As newer technology makes its way into classrooms, students are able to learn and research at increasingly faster rates. Dr. Bryson Payne, head of the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, talks about how higher education is integrating technology into the classroom and how technology is changing higher education.
What are some of the most notable technologies introduced to the classroom, and how have they changed learning?
Learning management systems (LMS) like Blackboard, Moodle, D2L, and Sakai, have had perhaps the deepest, long-lasting impact on learning by allowing faculty and students to interact with online materials for any class, any time. MOOCs (massive open online courses) are the extreme extension of LMSs.
Mobile devices have only recently begun to find their way into classroom use, and I see smartphones and tablets enabling even more change in the accessibility of materials outside the classroom.
How has technology changed the skills that students need to succeed?
Students already have some comfort and skill with online learning systems and mobile devices – it's the teacher that's had to adapt the most quickly. Curriculum and materials are slowly migrating to mobile and online access – ebooks are a great example, at 30-70% savings over printed books. However, until faculty feel comfortable and have the training and tools available to make use of LMS and mobile technology, students are going to be further ahead than educators.
What are the implications for technology's influence on learning?
As MOOCs are free or low-cost alternatives to in-class teaching, they have a tremendous potential to change the education landscape. My father-in-law is an IBM retiree in his 70s, and is taking four courses online from universities like Georgia Tech at the same time, for free. When our children and college students begin doing that for their education, we're going to have to rebuild our concept of a high school and even college diploma.
Higher education is catching up, and in a few cases keeping pace – we have more online courses than ever at UNG – but the rate of change is the issue. It often takes years to change a curriculum for a four-year degree, but a new fully-online, highly-regarded MOOC degree program from a national competitor could appear in a matter of months. It's an exciting time to be in higher education, but we've got plenty of innovation ahead of us.