As part of our continuing series on assessing 2021 IT trends, this article will move on to the education industry and evaluate the most significant changes those within this sector can expect this year.
As was the case with the healthcare industry, plenty of technologies that have long been on the cusp of mainstream acceptance have been thrust into the limelight due to the pandemic. IT innovations such as 5G connectivity, IoT, and blockchain are all starting to play considerable roles within the educational environment.
So, without any further delay, let’s examine the top seven IT trends and how they are set to make an impression this year.
#1: Online Learning via Unified Communications Technology
Despite the feeling that the pandemic is slowly drawing toward its conclusion with the onset of effective vaccines, online learning (often referred to as e-learning) is here to stay. While online learning and remote classes may have been forced on schools and colleges, the benefits they have delivered mean that they will play an ever-increasing role in delivering educational materials and assessments.
Such is the prevalence of digital learning via unified communications (UC) software such as Zoom or Teams that 85% of teachers agree or strongly agree there’s great value in using digital learning tools in the classroom in the future. With the advancement of audiovisual and video conferencing technology, not only has e-learning brought in considerable cost savings on assets such as textbooks and paper, but classes have become more authentic and collaborative.
These improvements have seemingly negated the perceived disadvantages of restricted physical learning, meaning this technology will only play a more prominent role as time progresses.
#2: Internet of Things (IoT)
Perhaps the most significant shift this year in terms of educational IT will come in the form of IoT. The impact of this burgeoning technology will be felt in two key areas.
Firstly, within the classroom, IoT will help to replace the chalk, blackboard, paper, and pens/pencils in a classroom. Today, Wi-Fi or cellular-enabled mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) can store hundreds of e-books and provide the opportunity to find other pertinent information that can be found online. The same device can also be a means of communication, for example, between a student and a professor.
Given that an average school spends about $200,000 on classroom stationery annually (as much as 10% of its budget), reusable IoT-enabled tech has the potential to have a transformative impact in the classroom.
Secondly, schools and college campuses can be run much more efficiently and securely by incorporating IoT technology. For example, IoT-enabled sensors can be used to manage attendance digitally through biometrics, tracking students’ locations in real-time, tracking school buses, keeping a tab on electricity usage, detecting the presence of humans in a room, and much more. Once again, the operational savings realized via IoT technology could be revolutionary.
#3: Big Data
High-level decision-makers (i.e., principals) and educators increasingly rely upon big data to deliver improved outcomes for schools and students. The collection of data on this scale helps to deliver vital insights that can rapidly lead to improved content delivery, educational outcomes, and operational efficiency.
According to a study conducted by the Center for Digital Education, the benefits of introducing big data analysis in education include the monitoring and prediction of a student’s performance, increasing the graduation rate, and real-time adjustment of school curricula. Just under half (44%) of educators and administrators also consider big data to be an essential tool for measuring institutional performance.
Big data will also contribute to the increasing trend of the individualization of education. In the past, the main sign that a student is failing was a drop in exam results. Today, through continuous analysis of individual student data, it is possible to provide more personalized learning for everyone, taking into account individual interests, personal knowledge, and intellectual abilities.
#4: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
Closely linked to big data, AI and machine-learning-based algorithms are playing an increasing role within educational environments. For example, big data is simply too massive for humans to analyze. By contrast, algorithms using machine learning principles to evolve as they operate can sift through terabytes of data and discern actionable insights within minutes.
From running buildings more efficiently to highlighting areas a student requires extra support, big data combined with artificially intelligent algorithms can deliver a whole host of improved outcomes.
Another area where artificially intelligent solutions have a dramatic impact is within testing and grading. Not only can they check assignments far quicker than a human ever could, but they can also perform services such as plagiarism checks with high degrees of accuracy in a matter of seconds.
#5: 5G Technology
Given the speed of the technological evolution within educational settings, it’s without a doubt that 5G networks will underpin the speed and bandwidth requirements of so-called “smart” schools. Students will need to interact with multiple Wi-Fi and cellular devices to complete their assignments in the least amount of time possible.
Not only will students benefit from the incredibly fast upload and download speeds, but they will be able to introduce new learning mediums such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. With a single 5G tower supporting up to two million devices with negligible traffic delay, the limits placed on devices will be lifted, ushering in the era of digital education.
While blockchain has made its name an emerging technology in financial transactions and encrypted data storage, its utility in the education industry is becoming more apparent.
It’s already being used by schools as prestigious as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to issue diplomas. Credentials, when stored on a blockchain, represent a much more economical and ecologically viable alternative to paper. Better still, graduates can simply send a link to potential employees rather than wasting unnecessary time and energy printing, scanning, and physically sending their documentation.
Lastly, due to the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, it’s almost impossible to tamper with blockchain-based diplomas. This feature gives would-be employers peace of mind that they are categorically viewing bona fide credentials as opposed to a fake degree, for example.
#7: Environmental Sensors
One of the most significant issues of late has been monitoring areas of schools that have previously been impenetrable to security cameras. Locker rooms, bathrooms, and other hotspots have been used to avoid the detection of problem behaviors such as vaping, bullying, or fighting.
However, IoT-enabled smart sensors can detect vapor, smoke, specific chemicals such as THC, and unusual increases in noise that may indicate harassment or violence. Administrators and security personnel are alerted in real time to situations unfolding, including the invisible threats presented by excess ammonia, carbon monoxide, or nitrogen.
IT Innovation Is Set to Transform Educational Environments in 2021
As has been the case in many industries, the onset of the pandemic has accelerated IT trends that were initially more than a few years off into becoming a reality. This year will undoubtedly prove pivotal in transforming learning into a primarily digital activity, regardless of whether students return to physical classroom settings.
Here at NCS, we can design, install, and deploy a range of networking solutions that deliver these innovative technological advancements to your educational organization. Whether you require a campus-wide 5G network or wish to leverage IoT-enabled devices to drive substantial efficiency savings, we can help.
Don’t hesitate to speak to a member of our education team to learn more about how NCS can deliver industry-leading audiovisual installations, forward-thinking security systems, and future-proof networking solutions today.