With vice chancellors’ pay and student debt seemingly grabbing all the headlines, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the wonderful transformations undertaken by our universities to enhance the student experience. Here are my thoughts on some of those enhancements that will hopefully be creating a few positive headlines over the coming year!
Data-led student intervention
Recently there has been a lot of groundwork around the creation of systems and standards for collecting student data for intervention and retention purposes.
Today we have the xAPI and IMS Caliper standards, which are important because they allow data to flow between systems in a standardized way. Without this data flow, it wouldn’t be possible to make sense of the vast tracts of siloed student data.
As we move into 2018, the good news is that a growing number of vendors have already adopted these standards and are creating edtech tools that wrap intelligence around the data – for example, to determine how well individual students are doing, where they are struggling, and how they can be helped to improve on their scores. These tools are a precursor to more intelligent ones that will feature more granular levels of personalization, as well as predictive capabilities that can help to flag up potential issues so they can be acted upon promptly.
The xAPI and IMS Caliper standards are important because they allow data to flow between systems in a standardized way. Without this data flow, it wouldn’t be possible to make sense of the vast tracts of siloed student data.
In fact, we are already seeing the availability of some early predictive tools that model large cohorts of data and then overlay students’ first term grades to predict outcomes. For example, the results may show that student A has only a 70% chance of graduating in economics, but a 95% chance of graduating in accounting & finance were she to switch courses.
Another important application for these tools is to better prepare undergraduates for the workplace by using predictive assessment to suggest which jobs will be a good fit for them.
Rethinking classroom design
The move to digital campuses as part of a university-wide digital transformation makes it possible to rethink the traditional classroom design and inject more flexibility. I’m not just talking about moving walls and furniture but about adapting rooms with digital apparatus on the fly.
This is what Indiana University (IU) in the US is doing with its active and collaborative learning initiative, Mosaic. At IU they refashion their classroom spaces depending on the use case – for example, instructional teaching, collaboration or student presentations.
The move to digital campuses as part of a university-wide digital transformation makes it possible to rethink the traditional classroom design and inject more flexibility.
By adopting this flexible classroom model, UK universities will be able to deploy cameras and screens quickly and easily for things like: projecting content onto walls, filming student presentations, and displaying group work to other teams.
The consumerisation of VR (and later AR)
At a recent trade show, Pearson displayed VR content and a pair of VR goggles on its stand – and no books. That says a lot. Content used to be primarily text and images with a few educational videos thrown in for good measure, but the notion of what constitutes content has shifted radically – and now includes virtual spaces.
We’ll see more VR learning in 2018 because you can use it to teach almost any subject: history of art students can visit the Louvre; marine biologists can explore the Great Barrier Reef, and ancient history students can travel back in time to Ancient Greece. Some higher ed establishments in the US have already launched VR labs where students can capture and edit VR-based projects, especially in the arts (e.g. dance, music).
Many VR experiences already exist for free (or for a small sum) on the web. But with a cheap 360° camera, and, if necessary, a third-party developer, we’ll see more universities building them from scratch. As an example, we created an educational video about New York City’s Central Park.
We’ll see more VR learning in 2018 because you can use it to teach almost any subject: history of art students can visit the Louvre; marine biologists can explore the Great Barrier Reef, and ancient history students can travel back in time to Ancient Greece.
AR is a great tool for learning too, but we will not see such rapid adoption in 2018 because of the dearth of AR devices on the market today.
Digital transformation of the modern campus
Mirroring what is happening in the enterprise space, we will see digital transformation starting to sweep through campuses in the race to scrap paper. This is already happening in larger universities in the US, and we expect it to move up the IT agenda with some of the larger universities in the UK during 2018. Digital transformation impacts not just teaching and learning but all aspects of university life – from marketing and enrolment through to course evaluation, digital room management, and document management.
Learning to be digital citizens
This relates perhaps more to younger students still at school than undergraduates, but it is an important issue for everyone navigating online. In 2018 we will see more focus across the education spectrum on teaching young people how to be good digital citizens. This entails helping them to understand and use digital creation tools (e.g. here’s what you do with videos, here’s how you project your view of the world via video/code/robots etc.).
In a digital world where everyone’s voice is equal, the best production wins – even if it has been created by someone wishing to do harm and/or someone with no authority. Think of the teenagers lured to Syria because they saw a YouTube video. This is a big public policy problem and needs to be resolved promptly so that they know how to act online, and how to distinguish fake from genuine news.