With the fast evolution of skills at the 21st century and the raise of new ways of learning, Universities are generally caught between the will to maintain the core curriculums that made their success and the goal to modernize their courses to meet the new demand of hyper-connected students. In this context, digital learning appears to be an opportunity to upgrade and enrich their courses while providing at the same time a more flexible way of learning.
Using digital learning to enrich traditional classes with online sessions
In one of his blog posts, Bill Gates recently shared his experience after attending an anthropology course at the University of Central Florida. Bill Gates noted that this university has been able to both increase its volume of students, while maintaining and even improving its graduation rates and expanding access for low-income and first-generation students.
One of the solution this university used was to develop online learning in addition of its traditional in-class courses. This approach had many advantages and is now very popular. Among the first advantages was the fact that, in one week, students could follow two sessions in-class and one session online, which has a double value: some students learn better online and they have more learning options available.
Balance studies with work and life
One of the key output of these mixed classes is that for many students who have to balance between their student life, their work and sometimes their family, being able to learn in-class and online allow them to really learn at the flow of their life and balance learning with the other events they have to manage.
In addition, it looks like that they perform better and complete their degrees faster than others which also allow them to save some money by graduating faster as Gates stated:
“UCF students who take at least 40 percent of their courses online complete their degrees an average of four months faster than other students, saving the students both time and money.” Bill Gates
Get access to new optional courses
In a recent post on LinkedIn, Melinda Gates shared that “Over the past few years, we’ve been excited to see universities pioneer digital tools to meet students exactly where they are—and help them get wherever they want to go” and that is exactly one of the best advantage of digital learning. By providing both a structured and flexible learning environment, it can help a student to learn better, faster, to improve themselves on difficult concepts, to find complementary resources and in the end to perform better.
For students, digital learning is also an opportunity to look for optional classes that would not be included in their traditional programs but that can be available online, regrouping students from different programs to create a diversity of opinions and backgrounds. It can create a very stimulating learning environment.
Create cross-universities courses
One of the other advantages of digital learning for universities, that is actually something I strongly believe in, is that you can create cross-universities programs. Many universities are now developing double degrees, but what about cross-courses. If you want to get the best knowledges from one teacher at MIT, and then contribute to one online class with an Harvard professor and at the same time complete your HEC degree, then digital learning can now allow you to do it. That is where you can get a faster access to knowledge, to other students, to incubators and in the end you can perform better.
I strongly believe that digital learning will allow us to create a new type of learning environment for students and new types of agile and efficient programs for universities.
Research now show that most of the tech giants are also looking at ways to create their own open digital learning environment, such as Google and Facebook who both launched their learning initiatives that I will present in future articles.
This is overall very positive as this will enable students and more generally learners to get up to speed with the new skills required in the 21st century and to access the best knowledge from top teachers.