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Opinions of Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Columnist: Osei K. Darkwa, Ph.D

The future of higher education: How core technologies will shape teaching and learning


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“By 2025 Internet nodes may reside in everyday things—food packages, furniture, paper documents, and more. Today’s developments point to future opportunities and risks that will arise when people can remotely control, locate, and monitor even the most mundane devices and articles. Popular demand combined with technology advances could drive widespread of an Internet of Things (IoT)”

Source: US National Intelligence Council (2008)

Core technology is explained as a system that allows people and organizations to process and manage performance more consistently with the help of computer hardware and software solutions such as data management, communications infrastructure and applications, cyber infrastructure, mobile strategy and application development.

Core technologies can be in the form of hardware or software. Hardware can be in forms such as cyber infrastructure, communication infrastructure and devices, telephony and mobile devices, and computers and community networks.

Examples of core software technologies are eLearning Management Solutions such as Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, eCollege, Sakai, and Schoology; Enterprise Resource Planning Systems such as iSpring Suite, Agresso; Content Creation and Management Portfolios such as Adobe Creative Suite , Intel® Education Software, and FileMaker Solution for mobile devices; Research, Assessment, and Evaluation Tools such as IBM SPSS Solutions for Education , SurveyMonkey, and LimeSurvey.

Most progressive university administrators and practitioners use The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon report as a springboard for discussion around significant trends and challenges. The ELI and NMC Report recently identified six (6) core technologies that will change higher education. These technologies are separated into three timeframes (called Horizons) that the authors think will match when each technology will enter mainstream use.

According to the Report, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and tablet computing are technologies expected to influence mainstream use in the first horizon (timeframe of one year or less), games/gamification and learning analytics for the second horizon (two to three years), and 3-D printing and wearable technologies for the third horizon (4-5 years).

According to Larry Johnson, chief executive officer of the NMC,”…the biggest trend identified by the advisory this year reflects the increasing adoption of openness on and beyond campuses, be it in the form of open content or easy access to data. This transition is promising, but there is now a major need for content curation.”

For example, MOOCs continue to attract students from all works of life to take these courses. Companies such as Coursera, Class Central, MIT, Harvardx, Udemy, FutureLearn, Allison, and Udacity are spearheading this initiative by offering near free credit and non-credit courses on line from prestigious universities such as Stanford, MIT, CalTech, Princeton and some of the Open Universities.

MOOCs has led to significant new options in higher education when issues with credits and accreditation are resolved. Needy parents and students may find this new trend attractive and cost-effective for their higher educational needs.

Bundling, Unbundling, and rebundling of education has recently emerged to change the way courses and programmes are offered. “Bundling” is a situation where the seller combines different items into one package and sells you the whole bunch even if you only wanted one or two items. The term “unbundling” on the other hand is regarded as the process through which products previously sold together are separated into their constituent parts.

And the term “rebundling” has been used to refer to the reaggregation of those parts into new components and models. In higher education, it has been used to refer to the process of disaggregating educational provision into its component parts, very often with external actors. Bundling, unbundling and rebundling have been the norm in industries such as the banking and the computer industry, as well as legal services, and the music industry.

Bundling has been part and parcel of the university system over the years. Institutions of higher learning provide a wide range of educational products and services bundled into a single package and offer to prospective students. The bundle may include offering courseware and providing certification after fulfilling certain course requirements or meeting the required credit hours. In return, universities charge tuition for the bundled product and services.

The emergence of digital technology has changed the way educational institutions and other industries provide their products. We are seeing a transition from service bundling to unbundling and rebundling of products and services. These processes are happening in different parts of higher educational spectrum, through innovative forms of packaging academic content, teaching, learning and assessment.

Alternative credentials, usually shorter and cheaper by comparison, has captured the imagination of educational reformers. Today’s learners (especially millennials) are changing the face of higher education by demanding alternative paths to knowledge and skills attainment. Thus, digital badges, bootcamps, microdegrees, microcredentials, certificates, and MOOCs, and other types of qualifications are becoming more relevant than traditional degrees. These are now becoming the norm rather than the exception and could change the way today’s universities function.

A flipped class is one that inverts the typical cycle of content acquisition and application so thatstudents gain necessary knowledge before class, and instructors guide students to actively and interactively clarify and apply that knowledge during class. The model is designed to engage students in basic course content in the form of prep or homework outside of class. Class time is devoted for deeper engagements and hands-on applications. Students continue to apply the acquired knowledge and skills after class, and are graded accordingly.

With the impact of COVID-19, the need to explore new ways of delivery education is crucial. These new trends, will go a long way to revolutionalize today’s educational delivery.

The author is a Visiting Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago

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