14 Ways Technology Will Revolutionise Education
(Higher) education will draw many benefits from the successful implementation of technology...
Technology is doubtlessly one of the most consistently reliable and impactful tools at our disposal for improvement of individual lives as well as societies. The applications are limitless, and will continue to amaze us and generations to come.
One domain in which technology is bound to make huge waves is that of (higher) education. The changing economic landscape as well as demands of students are important factors to consider: Technology will enable education to adapt to the changing times, allowing more dynamic, intelligent, effective teaching.
For all of this to happen, however, it’s important to have a plan, a bird’s eye view of milestones or critical points of intervention that could conceivably be reached or addressed with the aid of technological interventions. A few such exciting possibilities are listed below:
1. Rapid experimentation on the effectiveness of didactic methods/changes will allow teachers to use the data produced by students to improve their teaching in a more dynamic and evidence-based, reliable manner. Intuitive, easy-to-use applications for churning data and detecting patterns, if employed/integrated appropriately, will eventually allow most educators to make sense of the efficiency and effectiveness of their classrooms, without the need for extensive data analysis training or highly specialized skills.
2. Teacher cooperation and information sharing could reach new levels as specialized social platforms are designed to better cover this need. Teachers from all over the world might be enabled to communicate with their colleagues without expending much effort, meeting those with similar teaching challenges and concerns, and by connecting, allowing all those involved to be more productive. Strategies, tactics, course designs, materials, case studies and many more useful materials will be properly organized and only a click away.
3. Timely, highly relevant feedback will be enabled, as teachers will know more about their students in real-time without much effort, due to better, automated data collection and analysis. This will enable clarification of difficult concepts before they become problematic for the students’ progress, as well as better knowledge of each individual’s struggles and capabilities, thus more effective, tailored guidance.
4. Customizable, intelligent virtual classrooms might render standardized course designs obsolete, allowing various evidence-based learning activities or exercises to be imported from a large database and instantly applied. If the system were to be designed with compatibility, integration and automaticity in mind and combined with the immense data crunching powers of AI and ever-faster computers, one could even imagine software that allows the creation of virtual classrooms in which all students, whose full profiles are known (e.g., personalities, values, general characteristics, perhaps even genetics), are taught based on factors that statistically predict their success or failure rates within various pursuits. Once the perfect class is created, where students are organized for likely gains and synergies (e.g., all having similar strengths, or complementary strengths and weaknesses), the learning activities and tasks are also selected for maximal performance. The teacher would provide a human touch, carry out assessment, as well as supervising the now highly scientific process of education.
5. The use of advanced VR could allow revolutionary training for students in fields such as medicine, archaeology, astronomy and many others. Once the technology reaches its maturity, students will be able to be transported into learning environments far surpassing a lab, a field trip, or an exercise in imagination – they could walk among cells, exploring living bodies at the micro levels, they could perform surgery without any risks, they could explore the depths of volcanoes or view their simulations playing out in realistic, 3D renditions, or they could visualize advanced mathematical concepts or physical phenomena effortlessly. This would allow more and more students to have customizable, inspiring educational experiences without ever leaving the computer lab or perhaps even their own bedrooms.
6. Continuous teacher training and improvement could be achieved by institutions in a cheaper, more consistent and convenient manner, by creating virtual classrooms/platforms for teaching the teachers. Much in line with many other points in this article, analytics, AI and other technologies could be used to continuously maximize the efficacy of the system, by offering personalized training, according to strengths, weaknesses, and conceivably, a plethora of other characteristics.
1. Advanced data collection/analytics related to student activity and progress have the potential to greatly improve the experience of students as well as the quality of the services of an institution. This would be the result of allowing real-time, deep, automated insights into whether students are having difficulties, or on the contrary, are finding their assignments too easy, whether they are attending classes regularly or might need some professional intervention or help, as well as showing what works and what doesn’t in terms of course design, among others.
2. Deep personalization can be achieved when collecting detailed information about students’ preferences, personalities, backgrounds and any other revealing information, along with their success rates and progress. Advanced machine learning algorithms could, in time, be used to successfully and accurately predict the best scenario for various individuals, allowing more apt recommendations (e.g., for extra courses, activities, and even career paths or internships) to be made since program inception or at critical moments, maximizing the gains of education.
