Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tech for Teaching: Five Trends Changing Higher Education

Swinburne University of Technology
Swinburne University of Technology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Gilly Salmon, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning Transformations) at Swinburne University of Technology, The Conversation: http://theconversation.edu.au

More than 1,000 years of formal university learning and teaching does not change quickly, or without a struggle. But we are starting to see some key tech trends engaging staff and students - and therein lies the secret to change!

Here are five key trends emerging across the global higher education sector.

1. Mobility

As we move forward, higher education will become increasingly mobile, resulting in students carrying their university “in their pockets”. Mobile computing devices (such as smartphones and tablets) are more affordable, more accessible and easier to use than desktop computers. It won’t be long before batteries will last for days with no loss of efficiency.

Mobile devices provide more than enough functionality to serve as a primary computing device for learning, and are purchased in their billions across the globe. Tablets, in particular, are hugely popular. A recent report in The Chronicle shows the number of US college students with a tablet has more than tripled in the last 12 months.

In the past three to four years, the small, low-cost software extensions for these devices (apps) have been the focus of development in terms of diversity, quality and volume. Apps are available for a wide variety of uses, such as providing access to archived content in university libraries and course materials - as the video below, from America’s Duke University, illustrates.

We will see many new and innovative education apps emerging very soon, and with them attempts by educators to embed those apps in their everyday teaching practices. Even something as simple as being able to read course materials on the move (via a smartphone or tablet) has proven hugely beneficial. 
Feeding into mobile universities is …

2. Connectivity

Cloud computing quietly unifies content and activity on the many devices people use in everyday life. Whether connecting at home, work, school, on the road or in social spaces, people increasingly rely on cloud computing to access their information and communities.

Connectivity has also become much more “aware”. The smartphone in our pocket knows where it is located and therefore where we are. These devices record our coordinates as we take photographs, talk to friends or post updates to social networking websites.
UBC Library
Cloud-based computing is making the embedding of computing gadgets of all kinds an essential part of our lives. Gradually, many educational applications will also rely on the cloud.

Learning design will increasingly take account of the potential for “learning locations” - in this sense, the world becomes the university campus.

Increasingly we’ll see location-based services utilised as a key learning tool in higher education.

We’ll see the management student in a case-study location, the social worker in the community, the nurse in the hospital, the archaeologist in the field, still connected with university resources and a community of peer learners.

3. Openness

In the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of free, online educational resources, starting some ten years ago with MIT’s open courseware initiative. Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make effective use of it for knowledge - and learning-creation.

Academics are beginning to explore new models that focus on embedding open resources while still protecting the academic value and acknowledging authorship.
Changhai Travis

One approach is that taken by Creative Commons, supplying easy-to-understand, “some rights reserved” licenses - an approach used by, among others, The Conversation.

In essence, content provided under such a license allows anyone to use the material however they like, providing they follow the guidelines created by the content provider.
University students are prolific. They create all the time “beyond the assignment”, often not realising they are learning.

They are simply enjoying the sharing and they are having fun. They know how to upload photographs, audio and video to the cloud.

Producing, classifying and interacting with these media has become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching and listening.

Universities are starting to understand how they can add real value to learning by using social media to provide a rich, engaging, two-way dialogue between their students and staff. In the next few years we’ll see collaboration and contribution become increasingly open and fully engaged as a valid learning process.

To read further, go to: http://theconversation.edu.au/tech-for-teaching-five-trends-changing-higher-education-7617?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+10+July+2012&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+10+July+2012+CID_3e4eaed16dd57c9dc7917f5ea1defd3d&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Tech+for+teaching+five+trends+changing+higher+education
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