How could Information and Communication Technology (ICT) transform old ways of teaching, learning, researching in higher education? Could they contribute to broader access to tertiary education and to the reduction of its cost?
The continuous development of information and communications technologies is one of the drivers of the knowledge economy. Technology continues to gain ground in higher education and has already enhanced the on-campus student experience, through student portals, Internet access, digital libraries, and the ubiquity of laptops, handhelds, and other edge devices. Universities and vocational higher education institutions are gradually bringing e-learning into the mainstream of their educational programmes, and it is often an integral part of a classroom-based course. Digital technologies have also dramatically changed academic research, thanks to rapid acceleration of computer and network performance, which have allowed researchers to access and manipulate massive data-sets, to simulate, model and visualise more complex systems, and to strengthen international communication and collaboration in research.
However these technologies have not yet revolutionised university teaching and access as thoroughly as was predicted by some, and their past influence and future promises now tend to be considered more cautiously. Like other innovations, e-learning might, however, live up to its potential in the future and enable new ways of teaching, learning, and interacting. Student expectations will be an important factor: many of those who will enter higher education in ten years time will never have known a time when they did not have access to the Internet for learning and games. While e-learning technologies set important challenges, primarily financial, technical, and quality, their versatility, flexibility and the possibilities they offer to expand access, convenience and personalisation open avenues that still need to be explored.