Posted 09/11/16
Ahead of the curve

Executive Director, IT & Operations Matt Parker, explains how new and evolving technologies improve the student experience.

New and evolving technologies and the opportunities for online learning

At OES, we are constantly reviewing the education technology landscape for new or evolving technologies that can enhance the student experience.

Traditionally the Learning Management System (LMS) has been the centrepiece of the online learner’s experience. While we believe this will continue to be the case for a number of reasons, what we have increasingly seen over the last few years is a disaggregation of the LMS space into an ecosystem of specialised solutions that can be knitted together around an LMS.

As education technology advances and becomes more interoperable, and niche providers specialise in particular areas of the learning experience, it’s becoming easier to mix and match the best platforms and technologies to provide students with an increasingly compelling experience.

We are currently working to replace our existing LMS with Canvas LMS. This platform is a contemporary system that was designed with the online learner in mind and with a technology stack that allows easy and seamless integration with a host of specialist solutions.

We’re very excited about the potential this project presents for our students in enhancing their learning experience and in ultimately helping them to succeed.

The future of learning on mobile devices

At OES we work very hard to understand the needs of our students and how we can leverage technology to help them succeed. We know a high proportion of our students are leading busy lives and want to be able to optimise the time they have available to study.

In talking to our students, we’ve come to understand that having the ability to use their mobile phones or tablets as a study tool, even in short bursts of time, is very important to them. Therefore, enhancing the mobile experience for our students is a strong focus for us.

It’s not only important to understand what students expect from the mobile user experience now, but to anticipate what they will look to do in the future. If you look at the banking industry you’ll see that customers are much more comfortable, and in fact more demanding, of the use of mobile banking features than they were even a few years ago. The proliferation of mobile devices, focus on customer needs, advances in security and increased customer confidence have fueled this in banking and we see a parallel trend occurring in education as students understand and demand a more mobile experience.

Sitting exams online

Advances in education technology are not only providing convenience and flexibility for students, but are in fact driving an enhanced student experience, as well as providing opportunities for students’ efforts to be validated and recognised.

We offer a live supervised online exam service, which enables our regional and remote students to log on and complete their exams in the most convenient location for them. This eliminates the need for paper exams to be sent, students no longer have to go to an exam location and no supervisors are required - it is all done online.

This offering has additional benefits for students aside from convenience. Research tells us that students perform better in exams in a familiar environment, ideally similar to the one in which they have done their learning. Online exams allow students to be tested for knowledge in a setting they are used to and comfortable with, which in turn allows them to perform at their best.

Lastly, the combination of online exam technology with the use of various authentication methods (for example keystroke pattern recognition) over the student learning lifecycle means we can ensure the person sitting an exam is the same person who has contributed over the duration of study. This gives students the confidence they are operating on a level playing field with their peers and further enhances the credibility of qualifications for employers.

Infinite opportunities: Augmented and simulated reality

We are really interested in advances in technology that aren’t necessarily directly related to education, and thinking about and testing the potential application of these into the education space.

Some examples of these are technologies delivering Augmented Reality, which involves creating something digital and placing it in the real world, or Simulated Reality which involves creating a whole new digital reality.

Devices like goggles and gloves allow you to see, touch and manipulate objects in an augmented world. Consider the application of this for a nursing student, for example. There is the potential to offer them a virtual experience which could allow them to gain experience and confidence, before physically going into the nursing environment.

We see huge potential in technologies that don’t currently have students and their studies in mind. Many of these advances will most likely lead to the most exciting advances to learning in the future.