Despite all the disruption and technological advances that occurred over the past few years, the structure of higher education institutions and the state of academic curriculums are closer to what would be the case during the early stages of industrialization.
In 2020, we are well into the digital era and students face a set of challenges unique to their age and technology plays a significant role, both as part of the challenge and as an opportunity to overcome those challenges.
Can schools and universities afford to operate using the existing model? What technologies will be needed? How will higher education experiences change in the coming years?
One fact is undeniable; higher education should focus on the direct needs of students and the demands of an increasingly digital market in the future.
1. Flexible Learning Experiences
A flexible learning experience is essential these days; not just because of unexpected force majeure circumstances such as the global COVID-19 outbreak.
New challenges have arisen due to the shift in the digital economy's demand for new skill sets and capabilities. The job market has witnessed a sharp demand for "digital", "innovation", "data science", and "information" in their job descriptions and titles.
The current curriculum being taught is fast becoming irrelevant and seems rigid to those seeking to learn a new in-demand skill or enhance their professional status. As a result, learning centers that provide focused online workshops and certifications are increasingly becoming a popular and cheaper alternative thanks to the flexibility, focus, and accessibility they have on offer for learners.
“The learner, the learning provider and the employer all are speaking different languages that don’t interconnect,” said Michelle Weise, chief innovation officer at the Strada Institute for the Future of Work.
Universities and schools should consider the subscription-based model where students would pay monthly fee subscriptions to attend the modules and courses they prefer instead of attending 9-hour school days. Learners can complete their selected courses at their own pace and enjoy convenient accessibility.
Students should be able to access specific learning resources, materials, libraries, labs, and digital learning activities at any time from anywhere across all devices.
Flexibility and accessibility are standard requirements for any digital experience and should be at the forefront when considering an enterprise-level digital project. But it's easier said and done - identifying and investing in the right IT infrastructure will be essential to support a comprehensive digital learning experience for your students.
2. Remote and Distance Learning
The days of strict daily hours of attendance of pre-fixed classroom schedules are over.
We were inevitably going to rely more heavily on remote and distance learning in the upcoming years, however; the recent outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe has accelerated this process.
They realized the importance of aligning their strategic business needs with the ideal mix of technology value-stack required to ensure their digital growth and future.
We specialize in providing higher education institutions with comprehensive digital transformation solutions based on Drupal and we witnessed a sharp increase in both verbal interest and demand from schools, universities, and even teachers for our services.
Schools and universities have immediately reallocated their resources and budgets to prioritize remote and distance learning. Unfortunately, not all schools and universities are technologically capable to embrace full-fledged remote learning as the norm.
Almost every industry has been disrupted by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but schools and universities have been hit the hardest because they had to reckon with the fact that their entire business model and operations have to change. Do they even need a campus anymore?
Drupal 9 Transforms the University of Doha for Science and Technology (UDST) Digital Experience
3. Immersive Learning Experiences
There is no doubt that flexibility, accessibility, and maximum immersion will be critical in appealing to students around the world.
This has led over 70% of the top 100 universities around the world to adopt Drupal which enabled them to build a truly digital campus and immersive learning experience for their students and faculty. Drupal has enabled these institutions to seamlessly integrate essential cutting-edge solutions that complement and support their digital transformation.
Essential integrations such as VR.
VR implementation in learning is on the rise and enables any school or university around the world to offer classes to a global audience of interested pupils. For example, a student from Beijing can attend a French language class at a middle school based in San Francisco through VR.
Some universities have introduced A.I. into their learning experiences as well.
Through A.I., students can learn from a robot teacher. This teacher is capable of grading, checking spelling, grammar, etc., and also monitors the performance of students to identify gaps in knowledge and weaknesses which in turn can be analyzed by academic advisors to further support their students improve their grades and performance.
Several interesting experiments are being run by Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities (a Drupal 8 platform) to identify which solutions work and which don't that are trying to find the right balance between the involvement of A.I. in education and learning experiences.
Who Leads Digital Transformation?
Transformation is inevitable but it is often misguided due to a lack of education (pun unintended) and awareness regarding the technologies that will be essential to elevate a university or school into a modern higher education experience.
Academics and higher education institutions must realize that technology alone is not the answer. It is only the tool.
Top management and leadership at academic institutions must drive the change and digital transformation based on facts and solid requirements in a bid to identify which technologies will be essential to build the foundation for an evolving interconnected web of digital learning assets and platforms.
Some have even adopted the wrong tools - technologies that do not match their digital transformation requirements or support their objectives.
Technology alone won’t be the answer to the existential challenges that schools and universities face. The culture of teaching and learning must also change. The real question that needs to be addressed is: what good or value is higher education supposed to deliver?
Addressing the needs of students already living in a digital environment and a digital marketplace will be paramount and Coronavirus might just be that disruptor that forces us to accelerate the digital transformation process.
One thing is for sure; it will force higher education institutions and academics to go back to the roots of education: storytelling, research, and development.
In the meantime, we will continue to provide our assistance to universities and schools in identifying the appropriate technologies needed to develop the ideal digital learning experience for their students.
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