“In-person education possible with digital tools”
For many years, much of the higher education industry has been perceived as very traditional. Since the onset of Coronavirus, however, it has shown how flexible the sector can be. “Now that there was no other option, education has changed rapidly. Of course, it is not perfect yet, but the fact that they did move online deserves a lot of credit. That flexibility has surprised many” notes Hylke Sprangers, named CIO of the Year in 2018 for his innovations as Group CTO of Talpa Network.
We discussed with Sprangers what innovation had to take place in higher education. The Coronavirus has accelerated digital transformation enormously. “I think this is a major breakthrough for many digital developments,” says Sprangers. “While physical distancing has been increasing, technology is bringing us closer. It can be positive in that regard. ”
Human interaction and digital tools
Higher Education as we previously knew it, centred mainly on a face to face contact, which at the moment is very limited. “When you are together in person it helps inspire each other. You get to partake in less formal interactions” says Sprangers. However, at a time when this not possible, alternatives must be used to make studying a high-quality experience. “Educational institutions have done a great job adapting so far. It started with copying what was already being done offline, then offering it via video. The next step is to add interactivity, such as real-time questions or polls, to make it a real virtual classroom. ”
In the longer term, Sprangers sees many opportunities for digital education: “If we watch a series or film on Netflix, we will immediately receive a recommendation with similar titles. Digital education has the same possibilities. Students could have a virtual personal assistant who alerts them to other learning content, based on behaviour and interests. This is a lot further down the line, but with this, you can provide students with an even more customised learning experience. ”
The value in physical education still remains high for the time being. Sprangers, therefore, sees the need for hybrid education. “Social distancing has to be respected at this time, so we will see some form of hybrid education next academic year. Students will take part of the education online and part in person. First-year students especially need to be looked after and guided, as they start a new phase of their lives. ”
“To start with, there must be clear communication between the institution and the students about the procedures in place. In addition, it is of course extremely important to guarantee social distancing at the educational institution itself. A party like StuComm with their Campus Sign-In feature can come in handy here” says Sprangers.
“We have seen that as a society we are able to adhere to certain rules when it comes to social distancing,” Sprangers says. There are certain tools that can be used to help make compliance even easier. “I think the StuComm App with their Campus Sign-In feature is a good solution. You can think of it as a kind of reservation system, which is becoming commonplace with many business starting to reopen. This provides educational institutions with easy insight into the crowds on campus. Personally, I think it is extremely important that the privacy of students is fully respected. Therefore I am glad that this feature does not track or trace individuals but registers their presence anonymously. It is an important feature that will make physical education a reality once more”.
Further development of Campus Sign-In feature
In addition to monitoring and managing social distancing on campus, Sprangers sees room for further development and optimisation. “In addition to managing the number of people on campus, the Campus Sign-In feature could also be suitable for optimising the layout of the campus. You could, for example, gain insights into the number of students attending a particular lecture. This allows you to schedule popular lectures in larger spaces, while less-frequented lectures can take place in smaller spaces. This allows you to make optimal use of the available space on campus. So I can see a number of areas with which this could help educational institutes optimism their logistics, ” Sprangers concludes.