Professor Nick Barter took up the role of Academic Director (Online) this year, an inaugural appointment that acknowledges the modern-day shifts in delivery of tertiary education.
He is now striving to make modern technology work for students at Griffith University and the world they live in.
When we consider university we often have images of students sitting with their academic in a book-lined office and a rich discussion between student and tutor.
Ensuring this happens today, in a digitally enabled age where it is increasingly difficult for us to physically meet up and where students are increasingly studying online, is crucial.
This is about ensuring we use digital technology to the advantage of students and academics.
We know our students don’t see a digital world and a real world; to them it’s all one world and a range of communication methods.
We also know our students like to use technology to communicate and it typically involves the user interfaces associated with social media, as even email is a bit old hat.
Not only that, but we know we all process information differently. An idea or a question may not come to every student at the same, specific moment, but may arise in any situation. Thus, it’s important to us here at Griffith that the student can ask that question with minimal impediments, for example using a program that is intuitive to use and available on any device.
With these frameworks in mind and also our understanding of the increasing demands on students’ time we are using digital tools to offer our online students a learning experience where they feel part of a cohort. Typically, students studying online can feel isolated.
In addition, the use of digital tools also creates a platform where students can access the academic and the academic can easily get into conversations with the class, as opposed to him or her just posting notices on electronic noticeboards.
The student experience at university is critical for us here at Griffith and one of the aims we have always had is to help ensure students can access our scholars. We recognise that ensuring students can interact with our scholars is going to help bring about great outcomes.
For our online courses, the onset of digital conferencing technologies and enterprise social networks has enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of student-scholar interactions and student-to-student interactions. The digital conferencing technologies allow groups of students to work with the lecturers no matter where individuals are.
Thus, as the students travel they can still study, and as the academics travel they can still teach.
Also, the use of enterprise social networks is allowing our online lecturers to have a conversation with the whole class more easily and efficiently. Importantly, in this respect, the tool is enabling the class to more effectively connect with each other and solve issues or create study groups.
We have been amazed by how students are conversing and creating their own study groups through using some of the digital tools we deploy. Our rapid embrace of technology makes for an enhanced value proposition for students who have continual challenges to their time and who need to study online. Here at Griffith we are using the technologies to help ensure students connect with each other and with our scholars, without that sense of isolation that can be associated with online study.
In our online courses, one of the additional advantages is that our academics record high quality versions of their lectures, which students can download and watch in their own time.
Through the power of digital platforms in education, we can create a much more personal experience between student and scholar. In our view digital technologies are enhancing the student-lecturer interaction.
We know students don’t see a digital divide in the world and here at Griffith we are ensuring we don’t either so we can maximise the student experience no matter what the constraints on the student are or what their preferred communication style is.
In some respects, with the digital tools we use, it’s like we are going back to the future. Digital technology is allowing a richness of interaction that is increasingly difficult to do in the modern world.