With The Advent of Digital Technology, Higher Education Isn’T The Same Anymore

Digital technology has certainly brought about many changes in the quality of our lifestyle. And the education sector is no exception to this change. Even though some might call it an overhyped phenomenon, a deeper look into the many layers of education would give a clear picture about the effects of digital technology in this sector. Let’s look at some of these changes in higher education systems that can be attributed to technological advances.

Accessibility of Education

Thanks to widespread usage of technology and the internet, education is now accessible to a lot more people than it was before. Today, nearly 83% of the world’s population is considered literate, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The number of schools and colleges has also grown steadily over the years.  

In addition to easy access to primary and secondary education, people, specifically in developed countries, have access to the internet, computers and online education programs. These programs make it easy for students to study at their ease and at a location of their choosing. With online education becoming more reliable and widespread, the use of technology has become more important now than ever. Digital technology is now incorporated into everything associated with teaching and learning. It has become the core strategic enabler of online education. Thanks to this incorporation of technology, education is now more accessible to everyone.

Greater Device Ownership

In the past, digital devices were not owned by many. Some students could afford these devices, while others could not. In fact, most individuals with technological devices were pretty much desktop computer holders. A few privileged ones could afford laptops. But the landscape has completely changed now. Thanks to lower hardware cost and the mobile computing revolution in the last decade, computer ownership numbers have gone up tremendously.

In a case study carried out by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) in 2004, it was found that most students owned a single device. The ownership of personal computers was under 12%. In recent times, however, as per the results of the 2013 study, 30% of the respondents had 4 or more internet-capable devices. According to the 2014 study, the ownership of smartphones also rose significantly, going up to an impressive 86%. Tablet ownership in 2014 also rose, to 47%. With such a huge increase in the overall usage of digital devices, along with the mobility factor and easy access to high speed internet, there is no denying the role of technology in the lives of students and teachers.

Such large-scale usage of digital devices helps provide students and instructors with a great deal of independence from the university’s IT department. This enables a freer environment which encourages growth at the personal and institutional level. Being able to upload documents on Google Docs, or Drop Box with nothing but the internet on their mobile phones creates an atmosphere of great mobility and convenience. The higher education landscape has benefited greatly from these changes in the overall availability and ownership of technological devices. Several colleges have incorporated digital technology into their operations and instruction techniques, and many are following in their shoes.

Advance Instruction

The landscape for higher education has evolved tremendously over the past decade. It is now more technical with a greater degree of overall learning. Universities across the country have incorporated technology into their teaching methods, streamlining the entire teaching process. Classrooms now have the ability of being connected to other colleges and their instructors via the internet. Guest lecturers can give their instruction from an off-site location and upload quizzes and assignments on the learning management systems. Discussion boards, online connection to the teachers and online updates of results have made the entire process of instruction quite advanced and effective.

Collaborative Environment

One of the main things that digital technology has encouraged is a collaborative environment. Teachers can now interact with other teachers with greater ease. Students can communicate with each other and their teachers in a quick and simple manner. With various group applications now readily available on smartphones, discussion has never been easier. For instance, if a student could not understand a concept in class, he would have access to the teacher’s notes, the teacher himself or other helpful materials that he can make use of to clear any confusions.  Not only does this help with academics, it also plays a major role in student networking otherwise, making the entire college experience all the more wholesome.

The Diminishing Usage of Textbook

With everything now made available online, the concept and utility of textbooks is facing a serious decline. Companies such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Cengage Learning are now becoming more interested in providing educational materials online, rather than in the standard textbook format. The profitability for these companies in this regard is much greater than printing textbooks. Not only does the online provision of books saves printing and distribution costs, it also makes even the rarest of books available to a much wider range of audience.

In addition to the online provision of textbooks, publishing houses are now also focusing on providing a supply of educational materials to schools. These materials include testing, assessment, course management, lecture planning and student information management software. Such technologies help colleges store large amounts of data in computers, rather than in huge files and prevents students from having to carry heavy textbooks around with them.

Internet and digital technology have changed the landscape of higher education over the past few years. On a global level, people can now learn in ways that seemed impossible a decade ago. The flexibility of learning along with the collaborative environment encouraged by digital technology has made higher education a completely different territory today.


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