The forthcoming Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) is a patent reminder of the democratising effects of a pervasive network on any industry that relies on information as a core resource. Education, if assumed to be an industry, can either take advantage of this development or become a victim of it.
The reality is that Australian families, companies, and individuals will have direct access to the best educational content in the world and be able to interact with technologies and devices that are familiar, always available, and constantly connected. This new world of convergence will profoundly change how people learn. Not necessarily in institutions that are deploying old technologies to support traditional educational models, but in those that readily adapt to change. This change is inherently complex and challenging, which will result in winners and losers.
The winners will adopt an approach to these issues that brings all of the essential elements together into a self-informing (digital) learning strategy, which is continually adapted to new possibilities and conditions. This opens up new opportunities, creates new markets, and consolidates or improves a University’s standing in today’s world. More specific contextual changes are occurring too – the way people learn, acquire skills and gain knowledge, and refine their capabilities.
Increasingly, attending campus is not essential. Online learning is a global commodity and can be accessed from anywhere – home, work; even the commute in between. Already major corporations are offering their own online learning environments. Learning materials such as podcasts, ‘small chunk’ training courses, free courseware, and iTunesU offer viable solutions for customised learning that can transform the way Universities offer courses.
Investment in technology has occurred in Universities over a long period, but not all investment has been made with a clear strategy that is applied in a systematic manner. As the world changes, a coherent (digital) strategy for implementing and evaluating learning brings together all required components to enable clear decisions to be made for now and in the future. While such strategy includes technology and support capabilities – it must always be applied in the context of teaching and learning.