In recent years, technology has vastly transformed the higher education scene. Colleges across the country have implemented various innovative methods to advance learning spaces, remodel their libraries and bolster campus security. 2017, in particular, has seen laptops, tablets, ebook readers and fitness trackers become must-have accessories for many college students. Even virtual reality has found a place in enhancing the teaching of certain concepts in the classroom.
As manufacturers and developers continue to prioritize higher education, the impact of technology in colleges and universities is poised to become even more significant in the future. Below are five trends that are spearheading the adoption of technology in the institutions of today and tomorrow.
1. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality
The world is on the verge of major changes regarding how we all interact with our computing devices. Tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft have been consistently investing in new forms of human-computer interaction (HCI) – notably VR, AR and MR – and products like the Microsoft HoloLens are already influencing the types of hardware and software that are in use in colleges.
This trend is even more compelling when we think about combining VR, AR, and MR with other HCI technologies like cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. As HCI continues to gain traction in higher institutions of learning, the future may see the development of more devices and platforms that combine AI with VR/AR/MR for a more comprehensive experience. Holograms could replace physical bodies in classrooms, and students will perhaps be able to pick their preferred learning setting, such as studying by a brook, or in a virtual Starbucks.
2. Simulation-based Learning
Educators are increasingly employing simulation techniques to facilitate active learning through repetitive and thought-provoking practice in safe, life-like environments. These virtual worlds provide to students a unique opportunity to apply knowledge and make critical decisions while incorporating some immediate feedback or reward system, which makes it easier to grasp hard sciences like biology, anatomy, geology, and astronomy.
Drexel University, for example, has collaborated with Tata Interactive Systems to provide a simulation-based learning system for their online forensic students, where they can conduct clinical assessments in the aftermath of a violent crime. A 3D virtual crime scene, complete with clues and continuous feedback, makes forensics fun and exciting.
3. Internet of Things
Although IoT technologies are primarily focusing on the consumer field, higher education holds a lot of untapped potential for the concept. Smart cities and smart campuses, for instance, are areas of keen interest among tech developers. Some systems in colleges, such as light controls, sprinklers, parking space monitors and building alarms are already internet connected and are significantly improving operations. Future iterations of IoT will likely be more intelligent, requiring less human interaction.
The Internet of Things could also motivate higher learning institutions to create IoT degrees and certificates that meet the changing job market. The “new intelligent things” such as drones and robots are expected to motivate the creation of more than 100,000 jobs by 2025. This will likely drive institutions to introduce new programs, similar to the way hacking has presently driven cyber-security degrees.
The Unmanned Vehicle University is among the few institutions addressing the market by offering programs in Unmanned Systems Engineering. With IoT steadily growing its impact on our world, however, it won’t take long for others to follow suit.
4. Digital Literacy
While previous generations of learners first experienced technology at school, today’s students first interact with technology for entertainment and social communication. This path has put strains on institutions to incorporate college-friendly devices into their education systems.
Because smartphones and computers now feel as natural to students as pens and books, colleges and universities are looking into lessons that encourage them to solve real-world problems using modern technology. In some schools, an English composition course includes creating a blog and reading web scripting, while in others, history students learn how to visualize and map information digitally.
The intent of this approach is to create self-directed learners, who know how to put together the technologies they’re already familiar with to find up-to-date information and create new solutions.
5. Blockchain and Credentialing
Blockchain may not seem relevant to institutions of higher learning until we discuss it around the aspects of badging and credentialing. In essence, Blockchain is shaping up to become the technology that enables students and young professionals to maintain lifelong, cloud-based learner profiles, which can accumulate qualifications and badges based on courses and programs. Employers would then use these profiles to identify their future employees.
Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn last year, which had itself acquired Lynda.com in 2015, is proof that learner credentialing via blockchain could take off in the coming years. Now, if a student takes a course at Lynda.com, their LinkedIn profile reflects it.
The push into artificial intelligence by Microsoft and other major companies could play into creating a marketplace where employers easily find qualified and competent employees online. Institutions of higher learning will likely be among the main contributors of data into these profiles.
Recent advances in technology, coupled with the escalating demand for quality education are forcing greater scrutiny on the value that institutions provide to students. Consequently, educators are changing the way they teach, strategically incorporating a variety of innovations and team-based methods of delivering content.
If the trends above continue to gain ground, the near future may see even more disruptions to traditional learning experience, with more institutions experimenting and embracing new strategies.
Vigilance Chari currently covers tech news and gadgets at LaptopNinja. She is an International presenter and published author. When not writing, she spends her time as an enthusiastic professional party planner and part-time painter.