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David Nichol

 
 
This blog seeks to respond positively to the key trends in the Information Communication Technology industry and in particular within education.  The most significant of these being:
 
Mobility
There continues to be a revolution in mobile learning and with it a growing expectation that users should be able to access materials and information from anywhere.  The move towards greater online learning is part of this trend.
 
Changing expectations of students
The student intake of the Digital Native or Google generation sees young people who have grown up with computing as ubiquitous communication and information-searching tools.  Their expectations are that their diverse computing equipment will interact seamlessly and that computing tools will be available to supplement both social and learning interactions.
 
Global Communities of staff and students
Academics and teachers work within communities that span organisational and national borders. The ability to communicate and share information internationally is increasingly important. Students own social networks, particularly as our international student intake grows, need to be facilitated.
 
Education
Currently, education is involved in a period of technological change.  The new developments of numerous platforms and applications allow a much greater use of technology in a range of tasks, including student / tutor collaboration, online peer to peer learning and both summative and formative assessment options.  These new technologies allow information, communication, social interaction and new business and learning opportunities to be created, developed and implemented much more easily than previous technical architecture.  Web 2.0 or the social Web as it has become known, is transforming the way people use technology to do business, access information and connect with each other.  It has revolutionised the way we are entertained and altered the way we learn by providing an opportunity towards a much more personalised learning approach.
 
Online & Distance Learning
Distance learning can be subdivided into two categories: technology-enhanced learning and technology-delivered learning.  The former supplements traditional face-to-face classes and the learner has frequent opportunities to meet face-to-face with the instructor.  On the contrary, in the later learning situation, the learner is never in physical proximity to the facilitator.  However, to maximise the benefits of distance learning, it is highly likely that combinations of various delivery methods and new technologies may be incorporated into conventional lecturing, in order to meet the different learning styles and tastes of a large group of students.  This is known as a blended approach to learning.
By its very nature blended learning is an ambiguous term when considered in educative and pedagogical terms.  Blended learning and the blended experience can be considered any form of learning that incorporates blended learning as a teaching methodology.  Further, the learning capacity of the learner is enhanced or developed by the integration of technology.  Blended learning allows for innovation and experimentation through the creative use of curriculum design and of learner expectation.  The caveat, though, is that this creative and evolving approach is difficult to measure.  It is also complex to justify due to the developing nature of the learner involvement which can contradict formal validation and measurement processes used by Educational institutions to quality assure the academic credibility of similar traditional learning programmes.
 
There are a number of reasons that drive institutions to use blended learning.  Economy is certainly high on the agenda as is using technology.  The ability to maximise the potential of large cohort student groups within the same delivery mode is a very seductive strategy from an economical perspective.  There is though, other more complex reasons including work life balance, changing demographics related to University competition and increased flexibility of learning options and of course widening participation and accessibility.  The reliance on traditional modes of face to face learning is now being superseded by greater accessibility to information technology.  The acknowledgement and use of such technology are changing the learning geography of both the learning provision and provider.  In short, students learn differently using this type of blended platform, increasing the independence of the learner and increasing the duality of responsibility of the deliverer and their relationship with the learner. 
 
The development of web 2.0 technology ceaselessly prompts new approaches to information retrieval and sharing.  New genres of social networking sites are on the increase, adding to the list of already existing social media.  The social media covers online communities, network gaming, instant messaging, blogging, micro blogging, forums, groupware, peer-to-peer and media sharing technologies, emails, virtual worlds, texting, and all other social network sites.  All these new technologies are available to educators everywhere.  At my place of work, across all areas, there is a drive to introduce technology into all modules and programmes.  In order for staff to engage fully with this philosophy, there is a need for a deeper understanding, from a practical and theoretical base, to what benefits these new technologies can bring.  It is finally worth mentioning that although from the literature there are sound educational principles of using technology to support and enhance the learning process, there is another driver that needs consideration.  The world we live in today is empowered by technology, and it is changing the course and direction of many things, replacing past methods, and enforcing humanity to join the bandwagon or be left in limbo.  Potential students, who may choose to come and study at any HE or FE establishment in the near future, will do so with an expectation.  That expectation is of a campus that is IT enabled and where programmes of learning have been designed and are taught using the latest technological developments.