How the Educational System is Becoming "Smart"
Smart technology gives access to learning resources for students, thus offering opportunities at both ends of the user experience. Let’s look at how these new devices and platforms can help higher education.
Despite attempts to modernize, most colleges and universities function the same way they did a century ago. While attending college is still a rite of passage for many, some question the validity of the approach in a new, connected world.
In the UK, the tripling of tuition fees in 2012 led to students calling for greater value for their money from their educational experience. In 2016, only 37% of students felt they received that from their chosen institution.
Facing competition from apprenticeships, opportunities to study abroad, or the lure of the freelance economy, colleges need to provide a more modern experience to retain students.
SMART Technologies launched the SMART board in 1991, bringing interactive whiteboards into the classroom. But new smart technology and the wider Internet of Things (IoT) holds more potential for 21st-century students.
Let’s look at how these new devices and platforms can help higher education.
Smart Technology Gives Better Access to Analytics
Smart technology extends beyond the common devices found around the smart home. By giving access to data for institutions, and access to learning resources for students, it offers opportunities at both ends of the user experience.
Such technology gives colleges the ability to track students across their interactions with the institution. School administrators can tell when students enter or leave physical buildings, for example. And they can monitor how often students download online resources. This data has the potential to create a learning experience tailored to suit the student’s preferences, much as Netflix recommends content based on your viewing habits.
This type of analytics gives colleges unprecedented insights into the student, from their engagement with their course and their learning style, to how they perform – and if they’re likely to remain in the course. Early intervention leads to greater retention and student satisfaction.
Apps and Devices Help Teachers Monitor their Students
Colleges can develop closed apps to create communication channels between the institution and the student. Students can log maintenance calls, access learning resources, monitor their grades, and view urgent notifications from their smartphone.
Nottingham Trent University found 81% of first-year students spent more time studying once they could view their own engagement data. Smart technology, using apps and devices, gives student ownership over their learning experience.
Work submitted through apps allows teachers to monitor both the success and difficulties faced by their students. Differentiation has always been a key weapon in a good teacher’s arsenal but with more students engaging with distance learning – or studying in the home – teachers have less face-to-face time with their learners.
Technology bridges this gap, enabling teachers to provide more specialist instruction to those who need it. Educators can also adjust lesson plans for future classes based on data from sessions they’ve already taught.
Far from making people less social, technology allows teachers to work smarter, not harder.
The IoT Can Improve Campus Safety and Resource Management
Smart technology can track students around the campus through smartphones, or wearables like smart watches. Students use university apps to check their schedules or even monitor local public transportation to avoid lengthy waits in lonely or badly lit areas after dark.
Understanding patterns of usage mean colleges can plan better staffing for buildings – providing access to resources when students want them. The administrators can close buildings when not required to carry out vital duties.
Smart devices also allow a more controlled use of the classroom space. Tutors can use platforms like the SURE Universal remote app to alter the lighting to suit delivery times, or manage the temperature without placing a call to the maintenance staff. Managing smart TVs or speakers from a single app saves staff from using multiple types of equipment in different rooms.
Bosch has already trialed similar climate control measures at the Bundesgymnasium Dornbirn grammar school in Austria. Being able to adjust conditions allowed staff to improve the learning environment for their students.
While we’re perhaps still far from a hyper-connected virtual lecture class, the IoT offers students the opportunity to engage with their school in a way that’s familiar to them. Likewise, smart technology gives colleges better insights into their students’ lives, helping them to design an experience that suits the individual learners.
These win-win situations make technology so valuable in the 21st century.
Over to you – do you think smart technology will help improve higher education or is academia too resistant to change?