Keeping pace with changing tech
Attracting students is a start, but how do you get them to the finish line? Jon Knight explores the role of innovation and technology in improving retention rates
Technology is integral to the lives of university students, from their personal entertainment to the way they learn. A recent study showed 2.71 billion people in the world owned a smartphone in 2019 (Bank My Cell, 2020). By the time they’re 12 almost 70% of the children in the UK own a smartphone (The Guardian, 2019). Let’s face it, children are proficient in technology way before they get to university. So, it’s no surprise that students expect the higher education (HE) institution they choose to take full advantage of the all the opportunities that can be provided by innovative new solutions. Technology can be incorporated into every part of student life – whether that’s about making day-to-day living easy and convenient on campus or creating state of the art learning experiences.
It’s easier than ever for people to access education and every university wants as many students as possible to celebrate success at the end of their course. That means keeping them engaged and involved throughout – whether they attend in person or opt to complete their course through distance learning. HE institutions can’t afford to get left behind as more and more universities use digital technology to keep their students onboard.
Meeting the technology expectations of modern students
Smartphones, laptops and tablets are part of everyday life for a modern student. The average smartphone user checks their device 47 times a day (Bank My Cell, 2020) and students are almost always connected. Universities can tap into the fact that students want to feel integrated with the world around them and that using technology is second nature to them. They can take advantage of a whole new learning landscape – made possible by the incredible advances in technology over recent times. Universities can make it easy for students to use their own devices to access a vast range of learning resources and environments, from anywhere and at any time. Collaboration software such as Nureva Span Workspace, allows a combination of cloud-based canvases and individual contributions from personal devices, which creates an ideal environment for collaborative learning. This allows students to engage with their material and interact with information to embed new learning, challenge assumptions and build on ideas. Using this new technology, everyone can contribute from any device, without being limited by physical sticky notes or flip charts. What’s more, by going digital, students have access to copies of the output in real time so they can start using it straight after the lecture.
Engaging the ‘non-traditional student’
Times have changed. Now many undergraduates are ‘non-traditional’ students. There’s often a lot going on in the lives of these students. They may be balancing coursework with other responsibilities, like family, hobbies and part-time or full-time jobs. So, HE institutions need to take a very different approach to help these students succeed and avoid the risk that they will drop out mid-way through their courses.
By integrating the right tech tools, (both software and hardware), universities can better support the flexible approach these students need to capitalise on the learning resources available to them. Too often educational establishments focus on traditional students, who are physically based on or around the campus, and fail to consider or accommodate the needs of remote students. Sometimes this can be solved by introducing exciting new technology that helps remote students engage in different ways. But sometimes it’s just about making traditional forms of communication better through enhanced technology – for example by improving audio facilities. New technologies open up opportunities to create hybrid environments, blending on-site and remote sessions and making it easier for remote students to join campus-based workshops. So remote students can get more immersed in the university experience and learn in a more active and engaging way. Exciting times! Scalable audio technology, such as the Nureva audio conferencing family, fit different room layouts and meet the evolving requirements of students who gather there to communicate and collaborate. Empowering remote students with a greater link to the knowledge being provided.
Making space for new ways
It’s always tempting to do things as they’ve been done before, and yet every day new technology is becoming available, which opens up exciting new possibilities. Universities need to keep pace with the technological expectations of their students, so they can support them throughout their educational journey, whether this is a short sprint course, or a more extensive marathon. Attracting students is critical and universities need to demonstrate that they have great learning facilities before students select them. But keeping them engaged and keeping pace with their technological needs through to the end is just as important. After all, it’s the results that count in the end. Getting this right means walking in the shoes of students and looking at ways in which new and exciting tech developments can enhance every aspect of their experience. Universities need to stay in constant touch with the world of innovation – initiating and maintaining the conversations and explorations that will create new possibilities and improvements.