It is a cliche to say that technology is having a major impact on our lives.

However, many elements of higher education seem oblivious to these changes.

Although there are significant opportunities to make education better and more widely accessible, traditional education is not yet ready to take advantage of them.

One area that will have a tremendous effect on billions of lives is mobile learning.


It is a sobering thought to realise that although 2.5 billion people have access to the internet, another 5 billion do not.

Mobile technology will rapidly enable many of them to access information and learn online in the coming years. But our education system is simply not designed to support this type of learning as it is based on a number of increasingly outdated assumptions.

One of these is that learning takes place in the classroom, when for adult learners most learning has been shown to take place informally, for example in the workplace.

The second is that direct instruction at set times in set locations and to set curricula with standardised testing isthe most effective and efficient method of education, when in many cases it is not.

The third is that the social aspect of learning is secondary to the cognitive aspect.

Technology can complement and extend the classroom and in some cases offer a better alternative.

It can make learning more accessible, more personal and more relevant by placing learners and not the institution at the centre of their learning.

For learners this means that they can get support when dealing with real-life challenges, as and when they occur, by receiving advice from experts, including teachers, by connecting with other learners in similar situations, and by accessing relevant resources such as examples, templates and models.


This is not to say that there is no role for teachers -- quite the contrary, but the roles of teachers will change to those of facilitators of learning more than teachers of content.

Teachers will, among others, become curators of resources, forge connections between learners, and tailor support to individual learners with the help of technology.

This requires a complete rethink of the way education is delivered and where, and how (and in some cases, if) it is assessed.

This is possible only if our education system welcomes and actively prepares for the coming changes.

We are at a phenomenally exciting time in the history of education, when more people will be able to access education at a lower cost than ever before.

The era of classroom instruction that has served parts of our society well in the past 150 years or so is coming to an end.

Let us get ready for the next chapter.

Professor Hayo Reinders is head of the Department of Education at Unitec Institute of Technology.