Efforts to integrate computers with education go back to the early 1980’s when leading-edge technology schools first offered PCs for purchase to incoming freshmen. The machines were clunky at best, running the most basic operating system. Fast-forward 35 years, and connected campuses are old news.
The ongoing evolution of technology continues to replace traditional learning tools and strategies at an increasingly rapid pace. Today’s higher education leaders are in a unique position to positively impact both students and faculty members as teaching methodologies change.
Adaptive Learning Software
Adaptive learning software is just what it sounds like: software that adapts to how a student learns. It is driven by technology that allows students to progress at their own pace, based on how well they grasp various concepts. It’s a big departure from how teaching has been conducted in the past.
The use of adaptive software is not linear like textbook teaching in a traditional classroom. Instead of all students following the curriculum at a consistent pace, each one is having a unique learning experience specific to their abilities. The coursework is the same for everyone in terms of content, but the way it is delivered to and absorbed by each student is different.
While this approach can be viewed as radical, it actually solves a problem that educators have been dealing with for their entire careers. Which is: How do you keep students engaged in the material when advanced learners become easily bored and others are frustrated by the difficulty and pace?
Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems (LMS) have made it easier for faculty (and students) to adopt the digital classroom technologies that are defining higher education. Their effectiveness into the future, however, is in question.
A study conducted by EDUCAUSE, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that 56 percent of faculty use an LMS on a daily basis. While the majority of faculty (74 percent) overwhelming agree that an LMS is a useful tool to enhance teaching, only 41 percent leverage the technology to communicate with students outside of the classroom. Thus, negating a key feature.
As learning models change, faculty can help define the next generation of technology to better meet their needs and, more important, the needs of their students. Whether this is simply a more advanced LMS or an aggregation of relevant applications for customized needs is up for discussion.
Massive Open Online Courses
Like other innovations in the world of higher education, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have received a lot of criticism. What is interesting, however, is that some universities are beginning to view MOOCs as an affordable option for credit-based learning; particularly when it comes to freshmen-level instruction on foundational subject matter.
Several MOOC companies have emerged in recent years to offer for-profit learning experiences across multiple online platforms. Where the concept of integrating MOOCs into the fee-based higher education model goes from here is debatable. It may have a place in providing supplementary learning or it may, as many hope, stay on the fringes of bonafide degree programs.
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