Anoop Gupta, Microsoft Corporate VP spoke of, and demonstrated how technology can be used to solve so many problems today - as well as sharing his learnings from his experiences as an educator at Stanford University.

The case for scale

A point which can never be forgotten, and which has been a recurring theme throughout this conference is that any solution will have to scale out to a much larger number of students than ever before. Not only is there more demand for knowledge workers in industry worldwide, but we also have an exponential growth in non-traditional and digital students.

People will change careers now, and their jobs will develop levels of complexity - technology will lead to skillsets changing even within the course of one role. Now more than ever we have a need for 'lifelong learning', and must teach people to 'learn to learn'. Mature students are becoming much more commonplace.

Whatever we do with technology must meet this increase in our numbers, we will need solutions that can truly scale if we are to meet demand and not leave behind a large chunk of the upcoming generation.

The opportunity for technology

One of the major plus points when it comes to working with technology is that the price is constantly, constantly falling. Laptops for just $200 are becoming commonplace now and networking is becoming cheaper and more readily available for students. But what can we do with our technology?

A major benefit that technology can bring, and an aspect that universities need to consider is that of the quality of the educators. We are often in danger of neglecting the educators, yet these are some of the most important people in terms of what a student might end up doing. Technology can give interactive feedback, measurements and metrics that can be used to improve the quality of those with the most impact on today's students.

"If the bottom 25% of students is taught by the top 25% of teachers, they very soon reach an 'average' level of achievement, or above. If the top 25% of students is taught by the bottom 25% of teachers, they end up at the 'average' level themselves"

Another question to consider is, how can we scale cost effectively? Most institutions think they need to run the IT systems on their own and be independent from everyone else. This is not accurate and it certainly isn't cost-effective. Institutions need education on why partnering with the industry is a good idea, and how it will benefit them.

Carl Wieman was mentioned as a key researcher and innovator in the areas we're discussing, specifically around science education. His various publications make good reading around technology improving education, and he has already had some interesting ideas, such as a collaborative, free, e-learning environment for science students; PhET.