Education is changing beyond recognition and learning is becoming much more personalised, collaborative and efficient than ever before. Information technologies and the rapid flow of information they enable are triggering a new model of learning that is less tied to supervised, classroom-based courses and is more agile, customised and flexible.
In practice, this means a much broader range of preferences are available to students. No more waiting around for an important text to be returned to the library when the e-library is always fully stocked. Pupil-to-pupil collaboration is made as easy as having an internet connection and a webcam, so that it’s not limited by being in the same part of town, or even being on the same side of the ocean. Students are even using mobile applications such as WhatsApp to collaborate and study. As positive as this may sound however, agility is not the only benefit of the digitised education model of the future.
By supporting seamless access to content for students and teachers, technology is playing a pivotal role in changing student expectations. Organisations that embrace this pace of change and new technologies, will find they are able to offer higher levels of service. Cloud-based technologies and access to real-time data mean that teachers will gain a 360 degree view of students and their progress. Rather than relying on the often inaccurate and simplistic perceptions from exam grades every year, teachers can monitor students as they work to gain a thorough understanding of where their strengths and weaknesses lie and how they work best. This offers the ability to create individualised plans to educate each student and customise it to their needs.
Streamlining the administrative side of education might not sound cutting edge, but it’s crucial for the management teams as it lets institutions rebalance their spending. Systems like storage and archiving, workflow automation, form generation, compliance and communications with students and parents can be made easier and more efficient with the right technological investment. And, whilst it might be difficult to justify further spending in the short run, a robust ROI over a long time period can prove the effectiveness of applying business solutions to educational institutions to optimise those administrative processes.
The growing uptake of mobile solutions, data streaming and the demand for constant internet connectivity is driving educational institutions to modernise and upgrade their IT infrastructure. At a business process level, this needs to trickle all the way down to student management – from admissions to graduation.
At a consumer level, securely and efficiently managing student information improves not only their experience, but also the ease with which they can move around different faculties, switch courses or take up study programmes elsewhere. And cloud-based technologies give them an unprecedented opportunity to decouple learning from a classroom presence and collaborate with teachers and each other through channels, such as social media. According to a recent IDC survey, 33 per cent of education executives in Western Europe already use social media to aid learning in their institutions and now Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) promise to bring top-quality education to anyone with an internet connection, for free in many cases.
As education continues to shift towards an on-demand way of learning and becomes increasingly collaborative, educational establishments will need to think about how they can manage more agile and fast-paced ways of working with information.
It’s clear that technology will play a pivotal role in the future of education. As establishments look to maximise their competitive edge by attracting international students, communicating with businesses to secure funding or sponsorship and staying in touch with alumni, information management plays a critical role in maintaining operational excellence in an increasingly technological age. There are huge opportunities to improve efficiencies within many areas of academic and student support – both through streamlining administrative functions and by improving the learning environment itself. Better education; smaller administration; greater student experience.