Developments in technology have transformed both face-to-face and online learning. In the past, distance learners received weighty workbooks via post.
The Open University for example, often supplemented books with radio and television programmes or video/audio tapes. But now, ‘distance learning’ is primarily delivered as online learning.
Specialist learning technologies such as virtual learning environments (VLEs) or e-portfolios have changed how institutions manage learning materials and resources. However, staff don't always take advantage of their potential to change curriculum design or delivery.
Presenting lectures by video, much as it might seem a technological advance in teaching and learning, is still a traditional way to teach. It’s didactic and uses new technology to simply ‘deliver’ content.
New technologies offer exciting opportunities to reconsider how we teach, engage with or involve students in online activities.
Building digital capability
Social networking technologies are freely available and widely used, and offer accessible tools for online content and classes. But they can also present significant challenges for your institution - how to integrate them and provide support.
Online learners can access learning materials and activities at their own convenience, studying where and when it suits them. However it can be difficult to provide technical support when things go wrong and, despite the presence of mobile devices, not all students own them.
Staff and students may not have the necessary skills to use these effectively in a learning context. One of the key issues is building digital capability for staff and students to use technologies and services effectively and ensuring that this enhances the learning experience.
Transforming the learning experience
Our guide on using technology to improve curriculum design offers some excellent examples of how technology has inspired teachers to transform the learning experience:
- Games technologies and approaches
- Simulations and virtual reality for medical education
- Collaborative multimedia content development and sharing services
- Mobile devices for field trips
- Blogging and peer networking tools to expand feedback opportunities
- Open educational resources
- Open technologies and open badging
Many of these examples support just-in-time, on-demand learning, but they also bring challenges around ownership, licensing, standards, integration, management, support, costing services, staff roles, staff and student skills, curriculum change and student expectations. All of these need careful consideration.
Adapting to change
Technological development never stands still, and keeping up with the pace and pressure is challenging, particularly when technologies can disrupt traditional industries and professions.
Institutions need to educate future professionals to embrace and adapt to these ‘disruptive changes’, and that will be more important than teaching them to use one particular technology or another.
Identifying employers needs
Teaching to an old industry model will not give learners the skills they need to find employment. At the very least, your institution needs to engage with industry, identify what kinds of professionals they need now, and start a dialogue about what they anticipate they’ll need in future.
Future horizon reports and discussions are interesting to follow, and are popular in technology, but in practice these are difficult to incorporate into course planning, which can take a long time to complete. They can form part of your institution’s market intelligence.
|Barriers||What you can do|
|Institutions are reluctant to adopt new technologies|
Engage senior management and describe the benefits
Identify good examples from within the institution, or from other institutions.