Technological innovations sometimes come slowly to higher education. When the change does come, innovation greatly enhances educational experiences and helps take educational advancements to a whole new level. Here are just three technological innovations that have changed higher ed in the last few years.
Smart Boards are revolutionizing how teachers teach their classes. Gone are the days of chalkboards, whiteboards, and even the overhead projector. While Smart Boards have been around for quite a few years, it’s only recently that they have seen an explosion of usage. They allow professors to provide a superior educational experience to students without the hassles of older technologies.
The Smart Boards will display presentations and other computer files on a screen viewable by the whole class. The instructor can use digital pens to write on the board to clarify concepts and provide more information. While this eliminates older technologies, it’s not the real innovation.
The real innovation is that students can use their touch-screen devices like Chromebooks and Ipads to interact with the Smart Board as well. Every student can see what is written on the Smart Board no matter how far back in the lecture hall they are. Students can take screenshots of the Smart Board for later use and be able to directly interact on the board with their instructor and TA. Hundreds of thousands of classrooms around the world are using this technology.
eBooks have long promised to shake up education, but textbook manufacturers have been slow to catch on. Luckily, the market is changing and universities are demanding an innovative approach to books. Most textbook manufacturers are moving to the more lucrative eBook market.
Nowadays, most professors are choosing textbooks with an option to purchase an eBook. These eBooks usually include access to online companion sites where students can improve their learning. Since these sites also provide digital quizzes and exams, instructors can focus on providing lecture material to students instead of making and grading quizzes and exams.
Students benefit from lower prices and the abilities to rent textbooks without needing to remember to return them after final exams. They also get to carry their books on their iPad instead of a heavy backpack. Smart students know that eBooks are great for studying since they can easily perform a text search for any unknown terms. This is a bonus for open book tests.
Virtual reality is dramatically changing education in the classroom. Virtual reality is the use of computer technology combined with special headsets that generate images, sensations, and sounds that are very realistic and lifelike. VR technology makes a person feel that they are inside whatever images they are viewing through the headset. It’s a fully immersive experience.
Virtual reality technology promises to put students in places around the world. When a history professor teaches about Pompeii, she can have the students virtually visit Pompeii through a VR headset. VR is even finding usage in medical schools where students are being taught how to perform surgeries using immersive VR headsets. Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California is one such university. Students may soon find that their next MCAT tutor is teaching them how to use VR along with the other preparation material.
Virtual reality headsets are manufactured by a variety of manufacturers ranging from consumer electronic companies to phone manufacturers. The Oculus Rift is considered to be a standard in the world of VR headsets, but its price is out of reach for some college students. The Google DayDream View is a more affordable headset that can be attached to any Daydream Ready phone. Google even provides plans for making a very simple VR viewer using cardboard called Google Cardboard.
Innovation is a fact of life and will continue in the future as technology brings better efficiencies and higher quality. Between virtual reality, eBooks, and Smart Boards, higher education is innovating and creating higher quality student experiences. It will be interesting to see what new innovations will come to higher education in the future.
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