'Full-time students will become a rare breed'

Helena Pozniak looks at how technology will shape learning

Distance-learning via video conferencing has been described as about as inspiring as watching bad TV. So when universities and colleges vie to promote their use of technology in teaching, you might be forgiven a sceptical sneer.

In fact, educational technology has moved on, in both quality and availability. It's no longer about merely transferring information to digital form. Institutions are getting to grips with its vast potential for collaborative learning; from interactive "real life" medical emergencies to revision chat rooms, live "webinars" with worldwide experts and online personal tutorials. Students who've never known life without technology now have the access and aptitude to adapt to flexible learning.

"Education has shifted emphasis; we've realised what a great resource student/teacher collaboration is," says Professor Andrew Middleton, senior lecturer and part of Sheffield Hallam University's academic innovation team. "We're using technology to encourage that interaction."

While more adventurous tutors might use virtual environments such as Second Life to engage students, bringing round more entrenched academics to the value of new technologies can be a challenge, not to mention expensive, says Middleton. But almost every college and university has already rolled out a virtual learning environment (VLE); an online interactive space shared by tutors and students, rich with resources and interactive content. After 10 years of experience, institutions have grown more adept at exploiting their potential; from collaborative projects, peer reviews, tracking work and assessments and much more. They even allow tutors to check for plagiarism.

Further education becomes less daunting with clever use of technology, educationalists agree. Studies report that disengaged students feel more motivated when using mobile technology. Many universities, the Open University (OU) in particular, contribute to resources such as Apple's iTunes U, which offers free educational material for downloading. "We are trying to make the jump to formal education less formidable," says the OU.

But it's distance learning in particular that is pushing boundaries and benefitting from improved delivery and scope; the OU has seen an unprecedented rise in young distance learners this year. Traditionally, remote students used to be more likely to drop out than those on campus; their studies lacked a social dimension.

Now several UK universities are investing in the latest collaboration technology, and entire new campuses are being built around a remote learning module. Distance learning is cheaper and more accessible, says James Quarles, general manager of the public sector at Dell, which provides education-specific technology to UK universities; almost all students have access to computers and increasingly, webcams. "Field specialists can teach at more than one institution at once when the classroom is virtual, and students can watch a lecture via laptops or mobile phones."

"We're giving students what they need as individuals, when they need it," says Duska Rosenberg, Professor in information and communication technologies at Royal Holloway, University of London. She's currently piloting a video technology from Cisco Tandberg enabling collaborative research and learning."Full-time students will become a rare breed. We're wasting huge potential if we don't seek to engage people from a broader base. We need technology sophisticated enough to be able recognise each other, like each other, laugh together, do all the things you'd do face to face."

Some universities are even considering whether they can eliminate large lecture hall courses entirely, says Quarle, replacing them with online content and smaller group sessions. "Students will come to expect that education is a holistic, open experience, tailored to their own requirements," he says.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Business Studies Tutor / Assessor / Lecturer - Tollerton

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Year 1 Teacher

£12 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require a year ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried