Tuesday, November 11, 2014

IT Support for University Education

Recently I was asked what were the hot issues with ICT and university education. In my view they are: supporting teacher education, mobile devices, e-portfolios, e-learning and bandwidth. The impediment to better use of ICT for education is not really a computer issue at all, it is training in how to teach for university lecturers and tutors. Most receive minimal training in classroom teaching and almost none in how to teach on-line. Universities rum some courses on how to use new educational software, but stop short of teaching the teaching techniques the software can support. Academics therefore try to implement their old classroom teaching online and wonder why the students are unhappy. The way out of this is to use the technology to teach technology based teaching. Academics can then experience the techniques while learning teaching.

In terms of real technology issues the major one is how to support mobile devices. The mainstream Learning management Systems (Blackboard and Moodle) were designed for desktop computers and their attempts at a mobile interface have been less than successful. The question then is if to persist with this or switch to new software, which likely will not support desktop devices well.

So far e-portfolios have been underused and under integrated in education at universities. Theses packages provide continuity between courses and can bridge course and thesis based forms of learning. But at present the link between the LMS and the e-portfolio packages are limited. Also universities need to change their program design to provide the flexibility they claim but do not deliver.

The basics of e-learning: formatting documents for online delivery and designing good assessment can tend to get forgot then. The LMS needs to be linked to an e-lrnarary which delivers electronic readings materials and videos.

Bandwidth needs to be conspired for students. New interactive web software is tending to use ten times as much bandwidth as older "classic" web screens. This can prevent access for students in remote locations (or just in some suburbs of Australian cities). The low bandwidth option needs to be retained.

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