New Media Consortium (NMC), an organisation that provides education technology and innovation research to universities, identified six key challenges in 2017 holding back digital learning in Higher Education.
Two of these are the integration of formal and informal learning and the lack of digital literacy. Fortunately enough though, the NMC has identified these two aspects as solvable. The challenges presented by integrating formal and informal learning can be solved by finding a unified manner to support assessment and knowledge that caters for both types of learning. Higher Education facilities need to realise that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works and instead more flexible learning strategies must be enabled.
University libraries, for example, need not be threatened by informal learning and a growing prominence of internet providers but rather should embrace the vast availability of information online that helps students to conduct research faster than ever before. Online journals and e-books offer a perfect example of the synthesis of old and new, formal and informal learning that ultimately enables efficient home study.
Opportunities to learn
This is in stark contrast to the uphill struggle faced when advancing the cause of digital equity and the reduction of the disparity in achievement between students of different backgrounds, which is deemed a challenge for which there are no such clear-cut solutions. But do not despair! These seemingly intractable obstacles offer fresh opportunities to learn. Jisc, the fountain of all HE knowledge when it comes to digital solutions, has explained how what initially might seem like a hindrance can actually play a key role in developing education standards and interaction for students in higher education.
Long way ahead
With this in mind, it is important to remember that the technology-education relationship still has a long way to go.
Jisc explains that ‘digital text lends itself to being highly flexible, offering an adaptable reading experience to learners’, yet this can be undermined by poor digital design. Widening learning provider platforms can increase access to digital learning but there is no ‘ideal’ digital platform that is accessible to all. This is where teaching professionals need to learn how and when it is appropriate to use different digital platforms according to particular needs. For instance, the role of non-print resources is increasingly important for disabled learners whilst text-to-speech software helps students that have difficulties reading standard text.
Ultimately, whilst there is no silver bullet to using technology in universities, it is destined to have a significant part to play in shaping higher education of the future. Going above and beyond the development of ‘isolated technological skills’ is a must. Join us as we explore ways in which a wider more flexible digital environment can be created and maintained at our Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning in Higher Education.
Written by Bethanie Roughley