Up until just a couple of years ago, many saw the rise of digital disruption as just a blip on the radar screen. However dramatic digital innovation, across a wide range of industries, is now seen as a game changer. Companies such as Uber have entered the market and totally challenged the status quo.
Virtually no industry will remain unscathed and the education sector is also being reshaped by digital technology, which is opening up new ways of learning and teaching. The speed of change is gathering pace and universities around the world are discovering the need to get on board the revolution. Vice-chancellor of Swinburne University, Professor Linda Kristjanson warns that, “during the next 10 years universities will also experience profound changes and some may not survive in the way they exist today.”
Like everything there will be advantages and disadvantages – or perhaps we should say, challenges. However, the consensus is that it’s essential for universities to embrace tech-driven delivery models and new ways of connecting with students.
Focusing on the positives, disruption gives universities the opportunity to reimagine learning and to be more responsive to what the sector and business wants. Digital technologies mean that education can be made more affordable and accessible, opening up new learning opportunities to both under-served markets and new sectors of the population.
By capitalising on innovative online platforms and solutions, universities can design more personalised and adaptable learning experiences which can better meet student needs and improve their learning. The online learning experience can also be delivered in many different ways to keep students engaged and motivated, such as the use of game based learning. While utilising remote and cloud-based technologies, allows educators to meaningfully engage with students and for students to engage with each other.
On the flipside, certain aspects of university life such as the traditional lecture theatre-type classes and role of academics may need to be redefined. According to Professor Linda Kristjanson, “academic roles are also changing. Students used to look to their lecturer as the keeper of knowledge. As content has become ubiquitous and knowledge more accessible, the skill of the modern academic has shifted away from being an imparter of knowledge to being an integrator of knowledge, creating more personalised conditions that help students learn.”
The good news is however, that access to affordable education delivers important gains in social and economic welfare which benefit entire communities.
Quotes from Professor Linda Kristjanson are taken from her article – ‘Digital disruption and academia: Are we ready for Uber-versities in 10 years?’ which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2015.