Thursday, May 29, 2014

Education Technology Future Not as Predicted

The  2014 NMC Technology Outlook for Australian Tertiary Education: A Horizon Project Regional Report sponsored by Open Universities Australia. The report contains a list of twelve technologies the authors say will be important to Australian tertiary education over the next five years. I agree some will be important, but most are not technologies, they are business strategies. Most are not new, but have been around for years, or decades.

What I suggest could change higher education in Australia is:

1. Require formal teaching qualifications of academic staff: While the vocational education sector requires teaching staff to be trained in teaching, universities do not. The result is portly designed (or not designed at all) courses. Assuming the government's deregulation of fees occurs, this could see most Australian universities put out of business due to their inefficient teaching practices.
2. Design programs primarily for part time online students: While the vocational sector assumes their students are part time and can only rarely visit a campus, most university academics have the idea that the typical student is full time on campus. The result is that university courses do not suit the typical student who has work or home responsibilities which they need to fit their studies into. Those universities which change their programs to allow for part time online students, while retaining a quality u8nveirsity experience, can expect to do well in the deregulated environment. A few elite institutions may be able to find sufficient full time independently wealthy students to fill their campuses, but most universities will need to change to meet their student's needs, or go out of business.

The 12 technologies:

12. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

BYOD is not a technology, it is a business strategy. It is going to be very expensive, and embarrassing, for institutions which do not have good security and procedures in place.

11. Flipped Classroom

Also not a technology, or new. I would call it just ordinary good teaching practice. This contrasts with the practice of boring students rigid with "lectures", which is just a waste of time.

10. Mobile Learning

Okay, this is technology, but also not new. I suggest we should not assume that our students are connected to the Internet all the time, or that is a good way for them to learn. Instead we should make our online learning platforms mobile compatible, which is easy while we are making them accessible to the disabled. We should also make the learning materials available offline, either through the features built into HTML5, or less technical means, such as "books".

9. Online Learning

Online learning is a technology, which has been around for a decade or so (I have been teaching online at university for four years). Hopefully the MOOC nonsense will go away by the end of the year and we can concentrate on designing real online courses.

8. Badges/microcredits

Badges are fine for vocational education, but do we want it in university?

9. Games and gamification

Also not new, and better called simulation based learning.

6. Learning Analytics

Analytics is something universities need to make an investment in. As an example, I suspect it is very easy to detect "at risk" students by mining the learning management system database. Of course we would then need processes to support those students.

5. Open Content

This is a business strategy and one which conflicts with the current approach of most universities.

4. The Internet of Things

The Internet of things is highly overrated and not very relevant to universities.

3. Machine learning

I suspect that much of the routine tutoring of students could be automated with AI.

2. Natural user interfaces

An interesting area the ANU's Human Computer Interface group come up with some weird and wonderful devices, but also not very gallivant to education.

1. Wearable Technology

Google Glass is not new technology, does not work particularity well and is only relevant to a few aspects of education where you need to be hands free. More than ten years ago they tried to sell us head up displays at the Department of Defence, for mechanics fixing jet engines. That company was bought by Google and it became Google Glass.

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