We are entering the next phase of higher education where the physical campus is increasingly less important thanks to the emergence of a digital one. Whether on campus or not the development of new technologies ensures there is a ‘blended’ solution – where attending lectures and tutorials on campus are mandatory – but much of the work is executed online, pre and post-lecture.
So, does this mean our physical campuses are disappearing in favour of working remotely? Not at all – campus life is still as vibrant as it ever was, students still enjoy lots of social interaction, but the efficiencies that the smart campus bring are also enormous and probably less easy to see at first glance.
Our modern learning space is increasingly becoming a Wi-Fi access point – anywhere that is connected is a seat of learning for a student and it’s changing how we learn and when. The ‘flipped’ classroom is at the fore – where homework is done before class, often by watching videos on what may have traditionally been viewed in the lecture theatre, so that the bulk of discussion and learning is done in class. That means that our lecture theatres and tutorials are much more collaborative and analytical. And discussions better facilitated by lecturers ultimately leading to better learning. The traditional model is ‘flipped’ so that homework happens via the smart campus before attendance on the physical one.
The obvious benefit of this smart approach is that students have the opportunity to stop, reflect and review the lesson as often as they like without frantically taking notes, missing sections they didn’t hear properly or having the time to understand what they’re listening to. Students have already had the opportunity to preview and question material before it is presented more formally to them in class. The smart campus is increasingly providing the ability for students to be able to prepare for learning. Considering questions or areas of discussion before actually reaching the door of the lecture theatre or classroom. If they didn’t understand something the first time, they can replay it over and over and use their one-to-one lecture time with university staff to drill down into topic areas more effectively.
The smart campus also puts peer collaboration at the heart of learning. This allows students to enhance their skills and knowledge, creates ‘communities’ online and improves student engagement, which is a key benefit to the institution in retaining its students once recruited. Those students with greater engagement tend to stay and succeed. Armed with a tablet, a smartphone or a laptop, knowledge can be accessed anytime and anywhere, providing learners with the flexibility to learn their way and not be constrained by physical times and locations.
There will always be those subjects that demand physical learning – laboratories, sports fields and practical workshops – but the reality is that the blended learning environment is here to stay where the physical and digital work together. It enables a more complex and individual learning experience for the students and creates a role for the lecturers to become facilitators, helping to generate discussion and put the courses and content into context for the students instead of simply ‘downloading’ their knowledge whilst rows of students scribble away.
Digitalising our campuses doesn’t mean the end of the physical – it’s just a transition that sees bricks combined with clicks.
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