We are in the midst of a global transformation in education, fuelled by online technology. One of the slower industries to adapt to the digital economy, education is now making up for it with the introduction of everything from massive online courses to cloud-based learning management systems.
But this explosion in online learning has created a challenge for higher education: meeting the demand for higher quality experiences from generation Z – the generation that has grown up with smart, connected devices. The most successful e-learning programs are those that have been able to cater to these students’ different abilities, learning styles and existing knowledge; you can’t just take traditional resources and methods and put them online. We’re now seeing the emergence of a new market for learning experiences that are far more immersive, smart and personalised.
Smart Sparrow’s Adaptive eLearning Platform makes online learning personalised – it’s like having your own private tutor. With Smart Sparrow, teachers can create rich, interactive, and adaptive educational content using simple-to-use online tools, for a range of educational applications, from kindergarten-level maths to university-level astrobiology courses.
In October, we launched the BEST (Biomedical Education Skills and Training) Network, with funding from a National Broadband Network grant. BEST is an academic network of expert educators from some of Australia’s top medical schools that all use Smart Sparrow technology to develop and share next-generation courseware and tools via the cloud.
We are already seeing the success of our approach. During a recent trial of BEST Network courseware and tools at the University of Melbourne, 60% of students said they had gained a better understanding of concepts that were taught using BEST resources compared to traditional methods; 85% said they’d like to use Smart Sparrow more often, and 100% said they would like access to more personalised lessons.
Ultrafast broadband is essential to the BEST Network. Students are not limited to old-fashioned content such as PowerPoints, PDFs and MCQs (multiple choice quizzes); instead, they’re learning with rich, interactive and adaptive courseware such as virtual labs, adaptive tutorials and high-resolution medical images. Some of these medical images are 10gb in size, and students can zoom in to explore fine details of anatomical features or diseased tissue. Because it is all shared on the cloud, students are no longer limited by local resources, geographic location or environment – they are limited only by access to a broadband connection.
Of course, all universities want to deliver personalised learning to its students. But creating personalised learning experiences is easier said than done. A personalised degree is more than simply handing out tablets or smart phones to students. It requires the complex interaction of processes and technologies that are beyond the traditional way universities operate. From marketing and recruiting to careers advice, adaptive learning platforms, coursework and more, personalising is first and foremost – rethinking the university experience.
In rethinking the way they teach and do business, universities will require a network of suppliers to meet their needs. This is where the challenge lies, because no one provider has the whole solution. An ecosystem like ng Connect gives these providers the opportunity to collaborate and deliver solutions that are more than simply the sum of all the parts. If ng Connect partners can work together to address these big market needs, the outcomes will be staggering, and the winners will be the next generations of students, making it a worthwhile effort.
Dror Ben-Naim is founder and CEO of Smart Sparrow, an Australian start-up pioneering adaptive learning technology.