4 Technology Trends Changing Higher Education

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Technology has had a huge impact on the education system worldwide, transforming how students learn, share and gather information.

The adoption of technologies like mobile apps, cloud computing and game-based learning has helped students be more productive. From being consumers, students are now becoming creators and innovators, thanks to technology’s ubiquity.
As universities continue to adopt new technology for higher education, here are some of the future learning trends to expect in the next few years:

Learning Analytics

The New Media Consortium (NMC) defines learning analytics as a “field associated with analysing patterns and trends from big data”. Its primary goal is to help educators develop educational programs to address a student’s needs. Tailor-fit lessons make it easier for teachers to teach effectively and students can now cope with their lessons.

The University of New England developed the Automated Wellness Engine or AWE. It was designed to identify students who were experiencing difficulty with their study programs. This enables the faculty to intervene and refer their students to the proper department.

Ms Rhonda Leece, the university’s Assistant Director for Student Services, said that “with AWE, we are fundamentally renewing our commitment to students”. It’s about creating personal connections with students to encourage them to learn.

3D Printing

Developed in the mid-1980s, 3D printing is the process of making products and parts using a computer. It’s a faster and more cost-effective way of building parts from computer-aided designs (CAD). Aside from the manufacturing sector, this technology is also being used in the classroom as well. Since it produces less noise and is clean, it fits right inside the classroom. No intensive maintenance required.

Together with Autodesk and Quantum Victoria, the University of Melbourne presented the 3D Printing Showcase last November, 2013. One of the objects displayed was a 3D printed replica of Ned Kelly’s death mask. It also gave students and teachers a glimpse of what they can do with this technology.

Soula Bennett of Quantum Victoria believes that it will give teachers and students “access to tomorrow’s technology today”. 3D printing will definitely enrich a student’s learning experience.

Mobile Apps

During the past year alone, students are now turning to their mobile devices to access academic resources. Due to the flexibility of these devices, as well as their interactivity and convenience, the devices have made learning mobile and more attractive. Now, universities are adopting these technologies for their students to use.

Apps, or applications, have become indispensable tools for learning. In fact, many courses, such as Information Technology courses, have integrated them into their curriculum. Mobile apps help foster creativity through content creation. Students learn to utilise a device’s camera, microphone and other sensors to express their ideas.

James Eunson, a former student at Monash University, developed an app to help his fellow students find their way through the campus. They can also check the latest news, locate staff and see the other six Monash Universities around the world. It’s like having the entire university in your pocket.

Game-Based Learning

For the past decade, games have proved to be effective tools for learning. They are helping students learn soft skills like critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving and communication. Now, ARGs (alternate reality games) and MMOGs (massive multiplayer online games) are teaching them how to be more sociable and collaborative. These can also be used to teach cross-curricular concepts to engage students to learn more.

The “Open Orchestra” simulation game at McGill University uses high-definition cameras to give music students a feel of playing with a full orchestra. This also familiarises them with the different musical disciplines to expand their skills.

Game-based learning can provide students with the right skills and knowledge for their future. CNN’s Education Writer, Justin Marquis Ph.D., believes that gaming shouldn’t be used “as an area of inquiry in higher education”. Rather, it should be used to reinvent the university experience and push students to be innovators.

Technology will always play an important role in higher education. As it evolves, educators will continue to integrate these to make learning more engaging and productive.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Smeeton

    August 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    This article is a partial and rather superficial view of Higher Education trends. It misses some key elements such as the “flipped classroom”, and fails to distinguish timescales in which these trends might be widely adopted. I was disappointed with the lack of references and citations, which makes me question the experience of the author in this sector. Anyone interested in researching these topics in more detail should review the New Media Consortium Horizon Report (2014) published by Educause [available at https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/HR2014.pdf