Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Digital evolution: a new approach to learning and teaching in higher education

July 11, 2018

Posted on behalf of Renee Patton, US Public Sector Director of Education at Cisco. 

Technology continually disrupts almost every area of our lives, resulting in constant shifts across all segments of our society. This is something we’ve examined at length in our research “Digital Vortex How Digital Disruption Is Redefining Industries” developed with IMD, and book on the same subject, where we studied the ways in which many industries are being impacted by new digital technologies.

The education sector is no exception. In fact, the very nature of its target audience – mainly (although by no means all) young and highly connected – means the sector must adapt to accommodate their expectations. Most students have grown up online and will expect the same levels of technology in their learning environments as in their day-to-day lives.

Today’s students want always-on access to the network and resources, wherever they are on or off campus, for a deeper and more flexible learning experience. Traditional, rigid modes of classroom instruction are unlikely to inspire students whose online life outside the classroom is dynamic and evolutionary.

Future-proofing for students

Creating an effective digital learning environment is not just about offering convenience and familiarity to students however. The consequences for their futures if we don’t keep pace are manifold and damaging.

Lack of opportunity is one major threat; limited or no access to technology will result in an ever greater divide between certain categories of student. At the same time, without the technology many young people take for granted in their everyday lives, student experience will suffer, meaning they are likely to be less engaged and retention levels could fall.

Crucially, their potential future success could be severely compromised by lack of technical proficiency. As a minimum, employers want students who are adept at using technology to connect, communicate, and collaborate with workplace technology. This mismatch between potential employer expectations and how schools, colleges, and universities prepare students for the future workforce has been well documented in academic studies, and continues to be an issue.

Bridging the gap

Yet with the right technology platform, solutions, and industry partners, universities are starting to create next-generation learning environments that effectively prepare students for the future by offering access to the tools they need to prepare for the workplace, and providing a fulfilling learning experience.

Digital technology can supply the framework for supporting new learning approaches that engage students, support new revenue streams, cut operational costs and preserve highly valued school and university brands and reputations. For example, the ability to connect with outside experts, the ability to collaborate and share ideas, or even lecturers with other schools and universities – both nationally and internationally – could increase the number of courses offered and attract more students.

Student–teacher collaboration

From video-recorded lectures to online access to course materials, students, can ‘attend’ classes anywhere, anytime via any device, using learning models that work best for them – whether online, hybrid, or flipped.

For both students and teachers, ubiquitous connectivity facilitates greater collaboration, allowing people to share ideas, discuss the latest developments in specific areas of study, and develop increasingly connected communities in their chosen fields. Being more available to students can also empower teachers to deliver ever more innovative, exciting lectures, whether face-to-face or on-line, while offering more personalised feedback and mentoring.

These new collaboration technologies make it easier for students to engage on their own terms, and receive the personalised attention they need to be more successful in school or university. And no longer having to travel across campus for every single meeting makes it easier for leaders and faculty members to work together too.

The transformation framework

It goes without saying that the technology infrastructure must be scalable, secure and reliable, while also capable of managing vast numbers of mobile devices, streaming services and new applications for communication and collaboration.

Effective digital transformation isn’t just about technology though. It requires a willingness to adopt technology in new ways, beyond administrative process. It must be continual and evolutionary in order to enhance teaching and learning, support business processes and improve efficiency. It also necessitates: collaborative working; vision and leadership; culture; process and methodology, and the technology itself.

Teaching Excellence Summit

As US Public Sector Director of Education at Cisco and a former teacher, I am delighted to be participating in a topical session entitled ‘Does Edtech break or bridge the digital divide?’ on 12th July, at the Times Higher Education’s inaugural Teaching Excellence Summit.

The event runs from 10-12th July at the University of Glasgow, and I’m really looking forward to meeting people from all over the globe who work in education. It will be great to share ideas and explore how we can ensure all students receive the education they deserve.

Find out more

In the meantime, to help educational institutions in their digital transformation process and ensure they remain relevant in a highly competitive sector, we have created a white paper, “The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and a Framework for Change.

Please download the paper to learn more, and contact us to find out how we can assist you in your transformation journey.

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