From Information Overload to Collaborative Learning: Why Higher Ed Needs Higher Tech

From Information Overload to Collaborative Learning - Higher Tech for Higher Ed: Image of student holding a smartphone

Our campus communities -- students, faculty, staff, alumni -- deal with information overload across many platforms and apps. Isn't it time we brought campus communication and learning into one high-tech ecosystem?

Editorial by Kathy Edersheim (President, Impactrics LLC) and Yasim Rahman (CEO, Unio)

Today, while we all deal with massive information overload, this is an acute problem for students. Simply by carrying a smartphone, students are bombarded with information almost constantly. And, as mentioned in a recent Nielsen study, 98% of students from age 18-24 own a smartphone. Millennials wake up with their phones, sleep with their phones, take their phones to their bathrooms and, yes, some check it during sex. (See this study on smartphone separation anxiety.) The massive data deluge leads to information overload, confusion, and a general lack of focus and attention.

Colleges need to do whatever they can to simplify navigation of the educational experience to foster a positive experience and successful completion. It is shocking that only about 60% of high school graduates who started college in 2009 finished within six years - by 2015  - and that challenges in coping with college were a key factor.

Where does all the information – and information overload - come from? Students (and alumni!) have a myriad of apps and functionalities on their phones vying for their attention. For a typical student, a small sample might include:

  1. Social Media - You Tube, Snap Chat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram
  2. Chat platforms - Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS, FaceTime
  3. Email - Personal emails and college email through gmail, outlook, yahoo, etc.
  4. Learning Management Systems (LMS) products - Canvas, Blackboard or other college related LMS.
  5. Gaming Apps and Sites – College students are avid gamers and half of them skip studying to play games. WHO is planning to recognize “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition in 2018.

Colleges compound the problem of apps and platforms competing for students' attention by distributing massive amounts of information relating to a wide range of topics of varying importance across multiple channels and platforms. In doing this, not only do colleges add to the onslaught of information—sometimes conflicting information; they also miss the opportunity to bring all of these communications into a single ecosystem and by doing so, connect students across campus with faculty, administrators, and alumni on one seamless platform. We also know that alumni wish deeply to be connected with the faculty, that many faculty members want to be more connected with each other to share research and pedagogical techniques and resources across departments, and that students often arrive at their college or university seeking experiences that will connect them with a larger learning and social community.

Colleges need to streamline their communications and find the students, faculty, and alumni where they are: on their phones. While some colleges have upgraded their technical infrastructure and now provide a mobile platform to address some of the communication needs, there are multiple mobile apps or web sites that students must comb through to gather the required information and the user experience tends to be poor. Because the apps provide scattered functions and aren’t integrated, they add to the confusion as well as the overload of information.

What we need is an integrated ecosystem.

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Contact the Authors

Yasim Rahman is the Cofounder and CEO of Unio. Unio is an integrated collaboration platform for colleges that promotes internal collaboration among students and connects students with faculty and alumni to improve student outcomes. Yasim has more than 18 years IT experience with 14+ years global consulting experience and holds an MBA from Yale School of Management. Yasim can be reached at

Kathy Edersheim is the Founder and President of Impactrics, LLC. Impactrics provides the tools and guidance to support educational institutions around the world committed to improving educational effectiveness through enhanced alumni engagement. Kathy was the Senior Director of International Alumni Relations and Travel at Yale University prior to starting Impactrics and can be reached at

Photo above by Rawpixel on Unsplash.