5 technology trends poised to rock higher education

[In no particular order]

Trend: Smartphones/tablets as a common platform

Although laptops fall under the umbrella of mobile devices, Jason Farman, an American Studies professor at the University of Maryland who studies tech use in everyday life, believes the use of smartphones and tablets in the classroom is a trend universities will have to embrace.

Ronald Yaros, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, specializes in mobile technology in higher-ed. In his journalism courses, he provides students with controlled iPads that have slides, polls, quizzes and websites to engage them.

“The trend is trying to transform the [conventional lecture]…to use technology to be a conduit to the information,” Yaros said.

To test if using mobile technology is too distracting for students, like some ed-tech experts argue, Yaros conducted a university-approved experiment in the fall 2013 semester. For two weeks, he taught students in two different courses the same content and gave identical quizzes — one course used iPads, the other did not.

He found that students who used iPads did not do worse than those without the devices, showing that iPads, if used correctly, are not distracting in the higher education setting.

“I think having a common platform has always been a challenge to bringing technology into the classroom,” Farman said. “Now everybody has a phone and you can figure new ways to solve problems in the classroom. Since 2007 I’ve only had two students who have not had a cell phone; that, to me, is really remarkable.”

Trend: More WiFi support

University officials are constantly dealing with increased stress on their school’s network infrastructure, and in 2014 there is no sign of that stopping as students bring more internet-capable devices to school.

“In two years we have seen a doubling of WiFi use,” said Alison Robinson, assistant vice president and deputy CIO of Support and Infrastructure, for the University of Maryland’s Division of Information Technology. She also cited the NMC Horizon higher education report, which estimates students are bringing three WiFi enabled devices to campus.

To keep up with the growing demand for access to wireless connections at universities, campus IT departments will have to plan to invest money in new network infrastructure equipment and repairs to existing equipment.

At Oral Roberts University, campus IT staff increased the network’s bandwidth 10-fold to accommodate the increasing number of devices brought to campus. The increase in bandwidth will accommodate classroom and dorm technology such as Chromecast and Smart Boards, according to a report released by the university.

“We have a five-year rotation of wireless and wired connections,” for replacing old network components, which will be key to making sure the wireless infrastructure, is always available to students and faculty, Robinson said. The cost of the five-year equipment rotation is $61 million.

(For more information on campus IT services and trends, read “Are campuses really mobile ready? And what does that mean?”)

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