Higher education is consistently behind the times when it comes to technology. Colleges and universities are developing the brightest minds of the future yet struggle to adapt to the needs of their faculty, staff, and students. In order to properly educate the newest generation of college students, universities need to recognize they are holding themselves back by not adopting the latest technology available.
Higher education technology expert and founder of EdTech Connect, Jeff Dillon understands the need for adopting and utilizing the newest tech on the market. Dillon began his career in higher education technology in the early 2000s and has cultivated over 20 years of experience managing complex and dynamic college and university technology initiatives.
Dillon was present for the creation of Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, the mobile evolution, and many other groundbreaking innovations of the early 2000s that have made a great impact on tech seen today, especially in the academic field.
However, Dillon says, “The world moves fast now and higher education is lagging behind the private sector when it comes to innovation.”
One of the most important things higher education can do to better their campuses is to adapt and adopt new technology to prevent slipping behind the tech advancements being made every day.
Impact of COVID-19
After the COVID-19 outbreak, classrooms of all ages were forced to move online. Colleges and universities had to quickly pivot to remote learning in the middle of the school year without any warning. Without the proper software or programs in place, remote learning would not have been possible. Converting a small high school to all remote learning is much different than a large scale state university with over 30,000 students, faculty and staff.
“The pandemic has accelerated our expectations around what is possible in higher education,” says Dillon.
Shifting to online learning at such a large scale opened the eyes of university and college leaders to the value and importance of advanced technology. Situations like a pandemic do not occur every day but other situations that could affect an entire college or university at that level is a very real occurrence and having the proper tech in place may be the only way to effectively pivot.
Colleges and universities are referred to as “higher education” for a reason; they are an advanced institution that should be at the forefront of education but also other aspects such as technology. People have seen the demand for advanced technology in higher education and have created tech companies solely dedicated to serving the higher education market.
For example, large scale learning relies on the art of the lecture but now educators are realizing that it might make more sense to “flip their classrooms” utilize asynchronous learning by recording lectures ahead of time and requiring students to review the lecture before class. Then in person class time can be used for questions or working on homework problems with access to the professor and peers for help.
“Since the world’s information is now at our fingertips, the college campus experience needs to focus on how we use that information,” says Dillon, “how we connect with each other, and why diversity is important,”
Asynchronous learning also permits students to have more control over their personal schedules. For example, many students have part-time jobs while enrolled in college courses, and having access to a recorded lecture provides more flexibility to the working student.
This also applies to students who have jobs or want to have internships during the school year and have access to their courses in the evening without limiting themselves to fully online higher education institutions.
According to Dillon, accessibility is more critical than ever among the education community because so much content has been moved online and society has recognized the need for those who have extra hurdles to access what the average person does with ease. Higher education as a whole is responding to this shift by making changes such as ensuring their site can be navigated with a keyboard, videos are captioned and photos are tagged with descriptions.
There are various companies that recognize this need in higher education and have developed software that can monitor or report issues, or generate live captioning during a virtual lecture, for example. Another reason higher education can adopt new technologies is by utilizing chatbots that can answer a range of questions.
This can be applied in individual courses so students who are too shy to ask during class can go to a chatbot and find commonly asked questions and answers, or this can be applied at a higher level such as career counseling or admissions. There are endless possibilities for the advancement of higher education technology that would allow more faculty and staff to better serve their students.
“Even though it may not be easy because education is such a thoughtful and complex process,” says Dillon, “the way our students build a base of knowledge for their future should at least be as interesting as to how they interact with the rest of the world.”
There is a clear need for higher education to adapt to and adopt new technologies to remain a cutting-edge institution and serve their students well. The first thing universities should do is take a look at their current software in place and identify their weaknesses. Then institutions should look into the solutions available and apply the technology that is best suited for their specific needs.