Integrating technology in higher education comes with nearly as many challenges as it does advantages. Having the world at our fingertips comes with not only a financial price tag, but also requires much strategy and planning to get the most from technology that it offers. Without effective implementation into the higher education setting, technology can be a crutch for teachers instead of a tool for students and can distance people. But with effective implementation, technology can be an incredible connector of people and resources, and a vehicle for learning.
Distance learning has opened up new learning opportunities to people across the world. Students can find the program in their preferred field and apply to the school without needing to move if the school offers distance learning. This has made higher education more financially accessible to millions of students and has connected students more directly to the program of study that they are most passionate about. On the negative side, if distance learning isn’t organized strategically to provide the student/teacher and student/student interaction and relationship building that is necessary to complete the higher education learning process, students in distance learning programs are not receiving the same level of education as their peers who are studying traditionally in higher education programs.
Likewise, technology incorporation in traditional classroom settings in higher education requires strategy, but if incorporated well can offer incredible learning opportunities. The ability to have a Skype conference in a classroom with a special guest that would not be available to appear in person is an important opportunity for students that wouldn’t be realized without the technology. The use of pictures to show steps in scientific processes or of art for an art class is crucial and is hard to imagine these classrooms without technology. Less traditional higher education classes like acting or speech class where the use of audio recording devices or video cameras offer opportunities for self-reflection and improvement that wouldn’t be possible without the technology. On the downside, many professors don’t put enough thought into the technology they are using and focus too much on their powerpoint presentations instead of effective teaching which involves direct communication with students.
LMS platforms like Moodle for MyFUA and Blackboard provide a virtual classroom space for teachers and students to continue conversations and resource sharing even after the lesson is over. These platforms allow professors to track the efforts of their students with their submittal of work and their interaction with class resources posted online and allows students an easy channel for asking questions of their professors and sometimes other students and administrators. The downside of these platforms is they try to accomplish a lot, and with varying success. The technology is never quite as sophisticated as the expectations for the platforms are, and challenges with the platforms can lead to inefficiencies in time spent on the platforms for teachers and administrators alike.
These represent a few of the many benefits and challenges of integrating technology into higher education.