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Leveraging new learning technology in higher educationNew innovations continue to redefine the role of information technology in higher education. A recent report from Gartner highlights a number of important technologies that will change the online education experience for users, and the management and teaching side of things for online schools.

Student Learning Technology:

Garner highlighted three technologies of direct interest to online learners. Colleges are proving to be quite good at harnessing new software to help students in several ways.

Adaptive learning technology adjusts the way students get course materials, based on how each student responds or based on individual preferences. This personalized learning environment can be a huge boon to students.

Smart machines combine student performance data and rules for how to present a set of lessons to create something a step beyond adaptive learning. A smart machine might be able to detect gaps in students’ knowledge, not in the course material but in prerequisites or other context that the student needs to get the most out of each lesson. Gartner notes that smart machine technology is newer than many of the others.

Other technologies in Gartner’s report should prove useful to students to supplement their online learning.

Resources for Students:

A couple of technologies that can be valuable for students, even if they do not directly contribute to learning. .

Earning badges and points can be motivating, but you can’t share your accomplishments outside of whatever education software your school uses. For example, you can mention your badge on LinkedIn, but you cannot import it from School X, because School X uses proprietary software that traps your achievements behind their firewall.

Open microcredentials, badges and points that use open-source software, not proprietary software are the obvious solution to the problem. Gartner sees this as a low-cost, high-return technology for schools.

Open education resource (OER) sets are just learning modules, tutorials, and lectures that are freely available. Students can use a variety of these free resources to supplement their learning about a specific subject. This might be particularly useful in conceptual courses like organizational behavior or cybersecurity, where there are many concepts to learn. OER can make available tutorials on handling specific organizational behavior problems, for example.

Other learning technologies are more useful to administrators and instructors but are helping to shape the learning environment for online students.

Institutions and New Technology:

Collaboration technology is old news, but new collaboration tools and tactics appear every year. Online education depends on this technology, because instructors, students and administrative staff are so geographically dispersed.

Listening and sensing technologies are new tools that let users mine data from social media to learn about behaviors, attitudes, feelings, and goals. That information can help the marketing arm of an online school reach out to potential students more effectively.

All large organizations use some form of customer relationship management (CRM). Online colleges can use the software to attract students, retain them, engage with them during their studies, provide alumni and career services and, later, to provide continuing education services.

Administrators use software to analyze data about their students and about prospective students. Those results drive decisions about what courses of study to offer, for example. Data mining, business intelligence and the even more obscure term ‘predictive analytics’ describes these planning tools.

Schools can buy specialized education tools for this purpose, but Gartner reports that those tools rarely offer true predictive analytics capabilities, such as the ability to analyze student enrollment and dropouts to find groups to target for more mentoring or areas where the school could do more marketing.

The latest report from Gartner, a thought leader in IT field, shows that new technologies have many interesting implications for online learning schools.

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