Back to school: how technology is transforming the student experience

How technology is transforming the student experience

As the days grow shorter and we prepare for the cold snap ahead, October can prove a busy time of year for students and teachers facing the familiar demands of school life. But how has the routine changed in recent years, and what role does Barclays’ payment solutions and innovative technology play in streamlining the experience?

From paying for student essentials to easing teachers’ workloads, we explore the latest innovations worthy of gold star.

The bare necessities

Whether you’re off to college, university or distance learning, back to school means stocking up on must-have essentials for the term ahead – from textbooks to the little touches that make halls of residence look more like home. Payments of £30 and under can, of course, be made with a single tap (leaving more time to search for that all-important desk lamp) – but how have other developments in contactless enhanced this experience further? Enter Barclays’ Contactless Mobile, allowing students to link their cards with their smartphones and leave their homes wallet-free. With over 400,000 merchants now accepting this form of payment (including Visa hotspots outside the UK), users can pay for goods worth up to £300 by entering their PIN numbers – minus the bank card.

Smart apps like Pingit are also a big tick with students, allowing housemates to owe their friends for takeaway or split the internet bill – simply by linking mobile numbers. Having recently introduced the ability to store money in up to five separate jars, it’s even easier for savers to stay on top of their budgeting (and not accidently spend the money reserved for course books). Jars can be named anything from ‘morning coffee’ to ‘bus fare’ – and if the payment is under £30, they can settle with a tap from a new Pingit wearable bracelet or key fob, keeping their hands free for all the books they are carrying!

A home-from-home welcome

For those pupils studying far from home, Barclaycard Payment Solutions’ partnership with China UnionPay is making it easier for the international student community to streamline their everyday spending in the UK. With the world’s biggest cardholder base, UnionPay is now accepted by over 110,000 merchants up and down the country. Catering for the growing number of Chinese visitors to the UK – with the average tourist predicted to part with over £2K per visit – UnionPay will also benefit the influx of young Chinese settled to study here. Other Barclaycard partnerships set to favour students from overseas include Alipay – the world’s leading lifestyle and payments platform – formed in March 2019. Both consumers and retailers can reap the rewards from this collaboration, with China’s 95,000 students having access to familiar payment scenarios – and brands with the opportunity to increase awareness on a global scale.

Smart campuses

Paired with the very latest in payment acceptance, innovative technology is transforming the spaces in which we choose to learn – with the emergence of ‘smart campuses’ creeping in from the US. Built like mini cities complete with shops, banks and residential areas, one such space includes the University of Glasgow. Together with advanced urban services hub Future Cities Catapult, the city plans to grow its student metropolis with the implementation of smart tech – from always-on bus timetables to a data centre powered by renewable energy. AI will also play a key role in its ongoing evolution, powering these services so as to ensure nothing-but-seamless experiences.

Elsewhere in the UK, Staffordshire University has become the first to adopt its very own AI education tool. ‘Beacon’ – a chatbot that can be downloaded to students’ smartphones – adds a personal touch to the student experience by answering everyday questions relating to university life, whether that be timetable updates or exemption from council tax. Available on a 24/7 basis, it offers immediate support to students looking for answers – referring them to resources they may not be aware of, and even connecting them with lecturers as and when required.                                                                                     

Tricks of the trade

While exciting innovations continue to better the lives of those looking to study, the growing industry of edtech offers both students and teachers (and not forgetting the parents) a whole ecosystem of apps and software for a more seamless and enjoyable learning experience. Now worth £170m to the UK economy and with ex-teachers at the helm, edtech is moving away from the traditional education system to provide digital solutions for the classes of tomorrow.

Software and app ShowMyHomework gives both schools and pupils the opportunity to collaborate over homework via one central dashboard, allowing teachers the ability to set tasks remotely, and students on-the-go access to class schedules and homework – even including a point-scoring system for punctuality. Parents can also explore tools designed to support their children on their learning journey, with greater visibility over tasks being set.

Giving back to the community

Striving for the best possible grades – and gaining valuable life experience along the way – students up and down the UK are busy at work with their hearts and minds set on a brighter future. As technology continues to enhance this everyday endeavour, Barclays has also helped young people across the world achieve their potential in other ways. Barclays US Consumer Bank invited the young kitchen workers of Delaware to its Wilmington offices to learn about running a corporate kitchen – along with valuable CV writing skills to help them achieve their culinary dreams. Back in the UK, Barclays’ partnership with Prince’s Trust continues to support young and disadvantaged people on the road to employment, by helping them develop essential skills for the workplace, and boosting their confidence in the process.

For budding entrepreneurs, Barclays Eagle Labs also provide incredible opportunities for start-ups in 24 locations across the UK. Founded on innovation, a network of mentors, partners and experts continue to support the brilliant young minds and graduates of tomorrow with access to invaluable advice in some of the country’s most advanced co-working spaces. Together with advances in new technology, who knows what the future may bring?