Expert Opinion

Five digital trends to look out for in Higher Education in 2018

In today's Beckett Trends post, Simon Thomson, Head of Digital Pedagogy in the Centre for Learning and Teaching, looks ahead to what digital trends we should look out for in Higher Education in 2018.

As with any prediction we can never be sure of the outcome, however the following items below are what I see will become increasingly visible in the Higher Education sector next year relating to digital trends.

1 Blended learning as a default model for curriculum design and delivery

As digital tools and technologies become increasingly integrated into personal and professional lives, there will be an increased use of blended learning as a model for curriculum delivery - "blended learning, thoughtfully combining the best elements of online and face-to-face education,” (Yen and Lee, 2011).

Blending the learning experience requires us to think as much about the 'digital' as we do about the 'physical' environments and resources.

Digital working

2 Mobilisation of learning and teaching

Over 84% of students are already using their smartphones to support their learning and so we will see an increased need to provide access to learning on mobile platforms to allow students the flexibility to access learning resources wherever they want to.

We want our students to move beyond the social connectivity that smartphones provide and maximise this technology to offer them a richer mobile learning experience.

3 Augmented reality and virtual reality

Partly fuelled by Apple’s recently released AR Kit - which makes it easier for developers to make and deploy AR apps on iOS - we will see an increased use of this technology in supporting learning and teaching.

Examples include AR apps for viewing the human anatomy and virtual reality chemistry labs. Augmented reality can enrich the on-campus classroom experience, and virtual reality can give students experiences in places and spaces which would not be physically possible.

Using a computer

4 Big and little student data

There are still many challenges associated with gathering data from students but where this is done effectively it can “lead to improved student satisfaction, retention and attainment”. Collecting data is only one aspect; managing it and using it effectively and ethically are also key aspects of data use.

If we get this right the benefits for the students can be significant, we can gain insights into their patterns of study, which may help inform estate strategy, we can understand better how students interact with our physical and digital support systems, but more importantly we can offer tailored support for students so that they may fulfil their true potential.

5 Student owned interconnected learning spaces

Leeds Beckett has been leading a HEFCE funded research project into digital learning spaces which has been included in the Next Generation Digital Learning Environments activity led by JISC.

A key feature which has emerged is the ability to 'connect' learning spaces and other digital web spaces together in a similar way to how IFTTT allows you to connect personal digital/social tools together in meaningful ways.

This is not about 'forcing' connections, but providing the options for students to share their learning beyond the boundaries of the institution into communities of professional practice and with potential employers through the rich networks of social media and digital online platforms.

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