The future of technology in higher education

The future of technology in higher education

Technology continues to shape the internationalisation of higher education. Every year New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE releases the Horizon Report that focuses in on the future of technology in higher education. Many of the findings are relevant to the work we do as international educators. The 2017 report was based on discussions with 78 experts in the field. This blog explores some of the report’s findings and big-picture trends driving higher education technology adoption.

Long-term trends (five or more years)

  • Advancing cultures of innovation: higher education institutions will need to nurture opportunities and, more importantly, a culture that encourages entrepreneurship, discovery, and experimentation.
  • Deeper learning approaches: a movement for more student-centered methods of learning, such as project-based learning, challenge-based learning, inquiry-based learning, is gaining momentum.

Mid-term trends (three to five years)

  • Growing focus on measuring learning: assessment and evaluation of learning continues to develop and gain emphasis. Learning analytics and visualization software are technology tools that facilitate measurement.
  • Redesigning learning spaces: to accommodate active learning, learning spaces are remodeled to ‘smart rooms’ to encourage deeper learning approaches. Duke University created a virtual classroom to easily connect CEOs from around the world with students.

Short-term trends (one to two years)

  • Blending learning designs: creative online learning approaches, such as the flipped classroom, will continue to develop. For example, the University of Arizona plans to develop 25 global microcampuses based on a flipped classroom model.
  • Collaborative learning approaches: these approaches encourage students and educators to work together in an interactive environment that focuses on developing solutions to real-world challenges.

Of course, there are many challenges that impact the adoption of higher education technology. To begin there are a few solvable challenges: improving digital literacy and the integration of formal and informal learning. There are also more difficult challenges: the achievement gap and the advancement of digital equity. Finally, the report focuses in on ‘wicked challenges’ which require deep inquiry in order to define and address these challenges: managing knowledge obsolescence and rethinking the roles of educators. Working through these challenges will open up current barriers to advancing educational technologies in the future.
In the coming years, we will experience specific educational technologies. Some of these technologies we are already beginning to explore and employ. The report highlights a few technologies expected to be mainstream in the near future.

Expected mainstream technology (One year or less)

  • Adaptive learning technologies: software and online platforms that adjust to an individual learner’s needs and progress.
  • Mobile learning: smart devices that make learning portable, such as educational apps.

Expected mainstream technology (Two to three years)

  • Internet of things: the physical world we live in, including classrooms, can be connected to the internet through chips, sensors and tiny processors.
  • Next-generation learning management systems (LMS): software and web applications that create a flexible and personalised online community for course materials, faculty engagement and student participation.

Expected mainstream technology (Four to five years)

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI has the potential to further personalise the student learning experience by enhancing online learning and adaptive learning technologies “in ways that more intuitively respond to and engage with students”. Ashok Goel, a professor of computer science and cognitive science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, explains in a TEDx Talk how he introduced a virtual assistant to help answer students’ questions in an online graduate course.
  • Natural user interfaces: allow users to interact with technology by using natural physical gestures such as taps, swipes, body movements, facial expressions, etc.

While technology continues to shape international higher education, it’s important for practitioners to keep on top of future advancements. How can technology aid the international education experience, from recruitment and admissions to the international classroom to the out-of-classroom student experience? Technology is unescapable. Instead of waiting for the latest advancement, why not look ahead and work with institutional leaders to remain on the cutting edge of educational technology?
Leasa Weimer is Knowledge Development Adviser at the EAIE. 

Leasa Weimer
EAIE, the NetherlandsLeasa is Senior Adviser for Knowledge Initiatives for the EAIE.