3. AI could be used to recommend reading materials to students in need based on what they have already read or the topic at hand, making the whole process of finding information less taxing, while maximizing their work efficiency and knowledge. This, along with some human input, could quickly become very trustworthy in dispensing the right material. This way, universities could further empower students to be masters over their own learning process, which can be seen as beneficial for both the student, whose sense of independence and agency is sharpened, and the university, which would save resources.
4. Reducing time spent in the classroom and on learning overall, via innovations that make learning more interactive, or enable better educator-moderated information transfer between peers, could allow students to fill more of their time with things they enjoy or other productive activities, empowering them to be more accomplished, complete human beings. This, as an additional advantage, also makes education more affordable, as a lower staff-to-student ratio will become acceptable.
5. Creation of superior support networks could be enabled by a better integration of social elements within learning platforms, placing teachers and peers from all years of study a click away, perhaps even using gamification elements to stimulate help among peers. Along the same lines, the employment of advanced bots to tackle various student questions without engaging humans could prove to be a great resource saver. AI personal assistants teaching students how to learn or broadening their perspectives, using science-based advice, may also be a possibility.
6. Creation of vast, student-sourced knowledge repositories could be enabled by integrating appropriate features into the LMS or similar platforms. Whenever students learn of a highly efficient way of solving problems, or of new valuable resources, these could be saved and shared with future students or peers with less effort, making the knowledge transfer more likely. This could even stimulate creativity and efforts to be more efficient for the social recognition it might entail.
7. Students with disabilities or constrained by various factors such as poverty, distance, or time, who nonetheless have a demand for higher education, will be better served by the universities of the future. Advanced blended or online learning ecosystems, perhaps supported by immersive technologies becoming more accessible, such as advanced VR, smart, connected homes, better implementation of peer learning and many others, will enable more of those with unusual needs cause by non-ideal circumstances to access quality education.
8. Transparent, standardized and secure personal achievement records could be enabled by technology. Much like the current transferrable credit systems, applications that safely store students’ achievements and make them easily verifiable and recognizable by institutions world-wide, as well as teachers and employers, could be designed. This would make it more difficulty for people to create false CV’s or otherwise unethically obtain unmerited benefits, while decreasing the workload in checking credentials for all those who might need to.
Challenges posed by the increasing use of and integration with technology
Like most good things, the deep integration with technology in higher education is bound to have some disadvantages, or might at least raise several concerns that should be addressed in advance.
Privacy and data safety are probably some of the most resounding issues when thinking of a system that, for the sake of personalization and efficiency, collects a lot of personal information about its users. We know from rather recent events how the collection of detailed data of social media users can massively backfire if misused. This warrants serious consideration when designing the systems to minimize the chance for massive leaks, as well as the creation of elaborate, well thought out privacy policies.
If the automated processes are allowed decision power over students, ethical issues might arise: Is it fair for a machine to decide one’s destiny, even if efficiency is theoretically the end result? Where do we draw the line between the benefits brought by automation and education as a fundamentally human and self-guided experience? Will people still feel empowered and autonomous if their destinies are seemingly decided by machines?
Social isolation, alienation and loneliness, even more than we are currently experiencing, could ensue from a system which makes distance education normative or at least very common. It is important to fairly evaluate the extent to which people can be deprived of direct contact with peers during an educational process. Highly artificial systems might have unexpected negative side effects, and researchers, as well as instructional designers, should keep this in mind.
The over-reliance on technology could create a potential for highly damaging disruptions if these systems fail, are hacked, or otherwise abused. Fail-safes and some attempt to maintain tried and tested methods in the educational process could prevent this from happening, as could heightened attention by the creators of the new technological infrastructure.
Technology is bound to revolutionize education in all its forms. There is enormous potential for using emerging and maturing technologies for the benefits of everyone involved in the process, from educational institutions, educators and their pupils, to employers and, implicitly, society at large. In consequence, the experience of students in as little as a few decades might be radically different to that of students today: More efficient and interactive, personalized and connected. Of course, there are also perils to such fundamental changes, and all those involved in building the system, such as instructional designers, deans, teachers and researchers, will have to rise up to the challenge of minimizing the negatives that might arise as well as preventing them early on.