Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education

Yesterday I wrote about the US National Education Technology Plan. There is also a higher education supplement to this plan. The Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) 2017 from the US Department of Education sets out a vision for learning enabled by technology in the context of higher education. The supplement, like the plan,  focuses on the areas of Learning, Teaching, Leadership, Assessment, and Infrastructure.

What is Higher Ed? A Student Prospectus

  • New “normal” students transfer between institutions, may have dependents, work (part or full time), and study part-time
  • Ecosystem: Learning is lifelong (occurring at different times) and lifewide (education at work, home and other settings)
  • Design principles:
    • Education that enables students to achieve their goals, is suitable to their needs, and aligns with their interests
    • Helps students make wise financial decisions about education
    • Prepare students for postsecondary work
    • Allow students to adjust the timing and format of education to fit in other priorities
    • Provide affordable access to high-quality resources
    • Help students progress through times of transition and changing needs
    • Collect and use real-time learning data to assist students
    • Allow students to build meaningful education pathways
    • Allow students to document their learning in portable ways
    • Create a network of learning that supports students as creators and entrepreneurs

Engaging and Empowering Learning Through Technology

The goal is for learners to have engaging and empowering learning experiences in both formal and informal settings, in multiple contexts and various stages of life. Technology supports learners to scaffold their learning, document their competencies, and form meaningful connections with educators and peers.

  • Technology-Enabled Learning in Action
    • Access learning opportunities outside of the traditional barriers of time and space (flexible programmes)
    • Access learning opportunities outside of formal education institutions (receive credit for workplace or community experiences)
    • Access high-quality online learning resources (including OERs)
    • Learning experiences through blended learning models
    • Support student learning based on individual academic and non-academic needs (personalised feedback)
    • Participation of students with disabilities
  • Recommendations
    • Promote excellence in learning (use available formative and summative data to study how students are learning, review course failure and withdrawal rates and support student success, use learning analytics, research into how students learn in technology-rich environments)
    • Use technology to transform learning (increase collaborative and project-based learning, ensure accessibility or born accessible design)
    • Develop collaborative learning scenarios (support flexible pathways to completion, diversity in students, engage stakeholders in enhancing programmes)

Teaching with Technology

The goal is to design learning experiences that better support and enable learning, while improving the instructional approach over time.

  • Technology-Enabled Teaching in Action
    • Use student learning data to provide targeted interventions and tailored feedback
    • Use student learning data to evaluate the efficacy of new practices or technologies
    • Create active learning environments that connect students with content in different ways (inquiry-based learning, collaboration, real-world challenges)
    • Use tools to provide personal and connected experiences (virtual labs, simulations, coaching)
    • Provide high-quality resources at lower costs (not only expensive textbooks)
  • Elevating the Practice of Teaching
    • Foster ongoing professional development for teachers to develop their skills
    • Create career paths for instructors who master technology in teaching
  • Recommendations
    • Promote excellence in teaching (make resources on evidenced-based technology practices available to instructors).
    • Use technology to transform teaching (reimagine courses in ways that more actively engage students in flexible ways)
    • Develop collaborative teaching practice (co-design active learning experiences based on research)

Assessments Enabled by Technology

The goal is develop authentic assessments that enable measurement of learning and competency attainment. To improve student learning through frequent feedback and enabling personalisation.

  • Technology-Enabled Assessments in Action
    • Allow more precise measurement of student learning against clearly mapped competencies (verify and make portable)
    • Assessment through formative learning activities
    • Real-time assessments
  • Recommendations
    • Promote excellence in assessment (collaborate to create authentic assessments)
    • Transform assessment through data (determine whether student learning is accurately measured)
    • Develop collaborative assessment solutions (collaborate to provide support around assessments)

Systems That Support Student Success

The goal is to support educators and students with a robust infrastructure that bridges different learning environments.

  • Integrated Infrastructure that Supports Information-driven Student Success
    • Digital infrastructure to provide students with a mechanism to map learning and skills mastery to stackable and portable credentials
    • Controlled access and protection when using student data
    • Accessibility for all learners
    • Ubiquitous access to connectivity and devices
    • Clear Responsible Use Policies (RUP) to promote responsible use and protect privacy
  • Recommendations
    • Systems to act in tandem with policies
    • Data should be integrated, while ensuring privacy and security of information

Leadership that Enables Innovation and Change

The goal is to empower leaders to implement technology-enabled practices that optimise student success.

  • Leadership in Action
  • Leadership should work together to develop a strategy and action plan for the use of technology to support strategic plans
  • Collaborate across institutions for system-wide change
  • Recommendations
    • Develop a clear vision and strategic plan for the use of technology to enable learning
    • Create strategic networks with leaders at other institutions
    • Develop systems that support lifelong learning and lifewide learning

The Future of Higher Education

  • Focus innovation on affordable and equitable access
  • Leverage technology to deliver learning opportunities to those who need it most (access)
  • Ensure technology-enabled learning is affordable
  • Focus on completion and outcomes (whether students have met learning objectives)
  • Higher education is expanding and needs to grow more (not only traditional institutions)
  • Assembly of learning experiences and resources from various sources to increase quality and access
  • Further research that tests effectiveness and informs practice
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Presentation: Distance Students Usage of Multiple Devices for Learning

My presentation at the eLearning Update Conference, at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg on 7 September 2016. The presentation shares the initial results from a survey of UOC students regarding their learning behaviours using multiple devices.

Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education

Last week, EDUCAUSE Review Online published an article on 6 Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education. The goal of these trajectories is to enable responsive and personalised digital learning environments in higher education. They make use of “trajectories” instead of predictions as working with trajectories means “we know where something is headed, but we refrain from guessing where it will end”.

There are 3 contextual characteristics provided before discussing the trajectories:

  • Personalisation – use of digital resources to create custom pathways for learning and degree success
  • Adoption of hybrid learning models – greater online dimensions
  • Analysis of ever-increasing amounts of data – more nuanced and timely insights into all kinds of learning processes

The 6 trajectories:

  1. Device Ownership and Mobile-First: More and more students are owning multiple personal devices. The increasing use of mobile devices for learning is leading universities to consider a mobile-first approach by integrating mobile technologies into courses. Students are no longer  constrained by campus IT networks and make use of non-university apps and services.
  2. The Textbook and Open Educational Resources (OER): The format of the textbook is changing, and the purchasing of commercial textbooks is declining (in part because of increased costs). The textbook is no longer the course requirement, but an option. There is an increasing abundance of open content and OERs.
  3. Adaptive Learning Technology: Adaptive learning technology is a kind of e-tutor to anticipate the types of resources and contents learners need to progress.
  4. Learning spaces: Learning spaces is an umbrella term referring to the physical spaces specifically designed to accommodate learning activities. The focus is not on places of presentation, but being places of discovery, invention, and knowledge construction. Students do not sit in rows but in groups around tables. Technology involved includes wireless projection.
  5. Next generation Learning Management System (LMS): A single system will not be able to meet all the future needs but will likely consist of a number of integrated applications.
  6. Learning Analytics and Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS): Analytics for teaching and learning seeks to promote learner success by providing near real-time information to instructors and advisors, helping them build and sustain positive learner momentum.

As always with this type of list, it remains to be seen what will happen in each of these areas. From this list, I am happy to see the increasing awareness of OER. For some of the others, like Learning Analytics, there seems to be a great deal of discussion of potential, but little practical impact at the moment. I am still not convinced about the need for a next generation LMS, when so many academics still do not make use of many current LMS features. But my own research will definitely tie into trajectory 1 where I will be looking at how distance students use multiple devices for supporting their learning.