Everything’s changed – nothing has changed

According to one Harvard Business School professor, many higher educational institutions could be put out of business within ten years due to the rise of online learning? But is it a threat or an opportunity for HE – Amiee Gallagher, Education Business Development Executive at SCC, believes it is both. We all know what technophiles are like. They will tell you that the web and all things digital are the future – in education and every other walk of life. Those who are more sceptical will point out that there is only so much that you can do with technology. No matter how cleverly you make use of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and machine learning, you will never be able to fully simulate or automate a good lecture, or a one-to-one tutorial. You will never get the same kind of interaction and benefits. But who’s right? In my opinion, both views are completely valid and hold true. I’d also say that, as we move forward, the HE sector will need to both embrace the potential and opportunities that online learning offers, while maintaining the tried and tested traditions of teaching. The value of experience There are some who feel that some HE institutions really needs to act now, if they are to have a long-term future. The Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, author of the best-selling The Innovator’s Dilemma, has predicted that traditional colleges and universities will be undermined to such an extent by online learning that many of them won’t be around in a decade from now. His argument is that as online and “hybrid” approaches to education continue to grow and the cost of a “traditional” approach continues to increase, the former will become much more attractive than the latter. Even though I am exposed to the incredible potency that new technologies bring to us all on a daily basis, I am not sure he is right. Like many in the higher education sector, I don’t believe that you can ever beat being physically present in the room with a good lecturer. That is the only way that a student will get the full value of the insight and experience or someone who has been studying and teaching for many years, or even for decades. A real place At the same time, there is unquestionably a real place for online resources. When a lecture is delivered online, it can potentially reach many more students who, through the incredible power of modern technology and communications, can still interact with the lecturer. Furthermore, the lecture can of course, be recorded and made available online, so it can be viewed and experienced multiple times. Recording a whole series of lectures and making learning resources available online makes courses much more accessible to more students– and of course, they don’t need to travel, so it saves time and it is better for the environment. More accessible courses It is also a very low-cost way of delivering lectures and tutorials – and that’s obviously important. Of course, online lectures and lessons would always have to be kept up to date, so it would not mean that lecturers would be out of a job. On the contrary, making courses more accessible is likely to lead to an increase in demand for higher quality education. Technology has changed everything in our world today and it will continue to present us with new possibilities. But in another sense, nothing has changed. Many courses are already being offered online and the number and variety being made available is certain to increase. AI, AR, machine-learning and other technologies may also – eventually – have a role to play. But even then, it is hard to see how you could ever replace or fully-simulate a good lecturer. What I do know is that things will keep changing and that the pace of change is accelerating. Universities that embrace technology and use it to the best effect to enhance teaching and learning will be the ones most likely to succeed.
Scroll to Top