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The Role of Technology in Higher Education: Innovations and Impact

The post COVID-19 Pandemic life has presented an array of challenges in education. Educators and students alike have been affected. The re-entrance process into formal education has been slow as symptoms of the pandemic linger in all corners of the classroom. School closures leading to forced virtual learning was a transition that may have been premature for the masses, but simultaneously one of the greatest benefits of the pandemic as a whole. 

Technology in higher education holds a great responsibility to enhance teaching and learning, increase access to education, improve student outcomes, and prepare students for the workforce. Technology has become an integral part of higher education and has potential to transform the way we teach and learn. 

The role of technology in higher education today is saturated with innovation, bringing about a great impact on adult learners. This impact is likely to spawn a ripple effect on younger generations and their education experiences. Technological advances in education including virtual learning environments, mobile learning, and artificial intelligence are trailblazing a pathway to means of learning like the world has never known. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the greatest innovations we’ve seen in education as of late.

Virtual Learning Environments 

Virtual Learning Environments are digital platforms that enable online learning and teaching. Virtual Learning Environments have become increasingly popular in higher education, especially with the recent shift towards remote and hybrid learning models. Course content, collaborative tools, assessments, and timely feedback contribute immensely to the increased efficiency of instruction.

The existence of Virtual Learning Environments allow for flexibility, personalization, accessibility, and are more cost-effective when compared to the conventional brick and mortar collegiate experience. 

An intricate part of Virtual Learning Environments are Online Learning Management Systems or LMSs. LMSs allow virtual learning to feel familiar to the learner as they navigate an online space. For example, many LMSs include libraries where students can gather resources needed to complete coursework. Discussion boards are also often present to simulate live conversation/debate. Research.com noted the Top 8 LMSs for Higher Education in the following order: 

  1. Blackboard Learn
  2. Canvas
  3. Moodle
  4. D2L Brightspace
  5. Mindflash
  6. Google Classroom
  7. Schoology
  8. NEO

Key features and price point comparison were indicators in the ranking. Not all of the LMSs listed would be deemed a good fit for all higher ed institutions. Yet, that is the beauty of it. LMSs are typically customizable and the seeking University or business can tailor the LMSs to their needs or shop elsewhere. 

Another innovative evolution to the virtual learning environment are the creation and usage of virtual and augmented realities. Boomers can attest to the practice of geographical learning which likely left the learner with much to be desired. When aging textbook images were the only way to experience the African wildlife or to know the true beauty of the Amazon Jungle, it’s no wonder that, for centuries, many believed the world to be flat. In today’s classroom, students can experience virtual field trips to Notre Dame or the deepest parts of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Augmented reality (AR) technology allows students to explore anatomy and biology in a more interactive and engaging way, including the use of apps that allow manipulation and exploration to 3D models of the human body. Consider how the medical field will advance in coming decades as students can simulate life-saving procedures, which will allow them to further explore and sharpen their skillset. 

AR technology can also be used to help students visualize complex architectural designs. AR apps allow for students to place furniture and fixtures virtually, but in a real-world environment so as to allow for a clearer understanding of how design will look and feel in real life. DAQRI is a California based augmented reality company that has produced apps such as Elements 4D and Anatomy 4D which are beneficial to students pursuing science based degrees.

Artificial Intelligence in Education 

Artificial Intelligence has also taken higher education by storm. A few weeks ago, we explored How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Learning and most certainly is the future of education. For some, learning to implement AI in the classroom has been challenging. A frequently asked question is whether or not AI, specifically Chatgpt, is an ethical resource for learning. Antiquated instructional practices that box in students with college ruled lined paper and a #2 pencils will shelter learning. Much can still be accomplished with pen and paper, but technology is thriving and must be applied in the classroom for the progress to continue with tomorrow’s workforce leaders. 

AI can be used effectively in the classroom through personalized learning, predictive analytics, chatbots, virtual teaching assistants, adaptive learning and MORE! Some familiar AI-powered educational apps, that you may already be using, include: 

Impact of Technology on Higher Education

Technology has had a largely positive impact on higher ed learners. There has been an increased access to information as technology advances making it easier for students to access information and resources, which results in an increased level of engagement. Students are also able to receive a personalized learning experience through the appropriate use of technology. For example, interactive learning tools like simulations, games, multimedia content allow for students to capitalize on their preferred learning styles. Obviously, personalization would also increase student engagement. Communication and collaboration are more easily integrated in the classroom with the use of technology tools. Smart phones, instant messaging, social media usage, LMS discussion boards, etc. have greatly improved the interdependent relationships that are often required of classmates. 

On the flip side, due to the mass amount of information accessed each day, students can become overwhelmed. Technology can become a distraction, especially when students are multi-tasking ineffectively.

We live in an age of unprecedented technological innovation, and it is time for us to harness the power of technology to transform the way we teach and learn. Whether you are an educator seeking new ways to engage your students or a student looking to enhance your learning experience, there has never been a better time to embrace and innovate with technology.

It is vital to the success of higher education, that there is an exploration of the vast array of tools and resources that are available. By integrating technology appropriately into the classroom, a more personalized, engaging and effective learning experience will occur. As engaging learning experiences are fostered, life long learners are born.

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