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Impact of the digital era on Higher Education

“Lecturing at universities will change dramatically in the new digital era and the focus will also be more on m-learning (teaching via cell phone)”. This was the viewpoint of Dr Brenda Gourley, rector of the Open University in the UK,  at a recent forum discussion of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE) in Pretoria. 

During the discussion Gourley also emphasized the importance of access to broadband for South Africa. Without broadband students in South Africa will fall behind more and more.

Universities will have to prepare for fundamental transformation. This includes the manner in which research is being done. New suppliers are constantly entering the education sector and are changing the rules of how things should be done. She named the company BP (not the petroleum company) which targets students that do not get enough personal support from a conventional university. Classes are getting bigger and bigger, and students get less support. This company grew by 40 % by presenting extra classes for students.

Referring to Google Gourley said, ” You do not go to the library, the library comes to you”

“People should get away from the notion that technology is just there to support teaching. It is much more, and has enabled communication, collaboration, and participation between people that were not possible before”

Gourley further spoke about the changing circumstances in which children want to be educated. “They want to have control over their learning environment and educators must realize that games are an integral part of the strategy to reach them”.

She also said the costs of current teaching models at universities worldwide are difficult to justify. Every university has its own versions of similar types of courses.

University management faces difficult times ahead and will have to think innovative about how they will support students, how they will make provision for formal and informal learning, and how they will allow peer-group learning without sacrificing quality.

Gourley also reitterated that the increasing availability of material on the Internet will impact on lecturers.  If a lecturer’s classes are not acceptable (of good standard), students will just go to Google to find a better one.

To read the Afrikaans article in Beeld Newspaper on this event Click Here!

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