Technology Trends in Higher Education
Technology solutions in higher education are constantly evolving. This has been particularly true in recent years as colleges of all sizes have confronted the COVID-19 pandemic along with the influx of nontraditional students.
Despite the difficulties, many higher ed institutions across the country seized the opportunity to expand their education technology and implement practical solutions that would make education more accessible to a larger number of students.
Perhaps the biggest shift has been toward classroom models that accommodate both in-person and remote learners. These “high-flex” classes are presented from classrooms equipped with computers, internet access, cameras, microphones, and screens, all of which allow students from various locations to engage with the lesson and interact with one another.
The main advantage of high-flex classes is flexibility. Students can attend class from any location that has an internet connection, which makes it possible for students to keep up with class instruction if they can’t make it physically to the classroom. Also, since most class sessions are recorded, students can always go back and watch (or re-watch) the lesson.
Students in nursing, engineering, and a variety of other STEM courses count on teaching labs that will prepare them for the professional realm with hands-on learning experiences. As technologies have advanced, more schools are providing students with virtual labs that give them access to industry-grade equipment, so they can perform lab experiments and measurements from a remote location.
Using cloud-based platforms, students can log in to access the equipment, and the instructor has real-time access to their data input. They can also use live streaming platforms to offer individualized instruction to students in the lab and to answer any questions the students have.
Though students might still visit an instructor in person during “office hours,” it’s more common for instructors to hold “virtual” office hours by providing students with a link to a Google Meet or Zoom session. Students can then click the link to get immediate access to their instructor, so they can chat live about course concepts and assignments. And because participants can share their screens, this type of conferencing makes it easy to review and collaborate on documents.
Video conferencing is also becoming more common for large faculty meetings as well as smaller department and committee meetings. Because video conferencing is more convenient and more accessible, it’s much easier for participants to meet synchronously from wherever they are and to get work done.
Collaborative Learning Tools
Despite the different forms of remote communication in higher ed, cloud-based technologies have allowed for a greater level of collaboration among participants. For instance, Google Workspace provides a number of cloud-based platforms that can be accessed from any location with Wi-Fi.
Participants can access the same document at the same time and, using the video conferencing feature in the side panel, work together to create content. Cloud-based technologies also allow users to make comments in the margins and review the document history. So, while document updates are constantly and automatically saved, users can always go back to previous versions.
This makes it extremely easy for students to work together on class projects. It also makes it possible for teachers to review the document history, answer questions in the margin, and provide immediate feedback on assignments.
Smartboards and Digital Screens
Whiteboards and chalkboards are quickly becoming obsolete on college campuses. Smartboards are incredibly versatile, offering access to online videos, websites, games, and presentations. They easily integrate with other technologies, and they allow participants to write notes that are then recorded and saved to the teacher’s computer. This allows teachers to share their lessons with others. It also provides an engaging way for students to interact with the course material.
While smartboards are becoming more popular in the classroom, digital screens are prevalent in offices and other common areas as a way to display important information and advertise events. Instead of hanging posters around campus, digital screens are an easy, environmentally-friendly alternative.
How Haverford Can Help
Now more than ever, students expect communication that is immediate, accessible, and individualized. We can help you turn your conventional classroom or office into an engaging and productive space that will accommodate a variety of participants. We are experts in AV installation, Zoom integration, and many other technology solutions.