Many aspects of daily life as we know it have been adapted/replaced by the online, electronic, hence digitized version, some examples being:
- Newspapers have online versions as well as paper copies
- E-books are very common; some writers also publish certain books exclusively as e-books.
- Digitized versions of games, eg UNO, Monopoly, ConnectFour
- Online catalogue browsing vs. paper catalogue
Why should the education sector be left behind in the era of digitization?
Before we proceed with total digitization in the education sector, it is important to understand how it functions at the moment. The latter, combined with an understanding of the need to digitize and go paperless, as well as potential disadvantages to be experienced and how to deal with them, will in turn lead the way towards understanding the market for the ‘digital student passport’ proposed by Telstra
Universities in Australia:
- Content is readily available online but there is still a requirement to buy and use non-digitized content
- There is still a need to process paper documents. All forms and application documents are available online and yet the processing time for paper documents seems to go faster.
- Assignments- students are required to submit both an e-copy and a hard copy, while retaining a copy in case there are any issues
- Universities have online portals for students but everything is not to be found exclusively online
- Not all lecturers are aware of how to access online content outside of what they teach.
- Fair few options by Universities across Australia to access and send digital content – BlackBoard, Moodle, SMART, GoogleDocs, DropBox
- Erases the need to continuously fill in same information
- Erases the continuous need for validation if information is already pre-saved and the risk that information is erroneous (Lutteroth & Weber 2011).
- Makes managing all forms and paper documents in organization, especially large ones, much easier (Lutteroth & Weber 2011).
- Erases the unnecessary need for manual staff interaction for simple tasks (Lutteroth & Weber 2011)
- Promotes asynchronous learning and allows students to develop skills for an electronic era (De Bonis & De Bonis 2011)
- On an environmental basis, going paper less is a sustainable option since it prevents deforestation.
- Promotes the aspect of independence in learning among students. They do not need constant assistance from lecturers/tutors (De Bonis & De Bonis 2011).
- Lowers the costs of having to purchase textbooks or enrol in tuition programs. Textbooks of all the courses are found on various sites in ebook format and this has made learning affordable.
- New teaching methods will be developed with the adoption of digitization in education. Digitization will enhance expansion of the teaching techniques as for the past decades it has facilitated online learning (De Bonis & De Bonis 2011).
What are the risks/drawbacks of total digitization?
- Loss of data- with everything being online and easily accessible, the risks are higher of hacking and access to sensitive information by unwanted parties
- Not everyone is tech-savvy and digitizing all content could be a little too much for everyone (Carley 2013) Universities are not only for the younger generation now, have to take into account the mature students as well
- Does not cater to people with special needs- the challenges of adding technological literacy can be overwhelming to an individual who has difficulty with learning even the traditional way (Carley 2013)
- Standardization of content over various devices- most content is sometimes designed for laptops or desktop computers, hard to navigate via phone or tablets (different screens have different requirements)
- Technology can be expensive- if going paperless, universities will have to consider making sure that all students have access to content online irrespective of their financial standing (De Bonis & De Bonis 2011).
- Carbon footprint- total amount of gases released to maintain human activities, both directly and indirectly. Larger devices have higher carbon footprints,
- Increases the vulnerability of students to potential technical problems and computer failures resulting in loss of materials and assignments causing stress in learners. This aspect leads to increased time consumption and wastage which student can use undertaking other activities (Carley 2013).
- Basic ways of learning can be forgotten with the implementation of digitization. It might encourage procrastination and contribute to poor performance (De Bonis & De Bonis 2011).
- The whole process may be shunned by the professors who may see it as a threat to the security of their jobs. Digitization enables students to learn by themselves and this does not call for a tutor (Carley 2013).
How to minimize risks in the suggested endeavour by Telstra:
- The ‘digital student passport’ will need to be a highly confidential, secure space.
- Access to the information will require strict access permissions and will have to be highly monitored (Safieddine & Nakhoul 2016).
- Increasing digital literacy so age is not a barrier in learning
- The online space will have to be easily accessible and designed to suit any kind of screen (Hasan, Ghose & Spedding 2009).
