Digital learning technologies are transforming how education views itself and how students learn - to the extent that the sector 20 years ago probably wouldn't even recognise itself today. That is according to a discussion forum held in the US by Penn State University, in which expert educators discussed the sea change in methods that has been brought about by the rise of the internet.
From online learning courses to social media and other such technologies, education has been transformed around the world and subsequently the role of both teachers and students is changing. As such, educators are thinking about pedagogy (the science of learning) more than they ever have before, seeking to identify the next in a line of innovations to change how students learn - be that in physical environments or virtual ones.
One way that the technology revolution is changing higher education at Penn State is the introduction of digital badges, which exist online and serve as proof that a skill has been learned. Once earned, these badges then can be listed on a student's social media profiles and CV, identifying in a striking and visual manner the various skills that they have received training in.
Kyle Bowen, director of education technology services, says: "Badges are evidence of something learned. If a student takes a chemistry course taught by a Nobel Prize winner, there’s an opportunity there for a unique learning experience. A badge could be a way to recognise that."
Tendency towards online courses
This can make a noticeable difference with the increased emphasis that is also being placed on open online courses, which the university is now offering to students seeking credit and flexible learning environments. This is a trend that is being seen outside of higher education as well, with online courses being particularly suitable for people with non-conventional or erratic schedules.
This month saw Virtual College deliver online training on the subject of safe use of insulin to its 220,000th learner - showing the potential for these courses to be offered on a large scale. The course is offered to NHS healthcare staff following the National Patient Safety Agency patient safety alert that was issued in 2010 to highlight a lack of sufficient training in the treatment of diabetes.