Technology has had an incredible impact on education. Universal adoption of the internet in every walk of life has meant ground-breaking changes to the way we learn. When it is all said and done, the impact of the internet on how we learn, process, and share knowledge will rank among the most revolutionary inventions of our time.
Perhaps there is no better place to observe the effects of contemporary digital innovation than on college campuses. It might seem ironic – given the stereotype of the ivory tower often attached to institutions of higher learning – that colleges are places of innovation, but in the tech world, they most certainly are. Consider that:
The first computer was put together and made to work in 1946, at the University of Pennsylvania.
Facebook itself came from the dormitory halls of Harvard in 2004.
Given this laudable pedigree of innovation, here are three ways in which technology has enhanced the student experience on campus in recent years:
Predictive Analytics Help Students Pick the Right Courses and Stay Engaged
The most important intangible for a student to succeed in higher education is engagement. And in order to become engaged, students need to be informed about things around campus.
Enter OneCampus by rSmart. As the University of Notre Dame found out, OneCampus is the perfect tool to meet the needs of its students. The IT department found it easy to install; users have found it simple to navigate through; and everyone enjoys its mobile-optimization. Today more than 12,000 students at Notre Dame benefit from a mobile application that tracks their schedule, sends reminder notes for due dates, and monitors the overall path to graduation.
The OneCampus app is a great example of how predictive analytics can improve student performance. The vast majority of students will benefit from having quick and easy access to their performance relative to their program requirements. That is only possible with predictive analytics. Going one step further, a customer-service oriented approach to answering student questions is a great way to:
- Offer solutions to questions before they become problems
- Improve student appreciation for the administrative body of a college or university
More Blended Learning and Testing
Many schools are combining the traditional face-to-face lecture model with a new, e-learning component. Students are expected to watch and take notes on pre-recorded lectures outside of the classroom, and to come to class ready for a quiz or some additional learning experience.
This new approach to education has been dubbed ‘blended learning’. Blended learning has implications for all levels of the education. In the context of higher education, it allows the professor to break away from a text-heavy curriculum and spend more time on interactive learning initiatives. New classrooms are equipped with the most high-tech screens and audio equipment, all designed for a more multi-media approach to learning. Those students who never excelled at ready comprehension no longer at a disadvantage!
The data up until now indicates the effectiveness of blended learning. According to research from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, blended learning proved to:
Increase the average score of students, as compared with the non-blended section; and
Improve engagement among students
Perhaps most striking, the researchers found that 90% of students liked the blended approach as compared to the conventional, non-blended style of lecturing.
Social Media Breaks Down Boundaries
A third major contribution can be found in social media. As it turns out, social media is not a distraction for students living on campus for the first time.
As research from Collin Ruud indicates, there is a strong link between social media use (mainly on Facebook) and feeling a sense of belonging to a school. Whether it’s reaching out to an online community for advice on where to do your laundry, chatting away with high school friends about how much has been learned (and experienced) while living in a dormitory, or posting a status update to see who’s on campus, the fact is that social media is an invaluable tool for undergraduates today.
Clearly, students want to integrate their educational experience into their overall digital existence. The challenge for IT departments remains solving how to structure their student portal in such a way that it operates more like an app, rather than an academic database.
A shift towards efficiency and transparency (in terms of access to information) are the two forces underpinning the innovation of IT services on campus. As the above examples show, students will always respond well to a new system that improves their ability to access important information in real-time and learn in a way that makes most sense for them.