Technology has made a huge impact in every sector over the last ten years; this is especially true for the education sector.
Universities and colleges are offering online courses to make studying more accessible across the world, challenging the ‘traditional’ picture of education. But could there be more of an impact?
In the era of many businesses now using a wide range of remote desktop services to allow employees to work from home or remotely when needed, will schools soon be following suit?
During the poor weather at the start of 2018 which led to schools, colleges and universities being closed, some for weeks on end due to heating issues, could the impact on students learning be lessened with virtual classes being available? This would minimise the amount of learning lost during adverse weather conditions, and long term illness. Virtual lessons would also help connect students and teachers in different locations, removing any geographical barriers.
However, does remote learning lead to an issue: how do tutors and teachers ensure students are remaining productive when they’re not working in a classroom? There aren’t many surveys that have been conducted to this end, but according to a survey performed with teleworkers by TINYpulse, 91% of remote workers believe they “get more work done when working remotely”. This is of course a self assessment performed by the workers and may not offer a true reflection of how productive they actually are! It does however show an insight into how the freedom of remote working could actually improve the productivity of students.
Gone are the days of scrambling around for the USB long forgotten about at the bottom of a school bag; the embarrassment of submitting work and realising it hadn’t been saved; sharing external storage devices during a group project. Digital portfolios are becoming more common, allowing students to share notes and collaborate during projects in one place, usually an online portal or application. Tutors are also able to mark work and submit it back straight away, removing the need for 100’s bits of paper being printed and handed back.
The use of digital portfolios helps keep all submissions stored securely, often making use of Cloud services which has the additional benefits of scalable storage and backups for extra security and continuity.
From an environmental view, digitising assignments submissions would of course minimise the amount of paper being used, and also drive down the cost of printing, inks and toners.
Taking Control of Learning
Students in college and university often have to juggle their coursework, lectures and lessons with work schedules. Virtual classes provide the freedom for students to learn at their own pace in bite-sized chunks, and work around their often busy work rotas.
Making the choice between a late shift at work vs being on time the next morning for a lecture would be eradicated with the student able to access a lesson if it had been pre-recorded and distributed virtually.
E-books are also becoming more commonplace, with teachers able to prepare students before a class with the lesson content or distribute afterwards to give everyone a chance to recap.
Digital vs Traditional
As with everything, there are of course negatives to such advances being made within the education sector.
Does digitising as much as possible take away traditional writing skills, leaving students so used to typing away unexposed to the usual pen and paper concept? The introduction of E-books also raises the question of what can be done with the sheer amount of paper-based books left sitting unused in libraries and classrooms.
Of course there’s a long way to go before every school, college and university can offer remote desktop services to all students. The work (and cost!) of implementing such solutions can look scary on paper. However, staggered rollouts or making just certain departments accessible through this medium could help to combat this.
The question of controlling students access during the ‘school day’ can also be harder to answer if allowing them to work on their own time unsupervised through mobile devices. This is where good management of anti-virus and patching is important, with a good, stable and secure back-end infrastructure still needed.
With technology changing the face of all sector in some way, education is no different. The next ten – twenty years could make it almost unrecognisable.