Tech's Role In Education Is Being Shaped By An Unlikely Source

Clare Bittourna

February 21, 2018

3 min read

It can be difficult to discern exactly how cutting-edge technologies diffuse into the mainstream, especially in real time. Most of us don’t even recognize cultural sea changes as they’re happening—it feels more like a switch was flipped overnight, and now everyone you know uses Uber or has Snapchat downloaded on their phone.

In the business world, catalysts for these industry shifts can be even harder to pinpoint. What drives an entire sector to adopt new technologies? Is it the competition? Pure efficiency? Is it as simple as consumer demand?

For the education space, the answer is D) none of the above. In our schools, universities, and other academic institutions, technology’s role in education is being shaped by an unlikely source: kids.

From kindergarten to undergrad, students are signaling that they want to be engaged via the tech they’re familiar with. While we might remember a world without smartphones, those enrolled in primary or secondary education in 2018 are inherently digital natives.

When it comes to technology, the modern student has crystal clear expectations for its role in their education, and it’s up to the academic institutions (with the help of expert digital agencies), to deliver.


While somewhat analogous to consumer demand, the fact that it’s the students setting the pace for tech adoption in the classroom is still surprising.

It’s a bit more nuanced than simple customer expectations because students aren’t exactly the customers. Recipients, sure, but school policies are typically dictated by parents, faculty, and administrators (unless you count standardized test scores as student input). That is, until today.

As the Educause Center for Analysis and Research, or ECAR, has repeatedly found in their annual study of undergraduate students and information technology, the use of existing digital tools in the classroom overwhelmingly resonates with students.


Student Satisfaction of Digital Education Tools (Source)

The figure above, from the ECAR’s 2017 analysis, shows just how useful students find classroom tech. Whether it’s degree planning tools, course management systems, or reporting software, students are already accustomed to using well-designed educational IT solutions.

ECAR’s findings also revealed that these classroom tools provide a disproportional advantage to often marginalized student subgroups, and thus help to even the playing field in the college classroom.

Undergrads that identified as black, Hispanic, or first-generation college students found all of the educational resources listed in the above figure to be more useful than their white or non-first-gen counterparts.

This what the classroom of the future looks like: not just technologically advanced, but able to provide a truly equal opportunity for an increasingly diverse student base. Academic institutions who embrace the digital solutions these students are touting position themselves to provide better education to their attendees.


It’s clear students are responding positively to the tools already available to them in the classroom, but how can academia leverage tech to better serve their constituents? You shouldn’t be surprised the digital generation has suggestions for that too.


Technologies That Students Wished Were Used More In Class (Source)

The obvious conclusion from this data is that, generally, students wish their instructors used more digital tools in the classroom. And their instructors and schools are listening. More and more schools are leveraging the latest tech to help create better learning environments, and are partnering with web design and development companies to help them realize that vision.

It is worth mentioning that while students are the driving force behind the education sector’s adoption of new technology, they aren’t ready for a completely virtual classroom. In fact, the idea of a learning environment that’s entirely digital is preferable to just a scarce minority of surveyed students.


Learning Environments Preferred By Students (Source)


So if students are setting the pace for the adoption of tech in their schools, how do administrators and decision makers keep up? For starters, they can take stock of their existing digital assets—their school’s website, the course management system, the grade reporting software—and see if it’s sufficiently serving the students and faculty that use it.

Start with examining your current web presence, perhaps with a full user experience audit conducted by a UX design agency, then move on to identifying which new digital tools your stakeholders are clamoring for. Perhaps it’s a campus mobile app, a learning tool with VR capabilities, or even IoT technology.

Though students around the globe are leading digital lives, every academic institution’s constituency is going to be different. To learn how to build a digital learning environment tailored to your students, reach out to Codal today.

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