Universities have always been hotbeds of transformational activity, places that put the emphasis on academic exploration and individual development. That’s not changed with the advance of technology. In fact, the adoption of Virtual Learning Environments, mobile-enabled communication and distance learning have brought precision to what can be offered and achieved.

Most universities share common goals: improve the student experience in order to impact their performance and, ultimately, enhance their ability to reach their life and career goals. This approach requires a strong focus on the learner and the use of technology to meet their needs and answer to their rising expectations. Its success depends on the institution’s ability on shifting the often entrenched culture and attitudes that exist in the hallowed halls of an academic institute.

It takes strong executive leadership to drive change and a compelling argument to show how technology works within the broader academic context of the university itself. For many senior executives, this becomes a personal mission as they look beyond any hurdles or doubts and create a technology-enabled strategy that delivers.

Implementing technology into education can’t be done overnight and requires an investment, not just financial, but in terms of change management, support and communication. The technology itself has to be resilient. Students and staff expect learning technology to be ‘always on’ and any issues with stability will affect adoption. No one will be comfortable relying on something that could fail at a crucial time, whether in the middle of a teaching session or whilst trying to submit an assignment. The fundamentals must be covered from the outset. Is the learning technology available 24 hours a day? Can it perform at the speed the users need? Is it accessible across all platforms and devices?

For many academic staff, adopting learning technology for the first time is a disruption to a well-established working practice that they have come to rely upon. It’s the university’s role to help support them with training, technical support and guidance. Staff users will need to have access to help, whether via phone, chat, email or face to face, when they have immediate questions or can’t get the system to work as they expect. It’s also vital to provide training on the new technology and explain the pedagogical best practice as well as the technical features.

Technology is an important tool that educators can use to enhance their teaching so it’s important not to throw them in at the deep-end and expect instant adoration. Universities should do their best to provide resources that can help the adoption. Whether that’s sharing links to useful YouTube channels, helping to resolve any technical difficulties or requests swiftly, or offering official training courses as part of the faculty’s ongoing professional development.

In the developed world it’s now the norm for universities to have invested in technology to help them benefit their students. But the systems aren’t always used to their full potential. Academics need to be assured that technology can make their teaching interesting, easier, more motivating and, most importantly, will improve student outcomes. If the technology available to the teachers isn’t explored and utilised, the staff aren’t just doing themselves an injustice, they’re letting down their students.

No one likes to be forced into action but, by sharing success stories and best practice, universities can create a groundswell of enthusiasm for what’s achievable as part of a lesson. And using technology for the engagement of students, from the time of application to the final assessment, can provide vital data that can be used to inform the university’s short and long-term strategy.

There’s no going back now. It’s unthinkable for a university in 2016 not to want to engage with students electronically, offer courses to distance learners or monitor the progress and success rate with the use of technology. And in the years to come, technology will continue to provide a backbone for universities, ensuring that they are able to offer their own unique learning experience faster, in a more relevant way, to a larger, more diverse group of people.

Technology is only as good as its user. If universities fail to dive deep into the beneficial aspects of learning technology, if students fail to engage and teachers seem reluctant to explore what’s possible, then successful adoption becomes unlikely. And that’s worse than a waste of money, it’s a waste of opportunity.

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