How Higher Education Can Enhance Equity with Technology

The resonance of main issues in higher education, particularly concerns over cost and access, would not go away. Technology has been projected, though inelegantly, as a means to supply a fresh response these concerns. And so as Willie Loman counselled attention should be paid. As we move past debate and toward modernization for the long term, there are four key issues should be addressed.


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The new technologies are much more quick, sophisticated and approachable to student learning than earlier iterations. However they still lack human connection and research tells us that the single most imperative factor in determining student persistence in college is contact with an adult on campus. That is why Coursera, one of the leading MOOC providers, is at the present just beginning Learning Hubs for face-to-face interaction and it is why my institution is leading a consortium of private liberal arts colleges to integrate the best on-campus practices and knowledge.

Equity and access- The 'massive' in massive open online courses has been heralded as a solution to contact for our most underrepresented groups (groups whose college-going age population is projected to grow dramatically in the next two decades). However to date, online courses have worked most effectively for well-read majority students with a strong affinity for STEM courses efficiently duplicating, even expanding and educational equity gap that by now exists. These concerns have to be addressed if technology is truly going to enhance access to higher education, rather than simply exacerbating an already troubling caste system.

Cost- The concerns about student debt and total cost of higher education have been well documented; these concerns have driven a number of of the intense interest in online education. But to deliver on the assurance of learning and not just credentialing, online education should address the issues of quality and equity outlined over. Integrated models should ease course and student transfer across campuses, must focus on improving student success in introductory courses that are critical to students long-term success and should support greater student learning in K-12 systems and remedial courses. This is a diverse and more hopeful focus than predictions that we must totally destroy existing bricks-and-mortar institutions in the name of innovation a move that would most likely occur at the cost of quality and equity, with no assurance of cost savings.

Faculty work-

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Though contemporary technology is dramatically more sophisticated than earlier iterations, a reliance exclusively on technology for course delivery displays expected problems of student persistence, engagement and educational integration. Many of these challenges can be mitigated throughout greater connection with faculty the leaders and mentors who not only convey information, other than who introduce students to the arts of critical thinking, analysis, communication, and reflection. Suggesting that technology can simply supplant faculty role is both unwise and also linear. The challenge is to use skill for what it promises to do extraordinarily well, which is content delivery, and use faculty for teaching in the truest sense- to challenge, engage, nurture and conduct investigate with students.

The rate of technological innovation is affecting almost every organization in the world. Unfortunately, hyperbole in the higher education technology debate has distracted from a more nuanced conversation about the range of possible innovations that are more easily understood as a continuum rather than a silver bullet.

Without a doubt, the heat generated by the hype has made it difficult to shed light on the vital issues, including whether technology would help chart a new course for addressing access and cost, whether sophisticated learning systems can improve or detract from student learning and whether the more general adoption of technology in and out of the classroom would fundamentally alter the shape of our institutions.

The sophistication of academic technology is speedily increasing at the equal time that the basic cost and workload structure for higher education is undergoing enormous strain. We should move beyond the hype and backlash and experiment with technology to decrease cost while improving access, learning and faculty work, ensuring that promise of higher education endures for the new generation of students.

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