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2017: The year UK education was digitalised

Published 01 December 2016

Ash Merchant, director of Education, Fujitsu looks ahead to education in 2017. He predicts immersive learning will become mainstream and education will see a step change in its take-up of digital technology

 

This year the UK education industry has discussed the effects, implications and the opportunities posed by the fourth industrial revolution: digitalisation. We have seen many emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual and Augmented Reality and the Cloud take hold of other industries and change them beyond recognition.

But more is coming. 2017 will be the year the education sector is propelled into the digital age with once considered ‘innovative’ teaching techniques like gamification already becoming outdated and immersive learning no longer considered a ‘future practise’ but something that will be implemented into every classroom.  

These are the predominant game-changing shifts we can expect to see happen next year in the education industry:

Educational institutions will begin their own digital transformation journey

A recent study commissioned by Fujitsu found 96% of UK’s business leaders admit their organisation must evolve before they can thrive in a digital world and 44% admit their businesses will not exist in its current form in five years. Education is no different.

Already, educational institutions are considering how they can do things better, more efficiently and in a connected way. This also comes with the impending consolidation of colleges and campuses resulting in less physical sites but serving larger audiences of students. The only way to cope with success is to embark on a digitalisation journey, implementing technologies both within back end infrastructure and the classroom. This will help support institutions adapt to a consistently evolving educational landscape.

On course into the cloud

As a result of prediction one, to support institutions embarking on their digital transformation journeys we will see an increasing use of hybrid-IT technology for data storage and management. This has also been encouraged due to the impending EU General Data Protection Regulations which is of concern to many schools, predominantly Higher Education institutions.

In 2017, by working with on premise storage and cloud technologies, schools will be able to proactively manage archiving processes and ensure compliance as well as feeling confident in the security benefits that come with a hybrid IT approach.

Security will be a priority in all aspects of education

2017 will see a huge emphasis put on holistic security of education.  It will begin with securing the infrastructure of institutions themselves. As education becomes ever more digital, with increasing volumes of devices accessing networks, educational institutions open themselves up to a new threat landscape of malicious cyber-attacks and human-error breaches. So we will see board-level conversations beginning and ending around the security of the schools’ IT infrastructure.

This will then trickle down into user security. Schools are now under more pressure to ensure the online safety of their students – especially since September this year when the government issued new, stricter, guidelines around safeguarding children online. Years ago, the safety institution was the school. However, as the canvas of digital learning continues to expand, technologies like IoT and daily use of social media are becoming part of daily learning life. This means being within the four walls of a classroom is no longer the safest place to be. 2017 will be the year in which education for students around social media, cyber bullying and digital identities will become a necessary inclusion in the curriculum.

A shift from STEM to Cyber skills learning

STEM education has been a long discussed issue; the fact that not enough students are engaged in STEM education resulting in the lack of talent with these skills in the workplace. However, 2017 will see this conversation move on to more granular and specific skill sets.

Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, Robotics and Digital Forensics will be the hot-topics of conversation when it comes to the skills industries are lacking and what we need to be encouraging children in school to take up learning. However, the challenge that will come to the fore is who will teach the students these skills? With industries already desperate for this kind of talent, educational institutions will need to invest in upskilling teachers who can support these new learning subjects.

Immersive learning will become mainstream

Over the past several years, the concept of immersive learning has been discussed as a product of the future. However, in 2017 it will very much become a reality. Technologies like Augmented and Virtual Reality that once seemed perhaps gimmicky, will become a common learning tool in education. You only have to look at how quickly gamification moved from being a debated tactic to part of mainstream teaching.

This will be, in part, due to the low costs and accessibility of this kind of technology for educational institutions. Schools can now afford an Oculus Rift for the school, Google Cardboards for every student. Even 3D printers which can bring written textbook ideas to life are simple to come by and very affordable. 2017 will truly change what the four-walled classroom of yesterday will look like.

A new frontier for education

Perhaps due to its slow uptake of digital technology, the education industry will be the one that sees the biggest pace change in 2017. It’s only now beginning to realise the incredible opportunities and benefits digital transformation offers the learning arena, not only from a teaching perspective, but that for the back-end IT infrastructure and day-to-day running of educational institutions.

2017 will truly be the test for schools. They will need to jump on board and begin their digital transformation journeys or risk falling behind. However institutions must also realise it is more than just buying and implementing off the shelf technology in the classroom. The fabric of any successful educational organisation is recognition of how we support future generations with digital technology so they can learn, lead and innovate in a digital economy

Ash Merchant is director of Education at Fujitsu







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