Like so many other things in life, the advent of the internet has changed the way we act. Not too long ago, if you wanted to purchase something, you took your chance at a local mall and hoped they had what you wanted. Now, you research your choice online, look at customer reviews and often make your purchase on your smartphone.
Education similarly has had gone through a revolution. Technology has changed the way educators teach and just as importantly, the way students learn.
Part of the reasons for the change can be linked to changes in technology themselves. High-speed networks provide access to information from around the world and research is available to be shared that was simply unavailable previously.
However, this is not the only reason and perhaps not even the most important. Simply put the volume of knowledge accessible to students now, exceeds anything previously available. This requires students to learn, evaluate and apply this in new ways, while the overall pool of knowledge continues to grow.
With the continued growth of technology, students have the ability to access and share more than any previous generation. Students have come to depend on technology as they use it in different ways to develop essential skills.
Students expect that learning pays dividends. Whether that is based on income or title. However, as education costs continue to increase, this assumption can sometimes be found wanting. This is where online learning comes into play as a possible option.
Online learning offers many benefits to the modern student. Perhaps the most obvious is in the area of cost, but equally as important is the choice. Self-directed and non-formal learning allows students to proceed at their own pace. While this can be a cost-effective solution, it does have its own challenges, not least of which is the implementation.
Legacy classroom education cannot simply be transitioned to an online format. Courses need to be designed to take advantage of technology and changes in learning.
Early efforts at online learning focused very much on delivering content purely in textual format. New courses are much more interactive with a focus on teaching students to be technologically literate learners.
Education portals offer a single point for all information on a students progress. They detail current marks, attendance, homework requirements and a host of other information about a student. In addition to adminstrative information, portals also provide a single point for courses.
Portals need to be designed to connect students, teachers, and parents regardless of location or device. They need to be considered as an extension of the school. Well designed portals should provide timely and accurate information in a simple format.
Portals might be the solution for students, teachers, and parents, but they do not come without their challenges.
For example when you consider the complexity of certain sites where information is hidden within sub menus and under non-intuitive names, it’s important to keep portals as straightforward as possible.
In addition, it’s important to realize that teachers, students, parents and administrative staff all need portals for different reasons. Giving each of them the same information and privileges defeats the purpose.
This is where simplicity comes into play.
Similar to the earlier point about simplicity, it’s important for your portals success to have it work with other systems. When portals are designed as islands and in isolation, they might look and work really well, but they will not provide the functionality that they should.
If your portal does not provide access to all of the services that a student, teacher or parent needs it will fail. The best way of succeeding is making your portal the hub for all the services. Ideally, each of these services should “feed” into a single pane so that the user is kept contained in one place.
If this is not possible, a single sign-on option should be available with links to other systems and services. Forcing the user to sign in multiple times for different services is the worst case scenario and should be avoided at all costs.
Finally in today’s economy it’s critical to consider mobile in any development. With data usage growing by leaps and bounds, mobile is at the forefront and any portal designed without this in mind is going to miss targeting a significant share of the market.
Smartphones and tablets are becoming ever more powerful and popular. Forcing users to use a website is a losing strategy. Mobile applications with GPS integration can be personalized to a much greater degree.
These applications can be configured to push alerts to notify individuals directly. In addition, mobile apps not only look more professional, but they are also often significantly faster.
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