There is pressure in FE and HE institutions to deliver an outstanding learner experience – and to achieve this with tight budgets and restricted resources. To add to the challenge, many colleges and universities are faced with requests for flexible learning from students, teachers and lecturers alike.
In other sectors, agility and mobility have been enabled in no small part by the growth of collaboration technologies such as videoconferencing, instant messaging, group chat and applications which enable geographically dispersed colleagues to share ideas, offer and request feedback and ultimately work on the same projects anytime, anywhere. Could these technologies work similar magic in the education sector? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – and here are four key examples of how.
Easing the application processes
Processing applications for FE and HE courses is a huge undertaking both for students and universities themselves. It can last for months, involving multiple processes of filtering, assessing and for many courses, face-to-face interviews. Collaboration technologies such as Webex, Webex teams or video conferencing can play a role in streamlining the process, driving impressive efficiencies. Consider videoconferencing as an alternative to face-to-face interviews. Or online interactive assessments as an alternative to entrance exams. There are a whole range of opportunities for collaboration technologies to make applications faster and more resource-efficient – for both applicants and educational institutions.
Softening the scheduling strain
Allocating rooms and resources is another huge challenge for any college or university, with timetabling typically taking up a huge amount of resource at the beginning of each academic year. Collaboration technologies can, once again, drive resource efficiencies by replacing certain face-to-face seminars and meetings with digital ones, which can take place anywhere. This does not need to be a lesser form of learning. Quite the contrary – when technologies such as videoconferencing are combined with, say, interactive e-learning or teamworking tools, then there are opportunities for digital learning to be more engaging than face-to-face meetings, rather than less. Collaboration technology can also help to maximise campus space for more effective estate management. If a university has rooms unsuitable to facilitate the size of a lecture for example, these areas can be used as smaller ‘huddle rooms’ for student groups to connect to lectures remotely, providing a blended approach of virtual and group learning.
More and more educational institutions are looking to partner with other organisations – whether this is other colleges and universities, businesses or public sector bodies. Such partnerships can drive the development of new courses and qualifications, delivering learning which is more tightly tailored to the needs of industry and more effective in terms of student employability. This can also be a great way for universities to attract talent and retain academics looking for partnership opportunities in their career.
But fostering such partnerships in practice can be complicated. Collaboration technologies offer a means of simplifying them, enabling stakeholders from different locations to work together to create materials, deliver seminars and lectures and assess work – all without the need to travel huge distances or waste valuable learning or research time travelling. The possibilities for developing industry placements and apprenticeships and tailoring vocational college and university courses to better suit the needs of businesses, are enormous.
Collaboration technologies offer powerful opportunities for colleges and universities to open content and courses to students far beyond their campuses. It also allows for better student engagement as expectations on improved technology for accessing course content, as written about in our previous blog here, are met.
Whether developing short courses which can be delivered entirely online, introducing remote forms of assessment so that students can complete their courses whilst, say, living at home, or simply opening up particular materials and modules to members of the public through online lectures, there is a whole range of ways in which collaboration technologies can usher in more democratic forms of education. These are beneficial in terms of opening access to higher and further education and enhancing colleges’ and universities’ positions in the wider education marketplace.
With over 14 years in the Education Sector, learn more about how collaboration technologies could benefit your educational institution today by getting in touch with FourNet here.