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ICT In Education: The 2013 Landscape
Category: Evergreen
Keywords: Infrastructure,Networking
Author: Sean McGrath
Date Written: 23 July 2013
Title: ICT In Education: The 2013 Landscape


The education sector has a unique relationship with technology. Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web was based on the notion of sharing information and ever since its inception, education has played an important role in the digital realm.

The Open University in the UK along with the University of British Columbia spearheaded the notion of electronic learning and today eLearning is now considered the norm. The University of British Columbia developed what is now known as Blackboard, which is used in almost every university in the UK.

The eLearning sphere is a rapidly evolving one as is the way that people consume information. The following is a brief overview of the digital learning landscape in 2013.

Mobile

Without a doubt, mobile devices are the most disruptive technology to come along since the web itself. At first, mobile devices were not seen as an integral part of the education sphere; but in recent years the pendulum has swung and mobile learning (mLearning) is now at the epicentre of a learning revolution.

Mobile devices have become ubiquitous with 21st century living. According to the Horizon Report, by 2015, 80 per cent of all people accessing the internet will be doing so from a mobile device.

The amount of data being accessed from these devices is simply incredible. Global mobile data traffic reached 885 petabytes per month at the end of 2012, equivalent to 17.7 billion four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text. This is more than was contained on the entire global internet in 2000.

The proliferation of mobile has caused developers to adopt a 'mobile first' approach to software which can be seen across almost all sectors. Enterprise environments are rapidly getting on board, bringing mobile devices and applications into every fold of the business world.

Even desktop operating systems are becoming more mobilecentric with both Apple OS X and Microsoft's Windows 8 borrowing heavily from mobile influences.

It is therefore no surprise that the education sector is in on the act. mLearning has not only made remote and distance learning more feasible, but has opened up entirely new learning models. Game-based learning and augmented reality are two such examples of 21st century learning models being powered by the mobile revolution.

Convergence of technologies and a seamless learning experience

The rise of mobile does not spell the end for traditional learning. Rather, mobile technologies are likely to sit alongside existing infrastructure, ensuring a seamless learning experience. This new technology architecture will allow learners to access learning where and when they want it.

Online

As previously stated, online learning has been around since the dawn of the internet. However, a new learning model is beginning to emerge - the MOOC - or Massive Open Online Course.

MOOCs are, as the name suggests, large-scale online courses with a heavy focus on open licensing of content, open structure and user interaction. Often, learners undertake courses without any formal certification or qualification at the end. The largest MOOC to date had 300,000 students.

Despite the open nature of MOOCs the educational elite have scrambled to get in on the action with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) both offering a non-profit online learning platform, making world class education available to the masses.

ICT in traditional classroom environments

Tighter integration of ICT into conventional learning environments will continue. From primary, through to secondary and further education, ICT is now a fundamental part of educational infrastructure. As a result, establishments will have to invest in order to ensure that they remain at the apex of innovation, giving both students and teachers the best possible opportunities.

mLearning in corporate environments

mLearning is also paving the way in enterprise environments. Businesses are increasingly adopting bring your own device (BYOD) policies, by where employees use their personal devices for business purposes. It therefore makes sense that organisations should structure their learning and development programmes around these mobile devices.

Increasingly, enterprises are developing corporate applications to aid staff in their roles and this is a trend that is likely to continue. A recent report from Gartner predicted that 25 per cent of all enterprises will have an enterprise app store in the next four years and given recent rates, this looks to be a conservative prediction.

Social networking is also playing an important role in the enterprise, with decision makers looking to democratise information and cultivate knowledge sharing cultures.

The future

These are exciting times for the education sector. A variety of technologies are converging, opening up a world of new possibilities. The explosion of data and the overwhelming uptake of mobile technology have contributed to the 'always on' nature of modern digital life. This has effectively changed how people consume information and consequently, how they learn.

This is a fact that needs to be embraced those in the education sector. Teaching models need to adapt in order to provide the best possible learning experience.

In order to harness the possibilities that technology is making available to the education sector, both technologists and educators need to set common goals and then work together in order to achieve them.

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