The other day I found myself witnessing a scene that seemed archaic in the extreme. A man was delivering Yellow Pages directories to local homes. Physically dragging a trolley along the street and then dropping off the directories on the householder’s doorstep. It was like a scene from the reign of Queen Victoria instead of 21st Century Britain.
In the Internet age it seems ridiculous to distribute information in such a crude, wasteful and inefficient manner. I wonder how many of those directories go straight into the bin? Anyone can visit the Yellow Pages online and search for what they need across the whole of the UK. It takes a matter of seconds to find what you seek.
The same approach should apply to the way we learn at university. Technology should be applied across the board to cut costs and improve the learning experience. Doesn’t it seem incredible that we are required to buy printed books, lug them across the campus and then spend hours searching for the piece of information we need hidden somewhere in several hundred pages?
The e-Book solution would mean that we could carry an entire library of books on a single data stick. Read them using a handy netbook, computer or smartphone. Search through the content in seconds to find what we seek. Plus, we’d save an enormous number of trees and, hopefully, see a reduction in the prices we pay for these set books.
We shouldn’t stop there. The whole idea of technology is to make life easier and cheaper. I’d like to see technology used across the entire campus. Not just video streamed lectures, as I’ve previously blogged about, and e-Books but even the exam process could be updated.
One British university is already experimenting with new anti-cheating technology to enable students to take exams at home rather than at university or college. With the news that our new government is desperate to squeeze the further education sector sooner rather than later doesn’t a technological based, flexible and cost effective approach sound like a good idea? Especially if it can also ensure that standards don’t drop and fee rises are kept to an acceptable minimum.
I recently finished my exams. It was the first time in over 20 years that I had to write out exam answers by hand. This was so disconcerting a prospect that I even felt the need to practise my handwriting. Why was this necessary?
During the past 20 years I have taken many professional exams. Not one of them required me to write the answers by hand. The same applies to reports, business letters, emails, procedures etc. They were all typed out and printed. So why did I find myself sat at a desk, not too dissimilar to those of my school days, writing out answers to exam questions by hand? Was it meant to be a test of my understanding of the subjects studied or a test of my ability to handle a pen?
The more I think about it the more I feel that the learning systems in place at the University of Lincoln, and probably most other universities in the UK, need to be torn apart and rebuilt. Rebuilt with technology at the heart of the process. The benefits of greater flexibility, cost reduction and reduced waste are too great to ignore.Tweet