Technology to Empower Education

In this three-part blog series we will take a trip down memory lane to see what this tells us about the potential impact new technology will have on the future of education, discuss how as the pace of innovation and new technology increases so does the pace at which these technologies impact our lives and not always for the good. Finally, we will look at what the future might hold and how we can help you have certainty at an uncertain time.

Part 1 - A look back at Education and Technology through the decades

To understand what the potential impact new technology will have on the future of education, we should start by seeing what we can learn from history. We know that technology now underpins the student journey and learning experience, from recruitment to graduation and beyond but where did it start and how did that impact the student journey. And what help us understand which new technologies will shape the future of education.


Technology to Empower Education - 80s

Let’s start with the 80s a decade of big hair and big shoulder pads. A decade that saw the Rubik’s cube, MS-DOS released, Windows and the first PC. Space Shuttles making their first flights and CDs outselling vinyl and tapes.

What was happening in education?

This was a time before computers, before the internet, before Google. You did your research in the library using books, and often had to go on a waiting list for that reference book. The focus of education was on competition, entrepreneurialism and technology. BBC Micro Computers started to make their way into schools giving students their first taste of the personal computer.

This was the decade that saw the introduction of the National Curriculum in schools to standardise what was taught in schools across the country and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) were introduced, in an attempt to revitalise vocational training.

Local authorities and the government footed the bill for students in Higher Education and there was almost certainly a job at the end of your studies.

Student administration is largely paper based or done through spreadsheets requiring a very manual processes. It is hard for staff and students to communicate and collaborate. Email exists, but only just and it isn’t easy to use. In 1984 we launch our first student management system - Maytas!

However, there was a major development at the end of the 80s that has changed our world. In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. Education gives birth to something truly radical.


Technology to Empower Education - 90s

But the web took a while to grow. In the meantime, the 90s was a decade of animal prints and grunge style. The first text message was sent, and we watched our films on DVDs not video tapes. I am sure many of you remember owning your first mobile phone, either a Nokia or a Motorola. Pathfinder landed on Mars and OJ is found not guilty!

What was happening in education?

The internet allowed some resources to move online, like libraries and reference material but bandwidth was low, and students relied on computer rooms with long queues and wait times to access these new resources. In many classrooms As CD-ROMs become more affordable, schools receive their own copies of Encarta and a world of knowledge is made available to students at the click of a mouse. We probably all used Internet Explorer as Google didn’t launch until 1998 and we would need to wait another 3 years until Wikipedia was launched.

Students are updated on news, get their results, and find out about any changes to the timetable by checking the noticeboard in the corridor. Essays, assignments, and dissertations are handwritten and physically handed to the lecturer or teacher.

In 1994, the government introduced Modern Apprenticeships (since renamed 'Apprenticeships'), based on frameworks devised by Sector Skills Councils.

1991 saw the launch of SITS:Vision for Higher Education in response to the need to improve student administration by providing a system that managed the process rather than relying on manual processes or bespoke, in house systems. 1995 saw the launch of ebs for Further Education and in 1999 in response to the growth of the web and its future potential, e:Vision is launched to move key processes onto the web to make them more accessible for staff and students.

It is becoming a little easier for staff and students to communicate and collaborate, but it isn’t in real-time. Perhaps this was the last big shift in our Student Information System landscape?


Technology to Empower Education - 00s

A decade of velour jumpsuits and flared jeans. A decade that started with the Y2K bug, saw Bluetooth earpieces, USB flash drives, the first iPod and iPhone creating the Smartphone. We saw the birth of social media with both Facebook and Twitter launching during this decade. ‘To Google’ enters the dictionary as they index 1 trillion unique URLs. YouTube is launched and the BBC launch the iPlayer.

What was happening in education?

As the internet becomes a part of everyday life accessible through more and more devices more processes move to the web with self-service for staff and students. Information can be published and updated in real-time and as computers become cheaper students are encouraged to bring their own device or use computers readily available across a college or university site. This reduces waiting times, allows access to these resources and improves staff and student communication and collaboration.

The government introduce Curriculum 2000 to reform the Further Education system into the current structure of AS levels, A2 levels and Key Skills. In 2007 plans were announced to extend the school leaving age in England to 18 by 2013. The changes included apprenticeships and work-based training in addition to continued academic learning. This became law through the Education and Skills Act 2008, with the school leaving age raised to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015.

This is also the decade that both SITS and ebs became part of Tribal after Henry Pitman started the company in 1999. In 2006 we introduced Enterprise Service Desk which later became Student Information Desk to provide institutions with a way of supporting students. We also launch eTrack – our e-portfolio and learner management tool.


Technology to Empower Education - 10s

A decade we have almost finished, that has brought us hipster fashion, athleisure and the growing importance of social media influencers paid to promote fast fashion brands on Pinterest and Instagram. It started with the release of the iPad in 2010 which gave us tablet computing. By the midpoint of this decade all smartphones were touchscreen-only, and Android and iPhone smartphones dominated the market. We have gone from 3G to 4G and now 5G is launching across the UK offering speeds 100 times faster than 4G. This increase in speed could support new technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, robotics, connected cities and many more.

We went from Full HD to 4K resolution on our TVs and we stopped going to Blockbusters or using LoveFilm to stream our media through Netflix or Amazon Prime. Social media continues to gain prominence through the convenience of mobile apps, including the services of WhatsApp, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Vine, and TikTok being released throughout this decade. Most people use Google Chrome to browse the web and many can’t even remember IE.

What has happened in education?

We have seen a rapid increase in internet bandwidth, with constant connections enabling the downloaded or streaming of education content. We have moved resources from the web to mobile apps and started to digitise whole processes going totally paperless. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have emerged as a popular mode of learning with Coursera, edX and FutureLearn among the most popular. The power of the cloud has enabled data centres to be moved offsite and into the cloud bringing greater uptimes, increased security and greater efficiencies.

The government introduced Academies, has made changes to the delivery of apprenticeships and started the apprenticeship levy. Further Education has seen Area Reviews. Only recently the Auger review in Higher Education has proposed changes to student finance. This decade perhaps more than any other has seen huge changes to the way education is structured, delivered and consumed.

For Tribal, we embark on a project to make the most of this rapidly changing technology landscape and to enhance and develop our Student Information System offerings. The first modules of Tribal Edge are launched, including Engage, our mobile app, giving students instant and easy access to all the information they need, as well as a way of easily communicating and collaborating with staff and other students alike.

What have we discovered?

We have discovered that looking back over the last few decades this period can be characterised by two big innovations, or disruptors. Firstly, the introduction of the web and its growth from a simple search engine to the tool we all use multiple times a day to check information, order goods and services, be entertained or check the latest news. Secondly, the proliferation of Smartphones, all of us reading this have one in our pocket and it is millions of times more powerful than all of NASAs combined computing power that put a man on the moon, or the IBM Deep Blue supercomputer that won a chess match. We use them every day (perhaps too much!) to stay connected and to communicate and collaborate.

What has been impact on the student journey and learning experience? It has changed significantly moving from a manual paper-based process to an online, available anywhere at any time environment. The systems that underpinned the student journey and learning experience have moved from on-premise data centres into the cloud delivering scale and efficiency.

Through much of this period Tribal have successfully navigated these decades introducing solutions and products that harness some of technology we have highlighted to improve efficiency and the student experience.

In part two we discuss how as the pace of innovation and new technology increases so does the pace at which these technologies impact our lives and maybe not always in a positive way.

To find out more about how Tribal Edge is helping to provide a better experience for staff and students, click the button below.

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