By Farhana Rahman

Universities are more connected that ever!

Yes UNIVERISTIES! Technology today has never seized to advance and is becoming “increasingly digital”. It is so integrated in society and within the workplace, that there’s no surprise that higher education institutions are also getting on board to prepare students for their futures by “embracing new technology within their environments” – ‘How Technology is transforming education in colleges and universities – Midwich.comThis is also a result of the amount of digital exposure us young folks face today.  

Whether you’re on smartphone, taking embarrassing selfies on a student night and accidentally posting it on snapchat for you to regret the next morning or using your laptop at 3am trying to complete your assignment overnight. You, your best friend, the creepy guy next door and the WHOLE WORLD is constantly exposed it digital technology whether we like it or not. Therefore, if you’ve had your first smartphone while you were 12 years old or younger, you are a digital native. Thus, meaning you are used to having instant access to the latest gossip on Love Island through social media before the show have even aired its latest episode. 

ANYHOO… lets stay on topic. Recent stats from the Higher Education Advice Organisation JISC, indicates that out of the “81.5% of university students who felt that digital skills were essential in their desired career, only half believed their courses prepared them well for the digital workplace in which they desired”. However, using technology as part of a student’s experience at university can expand outside of the classroom. More and more universities are adapting and engaging with post millennials or “gen Z” students by implementing WIFI-enabled printers, Live Lecture recordings and access to e-books through an online education portal, huddle spaces to help facilitate group projects or meeting and GALORE! This gives students instant access to lecture materials and online submission files at any time of day, from anywhere. So NO EXCUSES! 

Especially if your pulling a sickie or really can’t make it to your important lecture because u slept in after a night of die-hard raving. Live lecture recording are our saviours! Universities are now creating engaging lecture captures with 24/7 access for students via the institutes learning portal. be it at the comfort of their homes, a swanky coffee shop or on a party package holiday to Zante with friends, you’ll never miss out on your studies.  Moreover, Universities are even using live lectures to benefit those who are non-native English speakers and dyslexic students. This means students who need a bit of help can review live lectures as extra support alongside their learning. This can result in equal opportunities amongst all students which is great! 

Although it’s exciting to see new tech and ancient universities come together in wonderful re-coupling –it’s no overnight love story… 

… according to ‘The Guardian Lab’ , pairing universities with new technology isn’t an instant and easy process considering the amount of infrastructure already in place: “Library systems, student record keeping and even central heating” – these things cost bucks, so adding a dash of expensive tech i.e. Amazon’s Alexia in seminars (OMG! :O)  will tighten some institutional budgets. However, artificial intelligence in classrooms could be effective and efficient for learning, potentially resulting in a successful win over the coming years. 

For instance, the use of artificial intelligence, such as the all famous Amazon’s Alexia, offers an endless vortex of information instantly and helps keep students stay on top of their hectic Uni lifestyle. All controlled by voice technology alone. HOW UBER KOOOOOLLLLL!  

But that’s not all, Amazon claims that universities can benefit from the use of artificial intelligence by using it as a campus skill, creating a smart and connected campus, bringing voice to halls, student union and can even be customised to give students easy access to school schedules, phones and lecture materials – kind of like a digital assistant. 

Furthermore, Universities are also getting down-and-digital with Chatbots. According to The Guardian Lab, these are conversational programs, using speech recognition, that are ideally used for “answering basic, pre-programmed questions”. Universities are using chatbots to help with Q&A based assessments and language learning for students.  

Both Leeds Becketts and Bolton University are two institution that’s really putting chatbots into practise. The Universities are using their chatter-bots (see what I did there ?for handling student enquiries and delivering personalised learning to students as an efficient way of “cutting down time spent on admin to allow more time spent on teaching”, according to the article Intelligent campuses: how universities are getting smart with technology– The Guardian Lab.

All these tech-savvy improvements to universities are amazing, and really do help with balancing out the stress of uni life and studies for students. However, intelligent campuses do tend to have a few implications, including privacy rights. Without getting too technical, there are a few laws that are in place and need to be met by higher education institutions. One of them being the Data Protection Act 1998. This means that although your university has advanced in enough technology to possibly raid area 51 (not really), it still holds the responsibility to ensure all data collected from applications, educational programs and devices is stored securely and used appropriately according to that of the Data Protection Act 1998. This can be challenging for universities wanting to pursue innovative ways of implementing new technologies in higher education and therefore possible risks are taken extremely seriously. 

BUT DON’T FRET! there’s no way in hell we’re going back to plain old pen and paper as the educational tech sector and organisations such as Jisc have been discovering new potentials for advancing technologies and how they could shape higher education learning in the upcoming years (Click here for more on Jisc’s report on ‘Building the intelligent campus) 

In conclusion, the way we teach and learn today may go beyond the stars tomorrow, but the results will probably be as infinite as our galaxies TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! 

– Is your University or college getting down-and-digi?
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