, but I sure wish I was still in school!

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