This past year has been a fun one to be a student, and maybe more challenging from the teaching side. Whether education IT managers have enjoyed the ride depends on whether they were able to get out in front of the changes. Here are some thoughts on what’s coming next year and how leading education CIOs are preparing.
- Online testing – the freight train has left the station
Student assessment is being completely transformed by online testing. Digital testing brings value to education well beyond just automatic exam grading. Network analytics technology can instantly identify student attempts at cheating. It is now easy to track how much time each student spends on each question, providing fine-scale insight into student understanding. Techniques like item discrimination give quick feedback on the validity of individual test questions.
At the K-12 level, the drive for online testing has come from the Common Core and all the derivative state exams. At the higher education level, schools are already implementing large scale BYOD online testing.
- The Internet of Things is enabling new types of smart schools
Not only are more devices, sensors, wearables, cameras, locks, and controls coming on to school Wi-Fi networks, but students are even designing their own IoT devices based on Arduino and Raspberry Pi in school makerspaces. The concept of the smart school, similar to the smart city and related to the Internet of Things, is coming more gradually. Wi-Fi based video, locks, and HVAC are already here, and adding more Wi-Fi sensors and controls, as well as making better use of the resulting data, is a steady process. Many schools are implementing the ability to automatically track students. All this is enabling new levels of personalized education and also improving student safety and security.
- Virtual reality brings the wild world into the classroom
Virtual reality and augmented reality technology are enabling things like virtual field trips and in-person explorations of history into the school. Both the profound capabilities of VR and AR and its accessible cost are driving a revolution in education. Many schools are already experimenting with VR technology. Products like Google Cardboard are accelerating that usage. As the technology improves and gets better incorporated into the curriculum, its usage will become even more widespread.
What does this mean to education IT?
If you manage IT resources for a school or university, you had better make sure there is plenty of Wi-Fi network bandwidth and connectivity to keep up with the demand. You have a mandate to stay ahead of the technology curve and lead educators in optimally applying these emerging capabilities to education. Without leadership from IT, the classroom solutions will fragment into an array of unmanageable, overlapping components. Get a solid good grip on student privacy and security in the midst of thousands of new Internet of Things devices coming on to the network. If you are in the US, take advantage of the E-rate program to help fund your expanding infrastructure.