Over the past few decades, a lot of things have changed when it comes to how we use mobile and online technology in order to communicate and interact with each other. Whether for the purpose of keeping up to date on current events, or looking up facts, or simply just for random entertainment, innovations in IT has improved it by leaps and bounds. However, one sector of society seems to be left behind by all the innovations made in IT, namely the Education sector.
Schools and colleges remain grounded and governed by a highly rigid world that depends on a sense of time, a fixed set of roles, a concrete place, a strict set of content, a physical diploma, and a bureaucratic environment in which students are inferior to instructors in every aspect of the learning process.
Outside of the Education sector, on the other hand, boundaries are constantly being erased whether they’re institutional or political, and people regardless of age are participating in their respective social spheres in a wide variety of ways. This meant that a lot of our younger students are forced to live double lives – in which one finds them in complete control of information and their social identities, while the other forces them to conform to an outmoded and strict one-size-fits-all environment.
In a way, this conflict between cultures can be referred to as The Cloud against the Fog, and tends to prove that the future of higher education may be found within the cloud. For instance, colleges can leverage several cloud-based technologies in order to encourage students to be more innovative and productive, nurturing the kind of students that place importance in their own education.
The term cloud refers to a virtual world that is interconnected through the web or through mobile networks. Due to their interconnected nature, cloud-based systems can learn about the users quickly, with such systems able to mine user-related data with every log-in and keystroke. Said data can then be fed back or shared with researchers and other users and systems.
The Fog, on the other hand, represents the bureaucratic lack of access to information, red tape, and policies that are layered over each other and covering a world full of rules and regulations. The Fog cannot readily adapt to a more open and transparent society. One key difference between the two is that Cloud can offer a systematized process of transferring and articulating issues of students, while the Fog can only make it confusing and expensive.
This is not an encouragement for rampant, unchecked data mining, but rather a wake up call, stating that big data, real time analytics and digital identities are already here. The games students play, such as those on Zynga, and the services they use like Amazon or iTunes, already know more a lot about our children than they do themselves, than the education system that we have entrusted their futures to. With the cloud, higher education can provide a powerful and smart system that helps mold students into future innovators and productive citizens.
Unfortunately, a lot of institutions are missing the point. Online courses, digital content, and unproven apps have been employed to pierce the fog, but these are not capable of transforming education because they do not follow the data-rich nature of Cloud. Rather, all data flows in one direction, making it as rigid and useless as traditional education systems.
To pierce the Fog, colleges must adopt the key principles that made the cloud such as strategic benefit to systems, such as:
Identity Formation and Management – basically, the cloud requires identities for its users, so the users are aware of their own identities and are also capable of control over it. Not only can it inspire the pride of ownership, it also makes students accountable and aware of their own accountability.
Social Networks and Learning Communities – learning should be enjoyable. While that doesn’t mean it should be turned into games, the whole learning process can take its cue from social networking and develop a community around it, where students can share and receive feedback from other students or their instructors. This system prevents students from being held back by demographic circumstances or inattention.
Data Mining and Assessment – colleges can be more effective in helping students and faculty members if they really know who these people are, and it can only be done by gathering behavioral data, performance assessments, and other similar factors that help online trading banking and health record systems be efficient.
One of the problems of academic systems, and the main hurdle they face, is their overreliance on “silos” – there are different buyers for different functions, from student information systems to learning management, to campus analytics and others. They need to be integrated and made more efficient so that they can serve the end users, not the administrators, better.
At the end of the day, life and society in general has improved along with technology, adopting a more horizontal system. Colleges on the other hand, remain hierarchical. This is disappointing, especially considering that the last few examples of smart use of digitization leading to degrees actually came from other countries instead of the United States. The irony is that the US is being left behind by other countries through smart and clever use of technology that the US either invented or developed themselves.