From whiteboards to collaborative tools – the importance of technological development in education

Annette Gaveart, Head of Workplace for Good, talks about the place of online collaboration spaces in education, and how universities can implement them

Today’s students are tech-savvy and have high expectations when it comes to education. They want the best experience possible. They want flexibility. They want accessibility at the touch of a button.

And these expectations are putting pressure on educational institutes. Teachers, lecturers and academics are all facing new questions about how they can maximise student learning, how to use technological platforms, and how they can make most efficient use of their out-of-teaching time to keep students engaged and better collaborate internally.

This is where technology comes in. Technology in education has evolved massively in recent years. It is no longer based on wasteful technologies such as the interactive whiteboard which the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, himself deemed were, “a waste of money which did not help pupils.” Instead, it is helping us to create next-generation learning environments to effectively prepare students for life beyond education, whilst improving efficiencies for employees who work within the sector.

Collaboration breeds change

Students today have high standards. To meet expectations, universities need to ensure their staff are given the best possible platform to support their students. This is where collaboration tools can prove dividends. Whether to co-ordinate seminars, arrange rotas or share opinions on methods, collaboration technologies are helping teachers stay connected and collaborate better than ever. This ability to work cohesively, and conveniently, is a necessity in education.

Collaboration can empower teachers, as we’ve seen first-hand at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). One of ACU’s biggest challenges was finding a way to bring together the 2,500 researchers, educators and support staff who work across ACU’s eight campuses. But by using a collaboration tool, ACU’s employees can now quickly and easily harness the vast wealth of collective knowledge and find new ways to work together. This is simply one of many examples.

These platforms can break down siloed organisational structures, something that made many ACU staff feel disconnected.

The National Sustainability Manager also posted a message about disposable coffee cups onto his Facebook news feed. It was seen, shared and commented on by hundreds of staff members, which resulted in a campaign to cut plastic consumption on campus. Within two and a half months, the university had convinced all café operators on campus to offer discounts to those using reusable cups, rather than their environmentally harmful counterpart.

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These platforms can break down siloed organisational structures, something that made many ACU staff feel disconnected. This is a problem that needs to be addressed across multiple sectors, with a recent study finding that as many as 60% of employees state they feel isolated at work. The implementation of online collaboration spaces opened up a new kind of peer-to-peer dialogue and distribution of knowledge, which was previously non-existent within the university. Within just four months of adopting this tech, 76% of staff in the pilot rollout said their sense of connectedness had improved and 63% said that it created more opportunities to collaborate.

Traditional methods of communication can feel outdated and restrictive, much like the interactive whiteboard. ACU experienced these challenges, but through the implementation of online collaboration, ACU staff has become more digitally savvy, much like its students. By deploying features like a news feed, groups, live broadcast and tagging options, staff were quickly able to familiarise themselves within the platform and shift away from the previously used methods of communication – emails and newsletters.

Empowering the future workforce

From lecturers and teachers to the administration, logistics and canteen staff, up to the senior leadership across campuses and the Vice-Chancellor, collaboration is now a necessity of any educational institution. The sector is an area to share ideas, build relationships and work together. That’s why it’s imperative that institutions have the tools to help educators and staff share best practices, recognise outstanding achievements and discover new and better ways of working. It’s also a way to be an attractive employer for the best talent.

It’s for reasons such as these that Facebook’s Workplace platform launched the Workplace for Good initiative earlier this year which donates to non-profits and educational staff the premium work tools they need to succeed in the digital age. Subsequently, arming teachers with the necessary learning they need to enable their students to succeed beyond education

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