A need for better connectivity in Scotland to increase access to education has been revealed in new research.
More than eight in 10 (85%) Scottish citizens believe the Internet of things (IoT) and digital technologies will enhance education in the country.
The research, commissioned by Capita’s Technology Solutions division on behalf of the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN), explores the attitudes of Scottish people towards increasing the use of digital technologies and IoT in education.
Overall, the research shows the majority see benefits to introducing new technologies in education – particularly in enhancing learning for students with disabilities and additional support needs (91%), and connecting and improving attainment for students living in remote and rural areas (92%).
Jack Anderson, Head of Digital and Innovation for SWAN at Capita, said: “We’re seeing new technologies developing all the time which can help build smart classrooms and campuses across Scotland.
“Ultimately, these technologies can be an advantage to every student in Scotland. This is particularly true when it comes to ensuring equal access to education – especially for those in remote and rural areas – and helping them prepare for a tech-driven future.
“We’re seeing a lot of government investment into high-speed Internet across Scotland – especially for the one in five of households that remain unconnected. We now need to make sure citizens across these remote and rural regions are aware of the possibilities that come with the right infrastructure and reliable connectivity.”
Digital channels have the potential to bridge gaps between education providers and students. The research shows 84% of Scottish citizens think schools and universities should provide more remote and distance learning services.
Students can be dispersed across large geographical areas including islands, and with the shortage of teachers in rural areas, distance and remote learning services are particularly important for Scotland.
The use of digital channels can help ensure attainment in rural areas matches that in cities, where access to education services is more straightforward.
When asked about the potential of digital technologies in education, citizens were positive about a number of benefits, including interactive learning (60%), and distance and remote learning (56%).
Residents in areas like the Highlands, however, had slightly lower expectations – for instance, a fifth (20%) of those in the Highlands said they don’t see any benefits of digitalisation in education, compared to 10% overall. This is because, historically, connectivity in this region has been harder to come by so expectations are more tempered; as connectivity improves, this response is likely to change accordingly.
While the technology to provide more connected education and more digital public services is continuing to evolve, Scotland needs the infrastructure to support it, particularly in some harder-to-reach areas. The IoT and digital technologies that have the potential to transform Scottish education require secure, fast and reliable connectivity to operate.
The UK Government and Scottish policy makers are working to address this issue and build the necessary infrastructure, with SWAN supporting these efforts.