Lack of access to technology a global barrier to learning – report

A worldwide survey finds that impeded access to technology is second only to a nation’s economy when it comes to obstructing learning

Lack of access to technology is one of the greatest barriers to learning across the globe, according to a new report by Anthology.

The real-time education data suppliers found that the issue is second only to a nation’s economy when it comes to impeding opportunities for study, cited by more than a third (35%) of respondents to the survey.

Unsurprisingly, there is wide regional variation. Lack of access to technology was deemed to be a significantly greater problem in in the Middle East and Africa, where more than half (54%) of students claimed that it was a challenge.

Strikingly, less than a third (30%) of HE leaders in those parts of the world shared that opinion, suggesting a disconnect between the perception of decision-makers and the actuality on the ground.

The report – Comparing global university mindsets and student expectations: closing the gap to create the ideal learner experience – surveyed well over 5,000 HE leaders and students from 10 countries around the world between March and April this year.

In other news: £10m scheme to help Open University plug skills gap

In other findings, more than four in five students said that they would like at least a portion of their courses or instructional meetings to take place online. Many look likely to be disappointed, with only 38% of university leaders indicating that a mix of online and in-person course delivery would be the model at their institution by 2025.

North America is particularly old-fashioned on this front, with almost a quarter (24%) of HE leaders asserting that their courses would be taught wholly face-to-face over the next three years; only 15% of students from the continent want to learn in this manner.

Perhaps the largest gap between educator and learner is found, a little ironically, in the question of whether students are viewed by their universities as individuals with unique needs and preferences. Ninety-five percent of leaders said that this was the case, compared with 66% of learners.

In a similar vein, while 60% of students claim that their university lacks the appropriate digital learning tools to help them succeed, only 26% of leaders have significantly increased the number of such tools over the last two years.

“Higher education is continuing to undergo a rapid transformation due to the pandemic,” concludes the report. “Progress has been made in creating an experience that better meets student expectations; however, there remains much opportunity to enable better support of learners to improve access, retention, and student success globally.

“By considering student feedback and investing in technology resources to deliver more personalisation across everything from course delivery options to career services, higher education leaders can position their university to provide an experience that meets the needs of today’s learners – and those of tomorrow.”

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