The Higher Education sector is on the cusp of change. The advancements in digital technology have altered the shape of education. Learners have an expectation that the courses they take will mould around their lives; not the other way round.
Today’s universities are competing for learners in a landscape that is mostly unrecognizable to people who studied as recently as five years ago. Fast forward five years into the future, and there will be no such thing as a typical student – nor a typical student experience. Demand on institutions to offer courses that attract an ever larger and diverse range of students continues, whilst budget restrictions mean finding ways to get more for less.
The pressure is on for colleges and universities to adapt to learner led pedagogical practices, in flexible learning environments. It is vital that institutions respond to demand, but it often means that administrators are dealing with a multitude of courses, taught by a number of faculty members, using an array of different methods . For administrators currently working in this way, the thought of implementing the change necessary to embed digital courseware through a personalized learning program can seem intimidating when the workload is already hectic.
This article looks at the importance of making changes now, and strategies to steer a steady path during this time of change, enabling a clean transition and impacting positive change throughout the whole institution.
Diversity = Diversify
America is more diverse than ever before, which means that students come to the Higher Education sector from an ever wider range of backgrounds and demographics. At the same time, universities are actively appealing to females and other underrepresented students, many of whom will be first generation university students. Mature students come back to education after spending years in the workforce. Students study part-time, full-time or fully online, and have their own external responsibilities and commitments. There is no longer a common unifier – other than a desire for a good education.
The modern student is more attuned to the advancements – and advantages – of education technology and they want it built into their education. Institutions that can’t, or won’t, adapt will suffer in the sector as more learners opt into personalized (and adaptive) learning systems. Empowering students through personalized learning – so they can control what, how, and when they learn – will encourage a new kind of collaboration through knowledge building and interconnection between students and faculty.
Earlier in 2016, the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative launched a Horizon report which looked at the five-year horizon for higher education institutions. The report identified a number of ways technology will impact the higher education sector, changing planning and decision making across institutions.
The report highlighted the shift in the design of learning spaces that the sector will see in the next three to five years. It identified the need to create more flexible spaces to increase mobility, and to support web conferencing and other remote communication facilities. The report also foresees a “removal of books and serial journals” from libraries and classrooms as students continue to use their personal devices – and adaptive technologies – to engage differently with course content.
The advancements in technologies do not just benefit the student. Administrators and instructors are developing a greater awareness of using Ed Tech data analytics to gain a deeper understanding of how to attain students.
The future today…
“Students learn best when education is personalized to their needs and goals. There is a growing body of evidence that courseware, when integrated effectively by faculty in instruction, can personalize learning at unprecedented scale potentially enabling all students — not just those who are able to attend the most elite, expensive colleges — to get the best and most effective education at a reasonable price.” Daniel Greenstein, Director of Postsecondary Success at the Gates Foundation
With their investment into the Next Generation Courseware Challenge and adaptive learning, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made a clear statement of their belief that personalized learning will revolutionize higher education. Personalized learning isn’t a new method in education, however, with advances in machine learning and data analytics, it is possible to personalize the learning experience for every student in every class for the first time. Although reports on efficacy are so far inconclusive, this scalability and promise to truly impact both students’ success and instructors’ workloads leads to increasing commitment to adaptive learning in higher education.
Ready for the ‘Real World’
The growth in adaptive learning is not just restricted to the education sector. The use of adaptive techware has become big business in the corporate sector too. ‘Switched on’ businesses are training employees using adaptive platforms – resulting in more personalized training and career development. Students well versed in using adaptive learning are set to learn more effectively in workplaces utilizing the same technology, and their digital skills will be well honed – ahead of their peers who did not have personalized learning programs at university.
By addressing student demand for technology in the classroom and adopting personalized learning approaches, institutions will position themselves as forerunner in the sector. Implement adaptive technologies now and your institution will be providing the skills required for student’s future – today.