Technology and Higher Education (page 2)

Technology and Higher Education

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Updated on Mar 14, 2013

Blended learning

Blended learning is an educational environment that has taken off in the past decade, and this is something, Owston says, that recent research shows is very effective. “It gives students flexibility and allows them to work whenever they want to—at 2:00 in the morning if they want.” Blended learning courses utilize online discussion groups, video conferences, and other Web technologies to engage students in interactive learning that can be done from just about anywhere.

The University of Central Florida has strategically implemented blended learning into its institutional practice. “They’re really the leader in terms of an institutional strategy,” Owston says. “They’ve found that students by and large tend to prefer this. And it’s cut down on capital—they’re able to make better use of existing resources.” Owston explains that a survey he conducted of Canadian faculty shows that teachers also find the blended learning approach satisfying. “In fact, they found that they were able to get to know the students better because they had more opportunity to read their writing,” Owston says.

Garrison’s recent research has also focused on blended learning. “There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it’s even more effective than other learning environments,” he says. “It combines two kinds of communication—face-to-face verbal communication and online written communication. It’s a more rigorous and enhanced way to learn," Garrison says.

Blended learning environments include low-residency programs, where students come to campus for a few weeks over the summer and study online during the school year. This type of arrangement can be particularly beneficial for the person who is employed full-time or who has a family.

Online degree programs

Still others are looking for a fully online education. Many universities now have online degree programs, including the Open University, a fully online university that has what they call “supported open learning.” The Open University has more than 150,000 undergraduates and 30,000 graduate students.

And then there are those nontraditional students who have no intention of entering a classroom or even an online degree program. For these individuals, there’s the Open Courseware Consortium, started by MIT, an international initiative whereby institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Tufts and UC Berkeley share their materials online.

Peer2Peer University and University of the People are online communities of open study groups for short university-level courses. These universities are free of charge, and people self-direct through the content, which includes existing open courseware.

How is technology changing higher education? It’s about more than YouTube clips, online syllabi and tests, and communicating with professors via email—it’s about, as Bonk says, revolutionizing education.

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