- Carbon footprint can be reduced- by promoting use of the product across smaller screens, such as tablets and larger-screen phones (Safieddine & Nakhoul 2016)
- Go Green initiatives by ICT industry (Hasan, Ghose & Spedding 2009)
- Try to make technology more accessible to each and every student
- Working hand-in-hand with educators to facilitate their understanding so they can in turn do the same for students (Hasan, Ghose & Spedding 2009).
- Making sure everyone is comfortable with online learning- some people are more comfortable with face-to-face interaction (Safieddine & Nakhoul 2016).
- Prior training of the instructors to minimise the level of negative perception they may have towards the digitization process. This process will change people’s perspective towards their understanding of the importance of digitisation in the society (Carley 2013).
Factors to be taken into consideration
- Prior to the transition of digitizing content, a lot of factors should be considered to make a decisive move. Digitization in the educational sector is accompanied by a lot of changes as described by Smith (2009) in the book Why Digitize.
- Digitization in the education sector will distort the relationship between the students and the teachers because detailed information will be available online. (Neteler & Mitasova, 2002).
- A lot of accuracy is needed. For instance, online education has been widely adapted by Universities and an error in the electronic system has at times led to false information (Neteler & Mitasova, 2002). Mass digitization of books by Coyle () describes that human error is common and this can lead to wrong lecturer notes in a designed portal inconveniencing students of a certain course hence rendering digitization unreliable.
- Digitized content also requires a lot of privacy; access to personal information by the wrong personnel’s can lead to insecurity in an institution. For instance, students can decide to hack the student’s portal and deregister other students from the school system (Smith, 2009).
- The initial cost of adopting this prototype is also high because a lot of technology and IT experts are required and can inconvenience a limited budget (Smith, 2009).
- Transition to digital systems by all learning institutions can slow the internet and the speed of access. This slow speed should be rectified or it will inconvenience users in the near future if the technology will not evolve to solve the problem (Neteler & Mitasova, 2002).
Cloud Passport- what makes it a good option?
- The proposed digitization of the education system is a good option for Australia considering it is secure in terms of theft of books and notes compared to the traditional education system (Goodchild & Janelle, 2004). However, intellectual theft is also possible through online systems
- Australia trailing to digital program platforms like the use of Smartclass a digital content library will ensure that lecturers will be able to judge how far the students have adapted a certain lesson (Bragg, 2005). However, it does not cater to individual modes of studying.
- Digitizing the education system will ease the lectures work and hence provide assurance of the security of students’ information, assignments and details.
- The paperless society will be convenient to the education sector because less space will be required in libraries or offices (Bragg, 2005).
- Information will be accessed with ease in various institutions across the country solving the limitations of the filing systems (Goodchild & Janelle, 2004). Students will access books easily online compared to the tiresome search of books in the library. While this is already available, it could be improved upon. There are still certain documents that are hard to find online.
- This digitization is labor saving because a paper society consumes a lot of time and labor such as searching or retrieving a file from an entire cabinet (Goodchild & Janelle, 2004).
The Australian government should adopt this system gradually because it also saves the printing and photocopier cost of organizations. The digitization process however should not be sudden because it will lead to mass retrenchment of workers hence affecting the country’s gross domestic product.
Issues, opportunities, barriers in the education sector in regards to digitization, how the Cloud Passport fits (or doesn’t fit)
- According to Armstrong (2015), many academic based institutions are facing hardships in dealing with traditional technologies or techniques such as crosschecking quality of students’ assignment via the appropriate software.
- There are several softwares, which should be used in schools in ensuring students, submit quality work and this is one of the opportunities when digitization can be of great help (Armstrong, 2015).
- The introduction of modernized and high speed computers can be of great help to both the students and the teachers since many institutions do not have well equipped laboratories (Chao, 2012). Those computers will support student’s research programs hence boosting their general performance.
- There are various challenges or barriers the education sector is facing as far as digitization is concerned (Patel and Vij, 2013). As for the article, lack of sufficient funds to finance digitization is one the barriers many institutions are facing in the world and this fact will affect introduction of cloud passports in school’s systems.
- Cloud passport can fit in various activities in the education sector such in filing systems and online assignment submission programs.