From academics to administration, interactive technology is essential in higher education

Professor using the technology in higher education to observe the nucleus of a cell

Published: May 30th, 2024

In the dynamic landscape of higher education, one thing’s for certain: the integration of interactive technology is no longer a bonus, it’s a necessity. In fact, a study* by researchers from Swinbourne University of Technology and the University of Melbourne found that students expect universities and colleges to provide a more advanced and innovative technology experience than their secondary schools provided. In this digital era, universities and colleges must embrace technology that serves the academic heart and administrative backbone of their institution.

Technology to meet digital natives where they are

Today, students and staff are technologically fluent, accustomed to using interactive tools like touchscreens and connecting virtually with others through apps. In fact, a 2024 Educause report on how students use technology specifically described students as digital natives who “prefer teamwork, experiential activities, and the use of technology” compared to more traditional education modes.

From lectures to team projects, interactive technology enriches every institutional experience, supports the exchange of ideas, and improves accessibility. It makes it easier for students and staff to meaningfully engage in learning and work settings and supports equitable participation with their peers. While groups across a campus may use this tech differently to serve their specific needs, they all benefit from its ability to foster connection, inspire creativity, and provide everyone a seat at the table no matter where they are.

Interactive technology for traditional and hybrid environments

The 2024 Educause Higher Education Trend Watch report points to the need of  higher education to increase efforts around equity and inclusion through hybrid and online courses. By employing interactive technology, campuses can offer a wider range of flexible course options that are more accessible, and as a result, open the door to students who may have passed on enrollment if in-person was the only opportunity.

During lectures, interactive tech like the ActivPanel can be used by professors to show their presentation materials concurrently to students physically in the hall as well as online. In the chemistry department at The University of California – Berkeley, professors can work through equations or show online resources that students can see in real time on their own screens. “It was amazing how you could show a video demonstration, pause it, and annotate it to explain the concept,” said chemistry instructor, Mark Kubinec. He also shared how he can pause lectures and use the panel to assign students to breakout rooms for small group discussions that help them grasp complex concepts.

Interactivity offers a platform for experimentation

Interactive technology also provides meaningful hands-on engagement experiences, whether it’s the ability to quickly sort data in a lab to make it easier to analyze from different angles, or for small groups to collaborate on capstone projects. At Boston Architectural College, the ActivPanel gives students the chance to explore designs before committing to them. Using the panel, students and professors have the freedom to explore concepts; draw, annotate, and make changes; or save an entire workflow as a reference. It’s a low-stakes way to test how ideas might, or might not, work.

This technology can also act as a portal to connections and demonstrations beyond the scope of what an institution can offer. Medical students can observe a procedure via video feed in real time. Trade students can watch master tradesmen perform their craft with tools the college may not have on campus. A report from Purdue University, for example, described how students studying the Arctic can use interactive tech to connect with scientific experts in the field through live video conferencing using a program such as Zoom, Teams, or Meet.

Interactive tech supports student life outside the classroom

Outside traditional learning spaces, interactive technology serves as a community hub for meetings, activities, and information. With materials available digitally, students are no longer restricted to a single location for study groups, tutoring sessions, or extracurricular club activities. With interactive technology, resources can be accessed from anywhere—a dorm room, the library, a study center—making it easy to share information and connect with other students, no matter where they are located.

This accessibility is a benefit to athletic teams, too. In a locker room, clubhouse, or gym, teams can display videos of past matches to analyze gameplay and teamwork, and use apps like an infinite whiteboard to flesh out new strategies. At Blackburn Rovers Sports College, students annotate video footage to deconstruct and learn from real scenarios. “Using a football pitch diagram found online, I’ve drawn different methods of play directly onto the image and invited students up to the panel to share how they might have approached it instead,” shared Ockert Erasmus, head of higher and further education.

Interactive technology benefits administrative functional teams

Utilizing interactive technology supports business continuity, helping administrative teams increase organizational efficiency and optimize processes across campuses. A holistic solution, interactive tech can facilitate staff trainings, conference calls, strategic planning, and cross-departmental collaboration with staff across multiple locations.

The 2024 Higher Education Trend Watch report from Educause highlighted the need for institutions to offer flexible work options as a means to support staff health and well-being, while also increasing productivity. As organizations continue to meet the demand for flexible and hybrid work environments to retain and recruit professionals, interactive tech is the ideal solution that makes it easy for colleagues to connect from any device, at any time, and from anywhere.

Helping the communities of higher education flourish

As higher education institutions navigate an increasingly digital-forward world, interactive technology emerges as the sustainable, nimble solution to unify a campus, streamline an institution’s tech ecosystem, foster collaboration, and keep everyone engaged no matter where they are. Ultimately, the integration of interactive tech equips students, faculty, and staff with the tools they need and demonstrates an institution’s commitment to helping everyone thrive in the rapidly evolving educational landscape.

* Keane, T., Linden, T., Hernandez-Martinez, P. et al. Digital technologies: students’ expectations and experiences during their transition from high school to university. Educ Inf Technol 28, 857–877 (2023).