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Higher Education’s Quiet Revolution

January 19, 2017

There’s a quiet revolution brewing in colleges and universities around the world.

There may not be people beating down the schools’ doors like what’s happening in today’s political landscape, but there IS a major paradigm shift happening. There’s a brand new way of thinking about education that’s going to be in full force this year.

As we begin a fresh new year, let’s look back at what some of higher education’s thought leaders said in 2016 about what the future holds.

Embracing technology innovations to make the old way obsolete

According to Richard DeMillo, a Georgia Institute of Technology educator and author, this revolution is happening because more educators and administrators are embracing technology.

“You don’t change the old order by fighting it. You change it by finding new inventions that make the old way obsolete,” DeMillo said at Campus Technology 2016 in August in Boston, Mass. “The number of institutions devoting resources to becoming better at educating students is going up. There’s a fault line between those institutions with leadership that gets it and those that don’t.”

That thought – the importance of a shift in campus culture to embrace technology – was one of the recurring themes in 2016 at educational conferences like Campus Technology, EDUCAUSE and UBTech, as well as from discussions Sonic Foundry had with industry analysts and reporters.

A rising demand for technology support

According to Casey Green, founder of the largest continuing study of U.S. higher education IT planning and policy issues – The Campus Computing Survey – CIOs and senior IT officers said last year that they continue to see rising demand for technology resources and services.

The 2016 survey, presented at EDUCAUSE in Anaheim, Calif. in October, showed that nine of the top 11 priorities of CIOs and IT leaders focus on things we do (services like training and user support) versus things we buy (technology). (Read more about the top priorities, such as accessibility, security, cloud computing and analytical tools, here and watch Green’s full presentation at EDUCAUSE here.)

It’s unanimous that in 2017, campus leadership must focus on offering training, resources and guidelines around those technologies, and more policies need to be put in place to ensure they’re used properly for the highest student success rate.

Have an individualized approach to learning

DeMillo predicts that embracing technology will play a pivotal role in overcoming education’s “triple threat:” affordability, accessibility and achievement.

During his keynote presentation, DeMillo said, ironically, that he was doing exactly what he believes is the worst way to teach. He would never give a speech for 50 minutes and then give a test.

He encouraged the audience to not stand up in front of a classroom for an hour but rather give students “small bites” of information, testing at each point along the way.

This individualized approach to learning will improve student success and is how educators need to think going forward, he said.

“I’m a believer in the small class experience. Unfortunately, the small class experience only helps you if you’re in a small class,” he said.

But that’s expensive. The reality is students are often in football stadium-sized lecture halls.

Decades ago, creating a small class experience for everyone couldn’t be done affordably. But it’s 2017, and technology can very effectively bridge time and distance. Students embrace video technology, for example, because it engages them and personalizes their learning.

According to the Wainhouse Research report “Streaming and Lecture Capture for Education and Training Market 2016,” authored by Senior Analyst and Partner Alan Greenberg, schools that incorporate lecture capture reported improved retention and grades. At least one-third of the higher education leaders Wainhouse surveyed believe that lecture capture improves student retention.

Blog_Free State EVATake 16-year-old Lucky Hlatshwayo, for example.

He lives in one of the most rural areas of South Africa. He’s one of more than 54,000 students and 3,000 teachers who participate in the Internet Broadcast Project in which schools receive video lectures from qualified teachers. In some schools, pass rates increased to 100 percent! He’s the first person in his family to attend university, and without video technology that would have been just a dream, he says.

So what can we do?

DeMillo wasn’t advocating for blindly throwing technology at education, but rather looking for ways for technology to create structural change.

“We have great technological resources at our fingertips. We have a movement in higher education to make college more affordable, more accessible to improve the experience for our students,” DeMillo said. “To improve outcomes, what we have to do is find the people in our organizations who are not going to fight the existing order and not going to throw flames from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Pick projects that seem innocuous and aren’t going to threaten that many people, but if successful, they’ll change the way you do business.”

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