Innovation isn’t just limited to the business world. Just like businesses, educational institutions also have a need to be innovative.

In my consultancy I am seeing more and more institutions that are acting on the realization for the need to improve the art and science of education. They are looking to create an improved culture of effective education and make it available to a wider audience.

Institutions of learning have been around for quite a while, of course, so it’s not surprising that they may be entrenched in centuries-old approaches and methods. Regardless, the advancing pace of technology is driving a rapid evolution of education.

The tools are changing. Traditional chalkboard, textbook and lecture room are evolving to interactive electronic whiteboards, eBooks and video distance education. Video and Internet conferencing technology is now providing for the realization of quality long- distance education, and with mobile computing learning can be accessed anywhere at any time.

You don’t have to be a student at MIT or even live in Boston to listen in on some of their university lectures. Since 2001, through MIT’s OpenCourseWare program, not only introductory, but also advanced engineering, math and sciences courses have been made available to the public on the Internet and through iTunes U.

There are many other universities that also are making many of their courses available online, and it isn’t just interested students who are taking advantage. Many professional teachers are utilizing online courses to see how they might better organize and present their own material.

Tools such as interactive whiteboards and electronic voting systems, also known as “clickers” are not only helping students become better engaged in the conventional lecture, but also are providing almost real-time feedback to teachers and administrators on what is working and what isn’t.

Use of clicker technology can even allow instructors to better gauge the interest, experience or ability level of the audience early on and adjust their content or lecture style to match.

Electronic surveys allow teachers to get post-course feedback on what might need improvement in the future. From another perspective, surveys, blogs and social networking allow students to better match their interests with courses and teachers.

The best ways to use new tools will obviously evolve as their potential is better understood. Using these tools effectively will require time, training, and new approaches to the traditional classroom. However, it is clear that getting an objective handle on what works and what doesn’t ultimately stimulates improvement and can help our valuable educators succeed even more to their potential.

For teachers there has never been a better time to reach more pupils, and if you are a student, there has never been a more exciting time to learn.

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