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EdTech boosts the accessibility of higher education

What is EdTech?
Educational technology, often referred to as “EdTech,” is the study and practice for facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological resources. In other words, EdTech is considered as the use of digital technology to engage learners in new and innovative ways.

How EdTech is transforming the learning landscape
The classroom of today looks markedly different to the classrooms of ten years ago; gone are the days of a single desktop computer in the corner of the classroom and teachers reliant on textbooks. Recent years have seen iPads and laptops fast becoming educational essentials with teachers turning to technology in an effort to enhance their lessons and keep students engaged. Today’s generation are digital natives who respond intuitively to technology so education is adapting to the way students learn best.

The impact of EdTech on online learning
It was inevitable, as technology has become more and more advanced, that online learning opportunities would grow. In fact, the advancements in technology have been a catalyst for improving the online learning landscape. According to a survey by the Online Learning Consortium, 77% of students believe that EdTech improves engagement with course materials. 94% of the University CIOs also agreed that digital curricular resources improve the learning experience for the student.

In what specific ways has EdTech made online university degrees more accessible? Here’s a closer look:

1. Widens access to higher education
Advancements in technology have enabled learning to move outside the classroom, which means that conventional university degrees are no longer the only way to learn. The rise of the internet means that students can learn from anywhere, whether that is at home, on the train or even on the beach. Online university degree programmes can overcome the boundaries of geography, time and money which makes higher education accessible to everyone, no matter where they are in the world.

2. Facilitates flexibility in education
The advances in remote-learning technology have made way for a change in the institutional form of university. EdTech has facilitated the learning experience; students aren’t bound to classrooms but instead have the flexibility to study on their own schedule. Some students are managing a complicated triangle of work, family, and school; new online learning methods mean they are not restricted to specific class hours, instead they can choose the day, time and place to study.

3. Overcomes financial concerns
Increasingly more students are finding it a challenge to afford the traditional university experience and with tuition fees constantly on the rise, prospective students look to be crippled by student loans debt for many years into their graduate life. The average UK graduate faces debts of £35,000 – £40,000 when they graduate from their university course; this level of expense is deterring students from following the conventional university path. Online learning degrees have become a strong alternative to face-to-face instruction as students are looking for ways to keep their tuition costs down. EdTech has played a fundamental role in relieving the financial burden associated with traditional education delivery with online learning degrees costing as little as a fifth of the price. Developments in technology have made it possible to access educational content online, which reduces the costs associated with traditional studying (including lecturers’ fees, textbooks and commuting costs).

4. Offers individualised learning
EdTech has changed the way people learn; the one-size-fits-all approach to education does not suit today’s learners. Higher education can now be tailored and personalised to accommodate the individual thanks to online learning degrees, which enable the student to progress through the course material at different speeds according to their needs.

Five trends that students might see in online education in 2017

Five trends that students might see in online education in 2017

Flexibility is often the most appealing factor of online learning, however it also makes education available to a wider audience. With more students of all ages enrolling on an online degree, technology has changed the face of education. Traditional classes have always been presented and targeted at a particular age group, whereas online classes are more inclusive and therefore available to the public, regardless of their age or other commitments.

Learning itself is continually evolving due to the ever-changing way in which technology develops and alters the way we access and consume information. Therefore, 2017 will see many trends in online education to cater to its audience.

More credentials – There has been an increase in the number of working professionals that are now pursuing an online degree from university, due to wanting to develop and broaden their knowledge or skillset. Therefore, institutions are recognising this and are using it to change and adapt their content and method of teaching. Instead of an online university degree, more institutions will offer online certifications and credentials which employers will use to train staff. Employees will be able to enrol in order to increase their qualifications and improve their skillset. These provided courses will be different to degrees and therefore require less of a commitment, making it easier to balance with full-time employment whilst also being a cost-effective route for employers.

Measuring performance – Institutions will begin to use data to measure and monitor student’s performance and progress throughout term. In the same way that data is used to tailor marketing campaigns, faculties will utilise data in order to tailor content and the way that is presented to students. Online learning allows institutions to measure things such as whether or not a student has logged in, which can help in deciphering whether or not an individual is on target. This access to data will also allow them to measure data in real-time whilst monitoring how a student performs in assignments and therefore assist their learning accordingly. This not only ensures that students are being offered the right support but also that their learning is altered to ensure that they are fully understanding information.

Specialist subjects – Online education improves accessibility and therefore allows students to gain exposure of countless courses. However, there will be an increase in the amount of specialised courses that are offered in order to cater to areas that are lacking a specific skillset. For example, a demand for nursing skills could lead to an increase in niche courses to teach these skills and therefore fulfil this gap in the job market. Courses will be more focused and tailored to the job market and therefore have a positive socio-economic impact.

Utilising artificial intelligence – In the same way that products such as Apple’s Siri operate using artificial intelligence, this technology will also be incorporated into teaching. For example, if a student has a generic question about a topic, they are able to converse and receive answers without the presence of an instructor. This not only helps to reduce cost but also ensures that students receive answers in real-time. By embedding these into courses, it will reduce the faculty’s responsibility and allow content to be presented in various ways. With users already becoming dependent and accustomed to this means of gaining information, it will be an easy transition for students.

The experience of gaining an online degree from university will be a more inclusive experience with the responsibility shifting from faculty to student. This not only creates a more engaging and overall beneficial experience for the student but ensures that they are still learning and retaining the information in a way that they are already accustomed to. As technology becomes more integrated into society, teaching will utilise this and therefore be more experimental in presenting information to students. With almost everyone owning some sort of electronic device, institutions will utilise this by ensuring that they continue explore innovations in teaching.