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Getting up to speed with the digital native

Andy Alferovs from Kortext assesses why universities need to embrace technological change to keep up with the next generation

Posted by Hannah Oakman | November 05, 2016 | Higher education

A new generation of students is now embarking on university that has no memory of a time without the Internet. They are ‘digital natives’ and bring with them new challenges and opportunities for education establishments that must be able to provide a learning experience which meets their needs. Just as Millenials turn to Netflix for their viewing requirements and Spotify for music, there is also demand for a similar platform that provides students with all their textbooks and course materials in one central place.

Value for money

The stakes are high for today’s students who are leaving higher education with £30,000 of tuition fee debt. It stands to reason that many will be questioning this investment and looking for reassurance that their university will support them in getting the best academic results and ultimately good employment opportunities at the end of their studies.  It is therefore vital that universities provide an environment and experience that enables students to thrive. These ‘digital natives’ have grown up immersed in technology, are used to online learning and are demanding an academic experience which complements their day to day lives. Universities have no time to lose in embracing education technology to create the best teaching and learning environment.

Some pioneering universities are now providing core textbooks electronically within course fees, at no extra cost. The etexts can be accessed via a learning platform on the students’ own devices such as a tablet, laptop or smartphone. Not only does this have the obvious benefits of supporting students financially and being less clunky than printed books, but each student is on a level playing field by having personal access to the core resources they need to study anytime, anywhere on any device.

Moving from print to digital

The rise of digital tech like e-readers has signaled a change in how students consume information. This provides huge opportunities to universities to be more flexible in their teaching and sharing of learning materials.

Edtech developments are encouraging students and lecturers to share resources online, create remote project groups, make digital notes which can be accessed anywhere at any time and automatically reference their work. This way of working is more reflective of how digital natives communicate with peers and read content in their day to day lives and in principal, opens up higher education to more people, whatever their background, wherever in the world they may be based.

Revolutionsing learning through analytics

The potential benefits of digital technology are wider reaching than just moving from printed materials to screens. In recent years, big data has changed the way we communicate, shop and stay fit and healthy. The same is happening in education, bringing real benefits to students and universities alike. For example, having the ability to track students’ reading progress is helping lecturers to monitor progress in less formal ways and access early warning signs to help any students that may be struggling,  while there’s still time to address it.  Lecturers can also get real-time insight into students’ learning habits, while the university can view learning analytics with other data to establish wider trends, evaluate teaching methods and correlate with outcomes.

To best cater to the digital native student, universities need to embrace the opportunities that edtech is opening up to provide value for money, improve student experience and support them to achieve the best results and future opportunities.

Andy Alferovs is managing director of Kortext, a leading UK digital textbook solutions provider.

 

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