What is digitalization in Higher Education?
Throughout history, universities have seen many changes. They’ve been through many highs and lows and had to adapt to these. For example, political upheavals, environmental crises, and trends like globalization. In the past 30 years or so digitalization has impacted our universities in a massive way. But, what exactly is digitalization in higher education? Digitalization involves the use of computers, laptops, virtual event platforms, and software to support students’ learning. Digitalization was always getting more and more popular in higher educational institutions but in 2021, it has skyrocketed. The pandemic caused many classes to be canceled, and eventually resume online. But now in a post-covid society, how have things changed?
There are many ways that the pandemic has changed education, but one thing is for sure, digitalization is here to stay. Let’s look at where digitalization belongs in our post-covid education institutions.
Although most of our social skills are developed by the time we get into university, it’s safe to say we do learn a lot in those years. There’s no way of teaching how to make awkward small talk with the person beside you in a lecture hall when you’re working from home. There are many soft skills, that we’re not formally thought but just learn in university. These skills help prepare us for our professional working life when we’re finished learning. Sure, on the other hand, we learn new skills online that will help us in a world that’s becoming more and more technical. But without learning in-person social skills, can we really communicate online?
Sure, it can be difficult to compare online teaching during lockdown with a post-covid society. But we cannot ignore the negative effects that studying online has on young people. A study on the effects of COVID-19 college students’ mental health shows that 86% of participants had increased stress and anxiety due to decreased social interactions. Of course, in the future young people can still meet their friends when studying from home. However, it will be more difficult for them to make new friends online. A hybrid approach of both physical and online teaching would be a good balance.
Have you ever logged onto a lecture only to see that the lecturer can’t upload their slides or their mic isn’t working? We’ve all been there and let’s face it, there’s nothing more frustrating. Sure, there can be technical faults with in-person teaching too. But if your Wifi isn’t working or there’s a problem with your virtual event platform, you can miss out on essential teaching. Going forward with the digitalization of higher education, training for technical problems needs to be a priority. We need proper training for teachers so that they’re comfortable with the equipment and can troubleshoot any issues. Full-time technical support will also be essential should anything go wrong.
Lack of community
Let’s face it, as hard as we all try it’s difficult to replicate that sense of community online. Although virtual event platforms are becoming more and more intimate, they still don’t allow the same level of interaction as face to face. Things like sports teams, societies, and nights out really bring your class together. Forming memories can be just as much a part of the university experience as getting a degree. But there are some ideas you can try to create a sense of community in your virtual classroom.
Limitations of technology
While virtual learning has its benefits, there are some skills that simply cannot be learned online. For example, would you trust your doctor to take your blood if they did not practice on a manikin first? Or how can a teacher control a room of thirty screaming kids if they only thought online? Many skills cannot be explained solely through a camera.
Students have access to far more resources when they move online. The digitalization of higher institutions allows students access to many resources at the touch of a button. For example, they can access lectures, library resources, and university software without having to wait online.
As well as resources, students can study anything they like from home. They don’t have to look for accommodation or visas so once they find a course they like they can study it. This can help students who would not be able to pay for accommodation while they study. As well as that, many students can review recorder lectures in their own time. This frees up their schedule if they’d like to work while they study.
Studying overseas can be difficult for a lot of students. First of all, you need to get a visa, and university fees are usually higher for international students. Of course, there are many benefits too, like having a new experience and meeting people from different cultures. There are also vaccinations, accommodation, and the language barrier. For some of us, the barriers outweigh the benefits.
However, digital transformation changes things. If you enroll in a virtual university, you can have some of the benefits without the challenges. Of course, we know that experiencing a culture virtually is not the same but you still have the chance to meet people from different places. You can experience a new university and teaching style without some of the barriers.
Virtual learning will also make your university class much more diverse by opening it to people from all over the world. Diversity in learning has many benefits like increasing creativity and making the students more culturally aware. It also improves independent thinking by promoting the students to reflect on experiences other than what they’ve always been exposed to.
Virtual learning makes it much easier for higher educational institutes to collect and analyze feedback. At the end of a lecture, they can easily add a survey to ask students how it went. This will help teachers to provide engaging virtual lessons and see what students need help with. They can use the feedback to implement changes in their lesson delivery and further support students' learning.
Feedback collection is much easier and quicker online than physically handing out surveys. Many virtual event platforms can create data out of the surveys to see if there are any common themes. Not to mention, virtual surveys are better for the environment and don’t require space for storage.
Positive impact on the environment
Although it might not seem like the most obvious benefit, virtual teaching is great for the environment. It decreases the number of students traveling to and from university each day. So many large university cities have a large amount of traffic on their roads every day. The emission of gases and fumes has a large impact on the heating of the ice caps. A study by the Stockholm Environmental Institute showed a 90% reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide by students who study online. With the worrying environmental trends, we’ve seen this year, this is something we need to consider.
Where does this leave us?
Needless to say, there are many opportunities and challenges with the digitalization of educational institutions. On one hand, technology will help our learning experience, on the other, it gets in the way of our social experience. The future seems to be somewhere in the middle, a hybrid approach. If you’d like to move to virtual teaching, you’ll need a virtual events platform. If you’re looking for an engaging virtual events platform, try out Remo. With our interactive features, such as breakout rooms and round tables, you’ll never look back. We offer a limited free plan so you can take a look before making any payment. You can also check out our success stories to see how other customers have used our products.