The overarching technological trends in higher education and degree programs all pertain to one big idea: Access. Learners want access to coursework for a variety of reasons. Some simply want to test the academic waters while others want a document showing that they’ve achieved something. The one element that all of these learners have in common is that they now have the ability to reach out and participate in open access courses, which were devised with the modern student in mind.
A Step in the Right Direction
One of the bigger events in the history of open access courses was iTunes U. This section of iTunes provided users with downloadable recordings of college lectures from campuses all across the globe, including institutions in Europe and Asia. While the audio or video quality was sometimes a bit shaky, the fact that it was created opened the floodgates for more innovation in the open access market of academia.
The problem with iTunes U, however, was the lack of accountability. How would anyone be able to know if they had learned the material properly if they had no measure of success or feedback from educated professionals? Students could occasionally find the syllabus for courses, but they could not turn in coursework or email professors with questions. This aspect of iTunes U was later corrected by a new advancement in education, the Massive Open Online Course.
Structuring the New Classroom
Perhaps the biggest trend in higher education today is the advent of Massive Open Online Courses. While iTunes offers its iTunes U video and audio lectures for free, sites like Coursera and Udacity provide entire course content alongside an actual syllabus and professors who grade your work. In addition to having professors on hand, MOOC’s also provided learners with discussion groups and online forums to interact with other students in the course as well as the professors. These forums also allowed professors to assign “peer evaluation” work, in which a student was able to submit work to other students for critical feedback before submission to the course itself.
With topics ranging from Video Games and Learning to Experimental Genome Science, these courses provide dedicated learners the opportunity to follow a learning framework with real assignments and exams. Several of the courses even offer certificates of completion for students who perform well.
MOOC’s have become so popular and, in some cases, so well-defined that several universities have considered the possibility of applying MOOC credits to actual course credit. In the coming years, you could be enrolling for free courses online that would be applicable to a legitimate degree. MOOC’s have provided an opportunity for avid learners of all walks of life to access and participate in a revolutionary way of learning that opens the doors to greater things.
Watching the Clouds
In addition to MOOC’s and open access course materials, the next big trend in education is cloud storage. Cloud storage, which allows users to store and share information in online “storage units” has become popular as another means of providing open access to information. With cloud storage, a student can instantly share an assignment with another student. A professor can share a lecture with students remotely. Alongside MOOC’s, cloud storage has become a huge factor in the distribution of education, with many advances on the horizon.
The field of academia has changed to accommodate more tech savvy students.