The Changing Role of Technology in Higher Education

Universities and colleges have for a millennium been regarded as the major social hub for learning and knowledge. The colleges and universities basic structures of how they disseminate and produce knowledge and assess students has for a millennium survived intact through the extensive societal modifications generated by technology. This includes the industrial revolution, the moveable-type printing press, television, telegraph, radio, telephone, and computers. Currently, the higher education business appears to be more vulnerable to technology disruption like all other information-based industries that include televisions, news media, journals, music, magazines, and motion pictures among others. The knowledge transmission is no longer being tethered to campuses, colleges or universities. The practical affordances of high-quality streaming video, cloud-based computing, mobile connectivity, digital textbooks, and real time information collection have pushed huge volume of knowledge to placeless web. This paper evaluates the changing role of technology in the higher education in the world.

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Background Information

The higher education learning and management has been changing with change of the technology in the world. Majority of higher institutions of learning were established before 1900. During this time, communication and knowledge dissemination were either done orally or through writing. Education management was facilitated by sending written text through postage, or sending voice message through telephony. Type writing also played a major role in facilitating development of learning materials including students’ assessment materials. Teaching during this time involved oral and written lectures, and use of printed materials for references. Broadcasting technology then started its advancement in 1920s. This technology was extensively embraced in learning including in higher education in 1969, through oral lectures and documentaries, and case studies. This was followed by the invention of computer technology that introduced programmed learning in higher educations. Mainframe computers were used to organize learning and to enhance a number of higher education management activities since 1954. The invention of networks in late 1970s advanced the use of computers in learning and higher education management. Online discussion forums were introduced in universities in 1980s. This was followed by the introduction of online causes and intensive use of internet technology in institution communication at the management level and in learning based activities in late1990s. The 21st century has been characterized with extensive advancement of technology that include e-learning, integrated classes, and extensive use of internet in knowledge dissemination as well as higher education management (Bates, 2014).

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Tradition Higher Education System

Most higher education learning institutions were created before 1900 especially in America. During this time, the higher education learning was highly characterized by oral learning through lecturing and learning through writing where pen and papers were commonly used by students while lecturers used boards and writing chalks or pen to make illustrations in the class. Printed materials such as books were used for referencing. The technological level of advancement during this period was limited. Learning highly depended on illustrational and instructional materials which involved experimentations using available materials, and practices in various subjects including art work. The teaching and evaluation technique employed during this time remained for quite a long time in the education history. The classes were based on interaction where lecturers and students could physical appear in a class for learning to take place (Nmc.org, 2008).

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Technology Transition in Higher Education during Late 20th Century

There was extensive chance of technology in the world in the 20th century. This resulted to constant transformation of operations in various sectors including the education in the entire century. This started with the development of broadcasting technology which was extensively embraced in the education sector in 1920s. Broadcasting was used to air education programs, documentaries, case studies, Open University programs that integrated the initial printed materials with radio and television programs. Video and audio cassettes were also introduced in learning. Live educational broadcasting channels were also integrated in the system to enhance higher learning. Some of these channels include discover channel, PBS, TVOntario, and History channel among others. With advancement of compressed recording technology, more and more lectures including technology lectures were recorded and disseminated in the world to facilitate learning in higher education (Bates, 2014).

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At around 1954, there was development of teaching machine which was experimented for programmed learning. The skinner teaching machine was the initial computer-based learning technology. More was experienced with advancement of computer technology. For instance in the late 1970s, a generalized computer based instruction system known as PLATO was adopted in the University of Illinois. This technology integrated main online concepts that include multiplayer games, forums, remote screen sharing, message boards, instant messaging, online testing, chat rooms, and email. The technology lasted for several decades. In mid-1980s, artificial intelligence technology was introduced with intention of enhancing arithmetic leaning though this technology was not very successful in the higher education. In the late 20th century, there was introduction of the internet protocol that initiated the development of networks and internet technology. At the end of 1970s, institutions in the US were trying to experiment blended learning involving integrating traditional classroom with online based discussion forums. This was regarded as computer-mediated communication (CMC) in New Jersey Institute of Technology while in Canada software known as CoSy was created in 1980s to permit online based discussion forums. This technology was adopted further in United Kingdom higher education institutions. These systems allowed effective communication between instructors and their students (Bates, 2014).

The situation was made better by the 1991 launch of the World Wide Web. This enhanced end-users ability to develop and connect videos, documents, and other media without need of a lot of programming. This was followed by the development of web browser in 1993 and search engines in 1993, and in 1999 the development of Google that acted as the prime search engine. All this brought new experience in learning allowing sharing of information not just within an institution but far and broad. The initial learning management system was facilitated by the web in 1995, which operated like the current blackboard. The systems offered online teaching setting where content can be organized and loaded and offer spaces for discussion forums, learning objectives, assignment questions and student activities (RIT.edu, n.d.).      

Technology in Higher Education at 21st Century or at Current Time

The introduction of internet brought great changes in the higher education. The development of learning management systems (LMSs) continued to advance in 21st century with intention of integrating online technology more in the learning system. Technology is currently allowing changing curricula, multi-modal teaching, and laying rich types of online collaboration and research. With advancement of technology, more and more higher education institutions are currently learning online courses with role of professors evolving to mentor from instructors. Different technologies are employed to enhance learning in higher institutions. The growth and development of social media has highly facilitated communication change in higher education. Today institutions are using diverse technologies to enhance learning which include social networks, blog, mashups, online courses, video podcasts, wikis, text messages or notifications, document management, collaborative software, sensor or RFID networks, or mobile broadband among others. The internet technology has also facilitated the growth of e-books use, online libraries from different journals, articles and books databases, and extensive access of learning information from the internet. Knowledge dissemination has been made extensively easy in this era. Although traditional classroom has not been completely eliminated, most institutions are currently using integrated programs where both traditional classes and online learning is being enhanced (White, 2008). This includes use of blackboards for communication, discussion forums, assignments submission, and content management among others. Distance learning has also become more prominent in this era, where student can go through their course and complete it without having to appear for face-to-face classes. The have been employment of different software to ensure scholarship and academic honesty in digital era which include Turnitin to check on the level of plagiarism (Kirkup & Kirkwood, 2005).

Conclusion Technology has played a great role in transforming learning in higher education particularly in 20th and early years of 21st century. The introduction of computers and the World Wide Web have played a great part in drastic transformation of higher education learning from 1990s to date. This transformation is still expected to continue as more and more computer software and hardware are being developed to enhance learning in higher education. More online interactive classes are anticipated to be developed in the future. The system of learning is thus anticipated to adopt modern forms, with more people preferring distance learning due to their cheap cost and high convenience. In this regard, more changes may be seen in the future as the IT technology continues to advance.

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