In recent years, the American system of higher education has been challenged by the public, which perceives the values and preferences of institutions of higher learning to be disconnected from ethics and the needs of the modern society. Societal institutions perceive learning institutions to be failing to prepare students to live and work in a global world. In response to these challenges, learning institutions are adopting technology as the major change agent to harmonize education with the contemporary society. Various institutions are dedicated to developing technological programs aimed at transforming education systems by offering better quality services.
The digital platform offers an opportunity for learning institutions to restructure themselves through the use of technology into vital organizations that will enhance student learning and meet the challenges of the 21st century. Institutions of higher learning that will seize the opportunity will revolutionize higher education by accommodating education requirements of an increasingly diverse and expanding global student population. Artificial Intelligence, learning analytics, virtual reality, and augmented reality is major technological tools that are being adopted to enhance education.
- Learning Analytics
Secure storing of all the records of students, staff and parents is a daunting task. Virginia Tech developed the Hokie Student Personal Access (Hokie Spa) platform to provide a safe digital platform where all of a student’s information: personal, academic, and financial is stored and viewed. The platform is run through Banner, which is developed and licensed by Ellucian and used by learning institutions in the US for data management.
Hokie Spa is accessible through the Virginia Tech home page where you authenticate to the system through a PID password. On the homepage, you can manage guest access to your academic and financial records, register or drop classes for an upcoming semester, approve the disclosure of records to third parties vie new student information including orientation schedule, and request for grades and official transcripts. The most used services by current students is the course registration tool and the financial aid award tool.
- A culture of Innovation
In the recent years, innovation in education has become a buzz word where learning institutions are considered the key drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship. The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America identified a diverse body of people as one of the key factors that helps in innovation in the education sector, since they bring along a variety of proficiencies and opinions. The diversity in institutions of higher learning provides diverse methods of learning. Adaptive learning technologies support the learning needs of the diverse students from different ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds.
- Virtual and Augmented Reality
The use of virtual reality and augmented reality has been adopted in the education sector at a faster rate to enhance learning and service delivery. The Anatomage table developed at the Western University of Health Sciences creates virtual cadaver that allows medical students enhance their skill through the use of virtual bodies. The anatomage table allows students to learn about various structural functions by shifting layers of virtual tissues to create a clear view of all anatomical imaginings that are obtained from scans of real patients and cadavers.
AR and VR are also useful to faculty and staff to help in tackling problems in the education sector. Pre-service teachers without much classroom experience can adopt VR technology to create interactive and authentic classrooms where they practice teaching. This technology is also being adopted to study and understand the needs of students in classrooms hence develop solutions that will meet the needs of all students.
- Virtual Teaching Assistants
Artificial technology is the greatest advancement in technology that can enhance learning. AI which constitutes the stimulation of human intelligence processes through computer systems can realize great potentials in institutions of higher learning. Universities are adopting AI through tutoring which has transformed the delivery in lecture halls. This service is being tested globally to help students get necessary help when professors must attend to hundreds of students in the lecture halls.
New AI based and individualized learning tools such as ALEKS are enhancing student learning. ALEKS provides students with a personalized learning experience tailored to meet their unique strengths and weaknesses, thus helping them to master the subject.
As current technologies like cloud computing and block chain evolve and new technologies like 5G become a reality, they will become more accessible to universities that will change the manner in which education is delivered. With technology, content can be explored in group collaborations in re-configured classrooms, in bit-size nuggets of time. The one size fits model of education delivery will no longer be suited to the changing environment. Learning analytics mean that students, staff, guardians, and sponsors, can track and use blended learning to ensure that they stay on track. Learning institutions should embrace the new wave of technology to enhance engagement and service delivery.
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