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Educational Technology Overload

How the best schools are handling it.

Chief Optimist Exclusive

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Educ Tech articleAround the country this fall, college freshman are arriving on campus for the first day of orientation with a laptop, a wifi-enabled printer, an Apple TV, a tablet and a smartphone. Twenty-something farmers are streaming a live video of an MIT course from rural India. And a group of public policy students from six different universities are debating the merits of campaign finance reform in real-time on Twitter using the same hashtag.

It’s no secret. Technology is disrupting the way educators and administrators do pretty much everything in higher ed. From recruiting to alumni relations, and at every intersection of the institution-student value chain between, technology is changing the business of learning.

Education is evolving before our very eyes, with younger generations demanding new and dynamic approaches to classroom and curriculum development. So what’s on the horizon, and what are the nation’s most dynamic educators racing to meet head-on?

Three Tech Trends Disrupting Education in the 2013/2014 School Year:

  1. MOOCs and the Rise of the Virtual Classroom

    Last year, some educators were wondering whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) would last the winter and others were predicting the demise of residential education as a result of them. But this year, the leaders of many colleges and universities are embracing MOOCs, seeing them as additive differentiators that can showcase great educators on a global stage and make learning possible for students otherwise unable to access it. According to a recent survey by Enterasys, 13 percent of schools currently offer MOOCs, and an additional 43 percent plan to offer them in the next three years.

    "We need to be offering our students the latest types of educational experiences that are available," said Roy Weiss, deputy provost for research at the University of Chicago in an interview with The Chicago Maroon, the school's student newspaper, in June. "And the other thing is a commitment we have to society at large to enable individuals from all over the world to experience the University of Chicago education at some level."
  2. Social Media and Real-time Communication

    Where many colleges and universities initially shunned social media as a distraction from curricula, today many of them are embracing the connectivity of it all. Social media platforms have proven to be good at connecting communities of all types, varieties and niches, and college campuses are no exception. More and more schools are hiring social media managers who can analyze social media efforts and make recommendations about how to best use these dynamic new communications tools.

    “At this point, social media has really become quite important,” Katie Halberg, social media strategist at Wright State University, told the Dayton Business Journal. “Especially as students tend to gravitate toward social media over email or phone calls, so it’s become one of our primary methods for disseminating information especially when it comes to events, on campus activities and news.”
  3. Mobility and BYOD

    The mobile phone generation has definitely arrived on campus. One study by marketing firm re:fuel shows that the average college student now arrives on campus with 6.9 tech devices. According to that study, smartphone saturation among students has reached 69 percent, with some 60 percent of students now bringing their own printers to campus. Never before has IT security been a bigger issue for administrators. And with the popularity of mobile devices and the bring-your-own-device movement only growing, the topic of information security isn’t going away. The good news? This is an issue that can be kept up with if it has enough support—either by addressing the multiplicity of student-supplied devices or by issuing school-owned hardware.

    "There's no right or wrong solution to the BYOD versus school-supplied debate," said Stephen Landry, CIO at Seton Hall University in an interview with Campus Technology magazine. "You can create a program around either option as long as you plan accordingly and factor in as many of the technology, logistical and user issues as possible."

Technology is an Opportunity; Fear is a Risk
Colleges and universities are naturally good at problem solving and collaboration. That fact, if nothing else, is reason enough to feel good about the future integration of learning and technology in America’s higher education institutions. But going beyond reactionary measures and finding creative ways to solve problems that make use of technology rather than avoiding it—that’s the key to successful adaptation.

Embracing innovation is the route to turning concerns into institution-defining opportunities. The opportunities are truly great, too, for institutions of every pedigree. MIT and Stanford have received global attention for their support of MOOCs. Meanwhile, Hult International Business School was recognized by Apple Corporation as one of its “standout schools” for its creative integration of mobile technology into classrooms and curricula.

While it’s true there are no simple solutions to the problems arising from technology proliferation at the collegiate level, the best players are actively experimenting with solutions to find the right mix of adoption and integration. Many schools have started working together to find shared solutions to shared problems—even teaming up on infrastructures like data centers and specialized labs.

The real risk is not in the technology today’s students demand, but in the fear of adoption it instills in educators. Technology in higher education, as in other sectors, can never be far from opportunity. Success is about being bold enough to take the plunge.

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