Written by Maureen McGuinness, MBA. D.B.A., Adjunct Faculty, business, and Robin Saunders, Ph.D., DIRECTOR, GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN DIGITAL MARKETING; ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Learning institutions have more access than ever to data analytics, allowing for a better understanding of their current student body. The internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (A.R.), virtual reality (V.R.), mixed reality (M.R.), the Metaverse, and advancements in online learning have changed how we reach prospective students. Advances in technology change the way we engage with our current student body and provide students with the resources they need to create their success.
These technologies have made it possible to change course design into a personalized academic experience for each user, allowing faculty to create content designed to give each student exactly what they need, at the right time, to develop their academic success.
With the advancements in technology, education has been revolutionized.
Virtual environments are now providing a safe and controlled way for students to learn complex concepts without any limitations on exploring these ideas in an immersive setting that is tailored specifically for them!
Let’s use avatars as an example. In BPU’s new Digital Marketing Graduate program, students and instructors create and use avatars in our online learning system Canvas and interact throughout the course. Getting students comfortable with technological advancement to connect and engage with the online community is the new normal. Wondering what an avatar is? According to techopedia.com, “an avatar is a personalized graphical illustration representing a computer user or a character or alters ego representing that user.” Avatars can be companions, guides, or presenters, usually anthropomorphic characters.
Custom avatars created by Bay Path community members.
Remember, you can be anyone that you want…online. I think that Brad Paisley, the country singer, said it well in his song, Online. “I’m so much cooler online”.
Avatars are gaining popularity as an emerging technology to facilitate learning and instruction. Research indicates that avatar use has numerous potential benefits, including increased student engagement, the ability for students to enhance levels of social connection, feelings of self-confidence, freedom of expression, and opportunities for quality interaction among online participants. In addition, this is a no-brainer when it comes to diversity. The identified characters help to create a more inclusive space by eliminating preconceive opinions and bias and the diverse content makes existing players feel more welcome and included.
Inclusive design allows students and faculty to see themselves as they want others to see them.
An avatar can remove constraints imposed on them by broader biases. For example, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals can reflect their true selves more accurately, relieving the effects of gender dysphoria and transphobia. The ability to customize how you want to be perceived in a virtual world can be incredibly empowering.
Avatars are a great way to build personal connections in the virtual world, including online classrooms. This is just one example of how disruptive technologies are transforming and changing the learning model, and it’s no secret that technology has had a profound impact on education.
What is less well known is how virtual environments are beginning to shape the learning process. According to recent studies, immersive virtual realities are emerging in higher education settings. By allowing students to explore complex concepts and systems in a safe and controlled environment, the Metaverse opens new possibilities for teaching and learning.
We are living in a time of significant technological advances. New technologies have disrupted many industries, and higher education is no exception. The forward-thinking universities are forging ahead and staying on the leading edge of higher education technology.
The emerging growth of globalization and multi-cultural collaborations provide an opportunity for academic institutions to use technology to shift from traditional linear educational learning models to multidirectional learning environments providing virtual learning opportunities on a global scale. Leveraging virtual environments will position educational institutions as change agents, reaching new market potentials and gaining competitive advantages.
This is just the beginning of the revolution in higher education. Virtual university campuses, global knowledge exchanges, interconnected international educational institutions, and even blockchain platforms to manage the richer informational landscape of IoT sensors, academic data collection and validation will all begin to form the learning institutions of the future.
Disruptive technology is here to stay and will help to:
- Change teaching methods to match students’ needs
- Lead students toward a better future
- Help universities better engage with the communities that they serve
- Use social media to reach and teach students
- Engage students in their own academic experiences
- Achieve career success
- Make learning more comprehensive
- Make learning accessible to ALL
Innovative disruption in higher education due to technology will force us to think about how we do things differently, providing opportunities for the changes needed so that institutions can survive and succeed.
The coronavirus pandemic reminds us that we should always be prepared for the unexpected. Disruptive technologies, like online learning, can help us weather any storm. And in this case, the storm can bring about positive change in how we learn and teach. The pandemic has forced colleges and universities to take a long, hard look at their business models and delivery methods. And while this may seem like bad news in the short term, it could lead to more innovative and flexible approaches to learning down the road.
To learn more about Bay Path University's Digital Marketing Graduate Program, please click here.