Technology in University Education

The incredible growth of online learning resources has been written about here and just about every education website in existence.  However there’s another important factor that these course bring those in traditional University and college education too.

Most higher education establishments in the UK now make extensive use of online courses even for residential students.  In doing this they are building up a huge amount of information about their student’s learning activities.  This data is normally generated from some sort of virtual learning environment which is an internal facility designed to store learning resources such as guidance and digital courses.

Education AI - the Future

The advantage of a VLE is that it is simple to monitor and analyse student’s learning activities in this environment.  For example it is simple to monitor how often a particular students logs on and how long they spend actively participating in the online component of their course.  This information can be easily collated automatically and sent to their respective tutors. In tests conducted by the University of Bedfordshire using a similar system the use of the VLE increased significantly whilst the updates where in progress.

Of course this is technology and there are bound to be some sort of risks behind relying on this completely for student development.  Of course, it will not be long before some  start using technology like this – to fool and mislead such automated monitoring.   As such the traditional tutorial sessions will unlikely be replaced completely but still it does represent a much better use of an academics time rather than monitoring or relying on registers for such students.

The technology being developed currently is something similar to that used by big online companies like Netflix or Amazon.  That is they trace, monitor and recommend different courses and study goals based on participation in the virtual learning area.   It marks exciting possibilities of perhaps helping a student choose the best study path based on interests and highlighting early intervention for students who may be struggling in certain areas.

There are just like with most online retailers, a certain amount of confidentiality and privacy issues. Certainly the information gathered must remain highly confidential especially with it’s obvious interest to potential employers seeking to analyse a graduate’s potential.   I have to say that I would have some reservations about how the data would be stored, managed and transmitted.  Especially as I have seen the sheer number of misconfigured proxies and server in University departments across the world – great for watching the BBC iPlayer when abroad (see here) but not so good for reassurance about data security.