A look at the way technology has changed the way students learn in school and universities, created digital education spaces and moved the way we study into the future.
Almost every aspect of the way we live and breathe has been updated and innovated by technology, from a quick run in the park now being measured and counted by steps and heartbeats per minute, or social media and sharing platforms allowing anyone with a device to become a viral content creator overnight. There’s no denying the impact of technology on our daily lives – the doors it opens, the resources it provides us, the connections it fosters. We may not have flying cars just yet, but chances are your day-to-day routine looks a lot more modernised than someone your age twenty-five years ago.
The impact of technology on education and study in particular cannot be overstated. Most school-aged children have laptops now. Coursework is uploaded online, educational websites are used to create interactive learning spaces, research that would once have taken weeks can now be efficiently conducted within seconds. Students today possess a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips and become digital natives from an early age, upskilling them monumentally and providing them with rich and unique technological talents. Third graders with full knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite, high school kids making their own apps and college students handing in robots for class assignments – technology has radically changed the way we learn, for better and for worse.
Some things never change. Illustrations from centuries ago still demonstrate higher education consisting of a professor at a podium, imparting wisdom upon students sitting in rows. You can find this very same scene at any school or university lecture hall today, with only textbooks likely swapped out for laptops, and students texting on their phones instead of passing notes.
However, in the 21st Century, said lecture hall may not be accurately representative of the entire course. Why? Because technology allows for that lecture to be recorded, posted online, and for students to download and watch from home. This is an issue of accessibility, which technology has had a radical role in bringing to education. Students who live remotely, who live with disability, or for whichever reason cannot be physically present on campus can attend classes and complete coursework using technology, watching their lectures online or video conferencing into classes. We’ve seen the way schools and universities utilised video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts in the age of COVID-19, where hundreds of students could be attending their lecture from all over the world. In the days of the Black Plague, schooling was stopped to prevent infection – now, as the world recovers from Coronavirus, there is only now a slight change in a students’ routine, as technology allows for learning to proceed as usual (except now students can wear pyjama bottoms to class and the professor won’t be any the wiser!)
For years, popular institutions have live streamed special classes for public consumption, so somebody in Belgium would be able to take a webinar by a Stanford professor, or a higher schooler from Japan can get a taste of what it’s like to study at Oxford. Now, people all over the world can have access to top-tier education.
The accessibility technology has given to the way we learn doesn’t just stop with attending lectures and classes – it extends to consumption of information and study materials.
Many textbooks have moved online and oftentimes coursework can be uploaded. This means that there are innumerably less textbooks being printed and thus less trees being cut down to print out a book you’ll probably only crack open once in the whole semester, ultimately demonstrating another amazing way technology has increased accessibility to learning but also reduced the carbon footprint left by the production of supplementary educational materials. Because of the plethora readily available to students on their devices, a far more independent approach has been taken towards learning, with teachers becoming more of a guide than a coach as students take their own direction in their schooling. This makes sense as every student is different and studies at their own pace, in their own way, and the standardised methods of the past don’t always suit everyone. With technology, students can readily access their coursework online at any given time or place, meaning they can learn around their own schedule, at their own pace, and delve into hundreds of thousands of academic research at journals to enhance their studies on a bus ride home.
Before technological advancement, students had to rigidly abide by their institution’s schedule regardless of what was occurring in their lives, be physically present for all classes and lectures and miss out when this wasn’t possible, spend hours in the library trawling hundreds of books for the right research which couldn’t always be found, spending more time scanning indexes and glossaries than actually learning. Now, technology has made education infinitely more accessible, with an endless trove of cited academia on the Internet that can be retrieved anywhere. Students can set their own pace, do an hour’s work here and there, a project on a quieter day or weekend, and get a lot more done.
Moving To The Future of Tech Learning
Like we said, everyone learns differently, and this is something technology has really provided for. Some people are visual learners, practical learners, aural learners, and the implementation of technology to education has made sure that all students can understand their coursework in fun, engaging, innovative ways. From the gamification of certain courses – incorporating a points and game system to learning styles – to the creation of content, animations and presentations, technology has significantly advanced the range of mediums for educational projects and learning methods. It is more collaborative, interactive, high-tech, with students able to shoot an educational web series or design their own websites as a class assignment.
But like the familiarity of old illustrations, a lot of educational structures remain the same. Students still seek guidance from their professors and human contact, which is why most students still come to their lectures and classes but then use the recorded versions to revisit information. They still spend face-to-face time with their professors to clarify any information or gain insight on their projects and assignments, and in most classrooms even the most analog of tools like whiteboards, paper and notebooks are still incredibly prevalent. Technology should be used in conjunction with traditional learning, blending people, technology and space together instead of one replacing the other.
Already we’ve seen the amazing advancements and innovations in the education sector and increased flexibility that technology has allowed for. Students certainly couldn’t be making it through COVID-19 without the tools we have available to us – maybe in a few years, we’ll have virtual classrooms where students check in by hologram, and can bring their digital pets to class with them. Who knows? The possibilities are endless!