Technology, education and business - Business Works
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Technology, education and business

Paul Braham, Director, Ricoh UK The education sector is more optimistic than its peers in Financial Services, Healthcare and the Public Sector when it comes to the impacts of technology. 90% of education leaders, the highest of those surveyed, believe that technology has made them more imaginative and creative at work, with 80% saying that it has also made them more productive. The insights are from a study called Humans and Machines, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Ricoh, which investigates the impacts of technology on human creativity and intuition across major industry sectors.

"Education, business and the economy create a continuous cycle that is the backdrop to the UK being a leader in the global landscape," says Paul Braham, Director - IT Services and Professional Services, Ricoh UK. "No matter what direction we look at this sequence, all feed off the other to perform and advance. The impact of innovative technology across the UK’s educational institutions is a challenge that is also reflected across the wider business landscape. Technology services today are shaping the way all organisations and public sector authorities are operating, from the C-suite boardroom executives down to every employee or student. The education sector is being held back by out-of-date working practices as it struggles to keep up with the pace of technology-led change, but as our latest study proves, the sector is more open to change and the right steps are being made."

The majority (71%) of education leaders also say that technology has helped them to make good decisions. A further 72%, again the highest of any other sector surveyed, said they believe that the interaction between professionals and technology will be hugely beneficial for the economy as a whole.

However, when converting its optimism into results, the biggest challenge for education leaders is that technology is evolving more quickly than its processes or ways to use it – more than half (52%) said this was the case. Nearly 9 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," continues Paul. "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 sheer wealth of technology now available is an enabler for growth for the UK economy but also has to be treated with caution. Information sharing within educational institutions is becoming increasingly complex, given the challenges of enhancing education quality for both students and teachers, juggling an increasingly mobile and digital environment with budgets continuing to be squeezed. If we think of the technology available for educational authorities the list can become very long, very quickly; from cost efficiency, classroom technology, shared and managed services, green ICT, and online as well as remote working and learning."

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.

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 he says, "If higher education remains the way it is, with its 19th-century model of lectures, then within ten 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 following 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.

Paul Braham says, "The respondents of the survey are positively embracing the benefits technology can bring to the education system in the future. However, by 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."

"The restraints and choices can be a cause for headache, but these complexities need to be harnessed for the opportunities to be unleashed to become a driver to steer the entire UK business landscape, public sector or otherwise, into a flourishing environment. As all budgets continue to be trimmed, the CIOs and IT executives shaping the investments made for the UK’s classroom and back office technology systems need to make the right decisions that will benefit the workforce of today as well as the generation of tomorrow that will become the future decision makers and global leaders."

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