A massive 90% of education leaders believe that technology has made them more imaginative and creative at work, while 80% say it has made them more productive. 
This and other insights are from a study called Humans and Machines conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Ricoh Europe, which investigates the impacts of technology on human creativity and intuition across major industry sectors.
“The education sector is more optimistic than its peers in financial services, healthcare and the public sector when it comes to impacts of technology,” says Richard Pinker, MD of Ricoh SA.
“Seventy-one percent of education leaders also note that technology has helped them to make decisions, 72% that they believe the interaction between professionals and technology will be hugely beneficial for the economy as a whole and yet, the biggest challenge for education leaders is that technology is evolving quicker than the processes or ways to use it.”
Nearly nine in 10 sector respondents (88%) agree that human-technology interaction will only add value if humans are more creative with the processes developed to connect the two.
“The positivity from global education leaders is uplifting, as the sector focuses on transforming for the future,” says Pinker. “But the pace of change is fast, driven by technology, and the students who are entering the education system.
“It is also driving the need for administration and learning environments to review and change the way they work. More efficient and innovative processes are required across a range of functions from attracting new students to enrolment and student services.”
The rewards for those that are able to keep up with the pace of technology-led change are high. For example, higher education can use big data and analytics to improve student processes and remain competitive. By adopting a digitised application process and data analytics, universities can feature personalised information about an individual’s studies and interests.
The process will also help to reduce overall marketing and production costs too, as on-demand production will reduce the overall volume of information created and reduce storage costs.
Further efficiencies can be gained by managing all data via a cloud service. Such optimised processes will increase agility, allowing education establishments to adapt more quickly to further technology-led change. Improved efficiency will also support establishments seeking funding. Universities should first try to ensure that existing resources are efficiently used in order to obtain funding.
The need to remain efficient and competitive is also essential as the popularity of massive open online courses (MOOCs) increases. This model offers the appealing vision of democratised education, bringing learning to millions of people who would never have the opportunity to attend university.
Future competition may even come from business – Wim Westera, a Dutch physicist and educational technologist at the Open University of the Netherlands, is quoted in the report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, where he says: “If higher education remains the way it is, with its 19th century model of lectures, then within 10 years we will have Google University and Walt Disney University taking it over.”
However, survey respondents believe the interaction with a real human being will remain essential in education in the future.
When asked where human intuition was most critical the most popular response was teaching itself (34%), closely followed by the development of new teaching materials (27%). It is most likely that technology-enabled learning will mean that the role of teachers and lecturers in the classroom will change rather than disappear.
Pinker says: “The respondents of the survey are positively embracing the benefits technology can bring to the education system in the future. However, accelerating the pace of change and transforming the traditional ways of working are essential if they are to continue to boost the knowledge economy and support the needs and demands of the next generation.”