How Can Universities Meet Rising Student Demand?

Yesterday was exam results day in the UK, when students up and down the country discover whether they’ve received the grades needed to get into their first choice university. Many of those who didn’t will be considering going into clearing — the process which allows students who haven’t secured a university place the chance to apply for courses that still have openings. With a record number of UK university places available this year, there are lots of options on offer to students.

This year in the UK an extra 30,000 university places have been made available, and UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) suggests that this year, for the first time ever, student numbers in the UK may reach over 500,000. Next year the figure is likely to be even higher as the current cap on student numbers will be removed completely.

University of Michigan Image - Creative CommonsAs more and more students enter the higher education system, universities are faced with fresh challenges around how to support and service a larger student body. These challenges aren’t unique to the UK — in fact, they are often much more pronounced in other parts of the world.

Across Africa, for instance, the World Bank estimates that participation of young people in higher education is only about 7% in comparison to the global average of 30%. With a growing youth population in many countries, demand for tertiary education in the continent is only set to grow further. Technology clearly has a role to play in helping bridge the gap between educational supply and demand, and the possibilities are being actively explored through such forums as the annual E-learning Africa conference.

In the US too, even universities which already serve tens of thousands of students still consider enrollment growth a strategic priority, and are considering how they can best expand the scope of their activities to reach global student audiences.

Many universities, both in North America and throughout the rest of the world, are looking to technologies like video to offer them the ability to scale their programmes internationally. This could be via a wholly virtual model or through more of a blended learning approach.

In a survey carried out recently by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, 61% of the universities they spoke to said that they believed online and distance courses would have the greatest effect on how higher education is delivered in the next five years. In addition, a quarter of those surveyed expected online and hybrid courses to attract more students and bring more revenue to their colleges or universities. The rise of MOOCs over the past few years has already shown that there is a huge appetite for wholly virtual courses.

At Panopto, we are working with hundreds of institutions around the world and are seeing many of these trends play out amongst our user community. Many have already launched, or are planning to launch, online programmes, supported by activities such as lecture recording and event webcasting. Others are considering how they can combine the best of their bricks-and-mortar offering with the opportunities opened up by digital technologies through implementing blended learning approaches. This often starts with using video to flip the classroom, so that more basic instruction can be done in advance via bite-sized video clips or pre-recorded lecture content, thereby freeing up class time for more interactive work.

These digital developments are designed not just to help university learning scale effectively in the face of greater student numbers, but also to better serve the changing needs of learners who are immersed in digital technologies to an unprecedented extent. The U.S. Department of Education has underscored the importance of digital learning channels, finding in their own research that “classes with online learning (whether taught completely online or blended) on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction.”

Technologies such as video, then, are playing a key role in supporting student demand on two different levels.

Firstly, video can help to address the logistical issues posed when ever-increasing numbers of students want to access university learning. While institutions can’t necessary increase the size of their campus, they can, of course, expand virtually.

Secondly, while student demand for higher education has certainly increased globally, students’ demands have arguably increased too. Many students expect their institution to be able to provide compelling multimedia learning content which they can consume in the classroom, on their desktop computer in their room or on the move via a mobile device. Many of our customer institutions are using Panopto recordings to help address this requirement by allowing students to access relevant educational resources whenever, wherever – be they a student on campus, or beyond.

If you want to find out how video can help you reach new audiences and serve existing ones more effectively, take our 30 day free trial or request a demo from a member of our team.

Published: August 15, 2014