A couple of weeks ago, our CEO John Baker hosted a customer roundtable to discuss how the learning environment is evolving and to what extent technology is responsible for these changes. Held at Canada House in London, John, along with customers including Bournemouth University, West Bridgford School (WBS) and Technical University Delft, talked about the ways in which schools and higher education providers are introducing and implementing digital learning tools to deliver a modern, engaging learning experience for their students.
The student experience has evolved rapidly over the last two decades, transitioning from a static, one-way teaching model where the teacher instructs a group of students with the same materials at the same pace, to one that is much more interactive, personalised, social and mobile. So, how can we define today’s ‘learning experience’, how can we ensure that everyone is able to teach and learn the way that they want to – and more importantly, what could the future hold?
The roundtable kicked off with a discussion about what the future of learning will look like in three, five and even 10 years’ time. The general consensus was that learning is becoming much more collaborative between the student and teacher. According to Mark Deans, deputy head at WBS, “children increasingly want education to be more of a partnership as opposed to something that is ‘done to them’. We are seeing education become much more a culture of everyone learning together as opposed to the school vs children.”
Erna Kotkamp, programme manager IT & education innovation at Technical University Delft, agreed that the learning environment is evolving and becoming more collaborative, stating that universities and students are working more closely to better prepare the student for the working world. “Everyone is becoming much more aware of the impact of having a more collaborative approach to learning. What students are learning at universities will stay with them as they enter the business world so we are seeing the whole process evolve in a way that will ensure each student has the best job prospects.”
Learning has become different to just using pen and paper
When the conversation turned to technology in education, there was agreement that it is playing a much bigger role than people realise. Indeed, it was agreed that education providers increasingly need technology to scale to the rapidly changing requirements of their learners, teachers and administrators.
So what types of technology are being implemented in these institutions? At Bournemouth University, they are using Virtual Reality (VR) to help nursing students have a more hands-on learning approach, without the risks associated with training on-the-job. Wendy Drake, principal project manager at Bournemouth University revealed that “bringing technology such as VR into the classroom has been incredible. We previously used a pdf which would detail the process of analysing urine for pregnant women. Now, we have a virtual examination room where VR can take students through the whole process as if they were doing it themselves. Learning has become different to just using pen and paper. A pdf doesn’t provide the same experience – the virtual environment builds experience thereby limiting the risk once in an actual hospital. Whilst this type of technology is time-consuming and costly to develop, the depth of learning is makes it worthwhile.”
Embracing the use of cloud-based applications, infrastructure and collaborative platforms such as Brightspace, for example, was also discussed – in particular, how this technology helps reduce costs, increase flexibility and enable educational technology to be more responsive to changing needs.
Teachers can now reach every learner
Our CEO John then reinforced how technology is shaping students’ education journey by pointing out how these types of tools are helping students have a healthier balance of settled knowledge (information that we’ve all agreed is true and factual… like the basic sciences, math, and language) and study time (the passionate and wholehearted embrace of learning). He explained how technology is ultimately helping teachers do a better job by enabling them to reach every learner – something that many teachers have never been able to do before. Technology is helping scale teaching. It’s giving students a healthier study/life balance.
Indeed, the importance placed on students bringing life knowledge into the learning environment was agreed on by all, particularly as there is a growing emphasis on the student experience. Features of Brightspace, such as ePortfolios, were regarded as hugely positive tools for today’s students as they help encourage students to share experiences outside of the classroom with other students. It was argued that this broadens individuals’ general understanding and generates higher engagement levels, which has a positive impact on student performance.
John summarised the importance of technology in education perfectly by stating that students are now creators, not just consumers – they want to be a part of their own education journey and it is technology that is facilitating this modern approach to learning.