Today’s traditional college students come from the generation of digital natives, meaning they are generally incredibly fast learners when it comes to new technologies. However, that also means they have discerning technological tastes, especially when it comes to user experiences. You can outfit your student body with all of the tech tools in the world, but if they feel the user experience is unintuitive or inefficient, even the always-plugged-in generation may choose to stick to pen and paper. (Or, perhaps more likely, use a patchwork of personal devices with familiar interfaces.)

But schools are embracing these tech tools for a reason: technology-facilitated collaboration can help drive better student experiences and learning outcomes. To help students and instructors alike reap these benefits, technology partners are demonstrating a growing focus on ease of use. Today, huddle rooms wired for collaboration are changing the way students learn and work together. The next challenge is making that collaboration more effective and intuitive and, by extension, more broadly adopted. These efforts largely come in three categories:

1. Familiar, intuitive interface design. I remember hearing a story about someone’s two- or three-year-old niece holding a framed photograph and trying to pinch and flick the glass to zoom in on the photo. When it didn’t work, she turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, broken.” We are living in a world where smartphone gestures are second nature to hundreds of millions of people. Why try to compete with that? Classroom collaboration tools such as interactive flat panel displays (IFPDs) can leverage similar gestures and design (without infringing on any intellectual property, of course!) to allow digital natives to quickly and easily start using them.


2. Seamless integration. Digital natives are used to using a single tap to send videos from their phone to smart TVs, music to wireless speakers, and video game content to their friends. If these students have to attach and email documents to themselves to share and collaborate, they’re likely going to get frustrated, or at least wonder why things have to be so clunky and complicated. Many ed tech partners are addressing this issue by providing connector apps that make moving a document from a smartphone, laptop, or tablet to an IFPD as quick and easy as playing music at a party.

3. Cognitive computing. Instead of figuring out the best way to get information where, when, and in the format you need it, let the IFPD itself figure that out for you. Cognitive computing is already finding its way into the boardroom, making meetings more intuitive and collaborative no matter where participants’ work takes them. With the rise of flipped classrooms, blended learning, and the explosion in online courses, these cognitive capabilities can go far in educational environments. These offerings find new ways to facilitate students’ and instructors’ collaboration (often in real time, from anywhere with an internet connection, even from their personal devices), with features such as transforming handwriting into crisp, clear text and automatically saving and distributing class materials—complete with relevant mark-up from the discussion. Cognitive computing can make resources available where, when, and how they are needed before users even realize they need them, taking swift, seamless collaboration to new heights.

For technology to empower digital learners, they have to use it. By providing intuitive, effective, efficient tools, you can put the power of digital collaboration in the hands of a wider variety of students, from discerning digital natives to nontraditional and older students who may not have as much technological experience.

About the Author:

Elisa Esposito is senior manager, channel marketing, higher education, K12, and SLG for Ricoh USA, Inc., responsible for vertical marketing strategy, development, and success to ensure strategic alignment for customer environments. Esposito has worked with Ricoh’s strategic partner, Blackboard, to create the industry’s first scanning and printing connector that unites information from a Ricoh multifunction device to integrate within Blackboard Learn, and also supported the partnership agreement between Ricoh and CANVAS.


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