Digital technology is changing teaching and learning, and affecting the way entire campuses operate. As a Cisco Education Advisor, I meet with education institutions that are exploring and embracing innovation that is fueled, in part, by digitization and supported by a shift in culture in today’s college and university environments.
The education institutions I work with are thinking about how technologies can have an impact on the learning environment. I would have you consider that educators and students are being “trained” by consumer applications that enable engagement in collaborative technologies through multiple social media channels, across a wide range of personal devices. Because these collaborative tools are changing the way educators and students interact in their personal lives, they’re influencing a user’s habits; significantly, they’re relied upon much more frequently than any enterprise-level application.
In addition to changing the way educators and students teach, learn, and engage, the ubiquitous nature of collaboration tools in our personal lives is influencing the design of new learning spaces, particularly as we build new buildings or renovate existing spaces. What does today’s classroom look like given the potential of learning models such as blended, flipped, or hybrid? Are classrooms becoming “smarter,” where teachers are able to use technology to reach students beyond the classroom walls before, during, and after class?
For educators, new teaching models and access to data from applications allow insights and an exciting opportunity for their own innovation in teaching and research. Education institutions now have the ability to use technology efficiently to help educators meet students where they are and provide data analysis that moves educators to act. In the case of an absent student, an educator might have some information—insight from the LMS that an assignment is missing, for example—but lack the complete analysis, which shows that the student hasn’t been on campus for days or weeks, and points to a much greater issue that can impact institutional funding. With the complete analysis, this data point can trigger a notification to faculty or a student advisor/mentor to begin a dialogue with the student: “Is the subject matter a challenge, or has there been an illness or emergency? What can be done to help?” Colleges and universities need to maintain and increase student enrollment, but it is just as important to retain students and see them through to program completion or graduation.
Of course, a campus is more than just classrooms. A culture of innovation can touch everything from security to parking. For instance, new security technologies are helping protect both people and information, and smart transportation solutions make it easier and more efficient for everyone to move across campus. Lack of Wi-Fi usage in a classroom can initiate steps to turn down heating and cooling systems or turn off lighting in the space, which, if done consistently, can lower operational costs. As more and more devices and applications ride on the network, we must not only manage the data that is generated but also analyze the data to improve efficiency.
Education is never stagnant, and with technology, change and innovation is swifter than ever before. New technologies like augmented and virtual reality are an exciting example. We’re seeing great promise with AR/VR simulations where programs use the technologies to train—and in some cases, re-train—the workforce of tomorrow. How will these tools along with collaborative technologies and data-driven applications change the culture of higher education? What will learning spaces look like, and what will the role of educators be as these platforms and tools are developed and implemented? As we research and answer these questions, I expect we’ll discover that the impact of technologies in education is greater and more far-reaching than anything we have seen thus far.
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