Since the pandemic began, academic institutions across Europe have worked quickly to enhance the hybrid learning experience of studying and attending online classes, along with in-person teaching to support new ways of learning.
But over 18 months later, a new study from Sony Professional Displays and Solutions has revealed that greater investment in digital technology is still needed to ensure students can thrive in today’s learning environment, whether at home or on-campus.
According to the research, European students are not seeing their technology needs met by universities, with almost half (49%) stating the current IT infrastructure provided by their institutions doesn’t provide a quality experience for hybrid or remote learning. Despite this, only a third of European Higher Education IT decision makers (ITDMs), who were also surveyed by Sony, are treating the investment in distance learning technologies as a high priority.
Sony’s survey results also revealed that lack of investment is forcing students to use their own funds to fill the gaps, with over three quarters of students (78%) having considered purchasing their own tech to support their learning needs. Over 65% of students said they have spent up to €578 during this academic year alone, which has raised concerns regarding inequity amongst peer groups, where some students have better tools than others depending on socio-economic status.
As we look to the future, one thing is certain, hybrid and distance learning are here to stay, and findings show that over three quarters of students (79%) agree university experience would improve if money was invested in online and hybrid learning technologies. Over a third (34%) of students feel disconnected from their peers which illustrates the need to facilitate and support student collaboration through tech with both distance and on-campus learning – helping students feel connected to one another.
Technology companies like Sony have been helping institutions convert their institutions to hybrid learning-friendly environments, providing students with the same learning quality from the classroom and at home. With a variety of innovative solutions such as remote cameras and beamforming microphones to capture lecturers’ and students’ speech without noise or feedback, they provide a seamless and engaging learning experience whether students are in the room or accessing sessions remotely.
In addition, utilising display technologies enables the highest quality collaboration and smart integration for students on premise, while AI tech like Edge Analytics can aid remote students by extracting Handwritten notes and diagrams from a board or screen, to display them in full view.
While ITDMs in universities across Europe largely agreed their institutions need to do more to help support students with changes to learning environments (92%), survey data also indicated that their priorities may not be a match with what students feel is lacking. For instance, over three quarters (78%) of students said AV tech such as collaborative smart displays and projectors are important regardless of the learning style, while only 40% of decision makers interviewed said that they plan to invest in this area in the next five to ten years.
When it comes to the learning environment itself, over a third (37%) of students state they still prefer in-person learning, against just 13% who prefer to be fully remote. However, over a third of ITDMs state distance learning tech is their current priority, with 92% stating they plan to invest in tech for distance learning in the next year. Moreover, of those who believe their institution can and should be doing more to help students with changes in learning state, just over half (55%) say their focus remains with on-campus technologies.
It is clear from the findings that universities and decision makers in higher education should be investing not only in remote solutions but in core technologies that enable the new hybrid environment that will support the needs of every student, whether remote or on campus.
Alexandra Parlour, Education Marketing Manager, Sony Professional Displays and Solutions said: “In a changed world, hybrid learning has become central to teaching and learning strategies for students at all levels, but this research indicates that there are still major gaps when it comes to the technology universities are providing, and what students need for success. What we’re also seeing is some disconnect between what ITDMs are prioritising with their available resources compared to student preference”.
“At Sony we believe that technology is key in making lessons more engaging, as well as providing support for teachers and enabling better student outcomes.
“Through implementing simple but effective digital tools, educational institutions across the world have a huge opportunity to not only maintain the continuity of teaching, but to stay competitive in a changing world where students need a balance of both online learning and on-campus solutions.
“As a company that understands how the impact of the pandemic has changed the entire higher education landscape, Sony is consistently working to develop new innovative solutions that can enhance students’ understanding of educational content to better the learning experience while considering individual needs,” Parlour added.