Information Technology and Education: 2013 Update

Information technology’s continues to be used in ways that may radically transform the education system. The following video highlights a number of areas that information technology may be used in education today and in the future:

This post provides supplementary information on this subject that has emerged since the original post in 2011. That post detailed Educause survey results that examined the use of information technology at that time and that is updated with the 2012 Educause report that is discussed here. It also looked at the arguments against the way that information technology is being applied in education from David Noble and some further information on his arguments is presented. The student and professor experiences of online education are also discussed in this post. MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) have been the subject of frequent discussion, especially in the past year. These were not discussed in the previous post and are introduced.

Educause‘s Center for Applied Research undertakes a study of undergraduate students and information technology in North America¬†on an annual basis. Their 2012 report revealed a number of interesting key findings. First, students seem to recognise the major academic benefits of information technology. Their views vary on the use of technology by institutions and instructors – they think some do a good job while others don’t. They juggle personal and academic interactions online and say that they prefer classes with online components. The main findings are summarised in the following infographic:


The case against online learning was articulated by David Noble, a professor at York University in Toronto. The arguments that he made were articulated in the 2011 post to this blog. The following video introduces Noble who was often in conflict with university administrations:

Noble’s concern was around what he called “digital diploma mills” that issued substandard degrees. The following video describes one example of this in Florida:

In recent years concerns over digital diploma mills seem to be growing with Barack Obama speaking out against them recently in a speech to the US military:

While diploma mills remain a concern, there is also growing understanding that there is a range of quality in online education. In understanding that quality it is helpful to have an understanding of the various theories of learning and to reflect on these as we consider particular online methods and courses:

One of the arguments that is used around the use of technology in modern education is around the disconnect that is thought to exist between technology in the lives of modern students and the methods used in the classroom by professors. Michael Wesch produced a video with his class that has become a classic in the discussion on this topic:

The quality that is possible in online education and its fit with modern lifestyles is discussed in the next video which takes a strongly pro online learning position:

Student perceptions of online learning have been mixed – the following video provides some student perspectives from the Colorado Online Learning System, where views appear largely positive but some concerns also exist:

Professors’ views of online learning are also mixed. In the next video one professor gives his view of how he sees it working:

This professor appears to some degree sceptical of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Classes) that have become the subject of significant interest in the past year. These are courses that are delivered to thousands of people online for free from high quality universities. The business model for this innovation is still evolving and it is not yet clear how they will be self sustaining from a financial point of view. Most still use a traditional lecture approach and the impact that they might have on the universities that they come from in terms of branding and financially is also unclear. The¬†leading organisations in the MOOC field are Coursera, edX, Udacity amd Udemy. The following video from PBS explores MOOCs and their impact on traditional education:

This post has discussed the recent Educause survey of students and information technology in learning. It has highlighted concerns around digital diploma mills and it has looked at the variations in approach to the design of online courses and the quality that can be achieved. Interest is high in MOOC’s and these are described and discussed.

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