How tech is shaping academic research

There’s a lot of talk about technology changing education and the college-experience. So far there’s little evidence that better technology has seriously changed the way schools or universities operate.

Besides a few massively open online courses (MOOCs) and better university platforms, much of the experience of learning at a big institution has remained the same.

The average student could be expected to write a thesis that abides by traditional formats and hand in a printed version.

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But technology may have had a bigger impact on the other side of academia – research.

In some ways, academic research has always been on the bleeding edge of technology. Computer scientists created a special software to so complex statistical analysis back in the 1960’s. That software, known as SPSS, is still around today. It prevents researchers from having to do linear regressions by hand.

Complicated academic research has a long history of leveraging technology to boost results. The tradition continues as faculty use online platforms to help them with things ranging from data collection to predictive analysis.

Cloud data applications like Qualtrics are designed specifically for universities. The software can handle complicated research tasks but the interface is simple enough to let graduate students experiment with ease.

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While tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and IBM push for deep learning algorithms and big data analytics, the first place these tools could get tested is probably a university.

Researchers work with piles of data collected over years from different parts of the world. Often, quantitative and qualitative research require data collection and automated surveys conducted on a large scale.

But newer platforms haven’t just helped scientists and researchers with the technical nitty- gritty.

Some platforms, like Mendeley, actually help academic researchers and scientists from across the world network, collaborate, and collate their work. Zooniverse takes a crowd-based approach to scientific research and Elsevier is hoping new technology will change the way research articles are published and shared.

In a lot of ways this evolution of research is natural. Researchers seek out logical and structured tools that help them find insights in vast streams of data.

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This is exactly where technology shines. Sophisticated new algorithms can collect humongous data at the speed of light and analyse them to recognise patterns instantly.

Technology companies are hoping their artificial intelligence software and predictive analytics platforms can help researchers gain unprecedented insights.

The world can expect better research and impactful studies as science gradually goes digital.