Building The Future of Education: The Role of Software

The face of colleges is changing as software-enabled technologies become standard tools in shaping bright minds. No longer is learning confined the classroom. The widespread use of the internet and mobile devices in the United States and around the world has opened more opportunities for students from all backgrounds to connect with the resources they need.

The Need for Convenience

The traditional classroom model presented many constraints on the access to resources and time with professors as class is confined to a designated time and location. This can create scheduling conflicts and limiting commute distances for students who don’t live on campus or work.

Changing Demographics of College Students

Recent trends in education show a notable increase in adults enrolling in college programs. This is largely due to fundamental changes being made in the structure of most college programs, such as offering online courses, later scheduling, and online portals to that fit the needs of adult students.

In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 38% of all undergraduates are over the age of 25 and 25% are over the age of 30[1]. These numbers are expected to increase dramatically over time with a 33% total share increase of students over the age of 25 by 2019.[2]

The vast majority of U.S. Adults also own a software-enabled device that allows them to take advantage of the opportunities presented by modern college programs. According to research by Pew Research Center, 73% of U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer.[3] These factors have created a demand for universities and colleges to prioritize flexible scheduling and diversity learning opportunities utilizing software-enabled technologies.

Moving Beyond the Classroom

One of the major roles that software-enabled technologies have in education is the added convenience of accessible resources outside of a classroom setting. Recent technologies like Learning Management Systems (LMS), interactive modules, and grading tools have all changed how students interact with their learning materials.

Extensive Learning Management Systems

Most large universities and colleges use a LMS to communicate grading information, offer a space for student collaboration, and post learning materials for students. These system is hosted in a cloud and accessed through portals, allowing students to use personal devices to access the LMS.

The system allows students to continue their education beyond the classroom, creating an adaptable learning experience to their lifestyle and needs. Students can also better communicate with professors, teaching assistants, tutors and other students outside of the classroom using forums. This encourages collaboration and more learning opportunities for students.

Cost-Effective Interactive Modules

Another advantage of software-enabled technologies is the ability to customize materials to the needs of a student through interactive modules. Students can have learning materials presented to them in unique ways, from videos and simulations to alternative reading assignments and online tutorials. Professors and educators can also better track the progress of students by seeing who is utilizing what materials and how far they’ve gone into their studies.

Interactive modules are also highly cost-effective as they can be updated in the cloud for all students. Unlike textbooks and journals, which require new licenses for updated materials, modules can be changed every semester at a minimal cost.

Efficient Grading Tools

A major challenge for professors and educators is in balancing between the time spent in office hours and grading submitted papers, tests and quizzes. Depending on the size of the class and the rigor of the course material, effective grading – offering feedback and referencing to learning material – can take several hours out of a professor’s week.

In fact, a study by Boise State University found that out of an average 61-hour work week, nearly 8-hours of a professor’s time is spent on grading.[4] Grading software can help alleviate these administrative tasks, allowing professors to dedicate more time in office hours and updating learning materials.

Software-enabled technologies have fundamentally changed how education is structured, with more accessibility to resources and alternative learning methods. With the student demographic growing older and more adept to technology, software will continue to play a central role in education.

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[1] Grace K. et al. “The Condition of Education 2015”. U.S. Department of Education. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015144.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Monica Anderson. “Device Ownership Over Time”. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/mobile/device-ownership/

[4] Colleen F. “So Much to Do, So Little Time. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/09/research-shows-professors-work-long-hours-and-spend-much-day-meetings

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