Technology is everywhere. Colleges have really started jumping onto the trend by providing laptops or tablets to students, offering online courses, and even starting to utilize social media such as Twitter and Facebook. With that being said, technology is revolutionizing the way higher education operates.
The History of Technology in Education
In the early 1990s, when the World Wide Web first started becoming as common as the telephone, various speculators were already looking for ways to use it to make money. One of those ways, pursued by institutions of higher learning, was to use the Web as a virtual “correspondence course.”
As early as 1994, CALCampus was already hosting an online curriculum. In fact, it is at CALCampus where the concepts of online education first originated. From there, the online course moved to real-time classroom instruction and even Quantum Link (Q-Link) classrooms.
Modern-Day Technology in Education
Over 20 years have passed since CALCampus first appeared on the scene. Since then, the advent of new technologies, many of them now accessible via the Web, have only made online education that much better. Remember, in 1994 there was no such thing as YouTube. If you could view a video online, it was considered a novelty. Now, of course, watching an online video or two is a part of almost everybody’s daily routine.
Beyond video, there are online means to share education-oriented, multimedia content. For example, it’s possible to share a slideshow for free with SlideShare. It’s also possible to use the ever-popular infographics in online education.
Now, thanks to Webcams and high-speed Internet connections, people can watch a professor teaching about a particular subject live without even leaving the comfort of their own home. A chalkboard isn’t needed in the classroom, as the professor can write/doodle on a virtual whiteboard that is updated in real-time on a person’s screen. For practical purposes, it’s as good as being there.
What about assignments? They’re as easy as pie with the various productivity tools we have at our disposal today. Research papers can be written with a word processor like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice and can appear as though they were done by a professional, complete with headers, automatic page numbers, a table of contents, and embedded charts. They can be submitted to the professor as an attachment via email for grading.
The Power of MOOCs
Today, we live in the era of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are online courses meant for an unlimited number of participants. In other words, technology has eliminated the need for a certain amount of square footage in a classroom to accommodate all students.
MOOCs are also on-board the social media bandwagon. They typically provide interactive forums for students, professors, and teaching assistants. All of this helps build a sense of community among people who participate in online education.
Whether or not MOOCs are here to stay is up for some debate. However, there is no doubt that technology has, as of today, streamlined the higher education process for many people.
Although early MOOCs often emphasized open access features, such as Connectivism and open licensing of content, structure, and learning goals, to promote the reuse and remixing of resources, some notable newer MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials, while maintaining free access for students.
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