Technology is already changing the landscape of education in fundamental ways. Classrooms are moving into the digital space and students are able to connect with each other no matter their physical location. But as groundbreaking as many of these advancements are, they are only the beginning.
The evolution of disciplines
“In my view, the future will be more focused on transforming education and training,” says Filipe Castro Soeiro, Academic Director at University of Europe Laureate Digital. “This could be through the evolution of a pedagogic system that has no classes or disciplines, instead focusing on new knowledge and new learning experiences.”
Interestingly, some countries are already adopting this approach. Finland recently announced that separate subjects will be replaced by intermingling disciplines. The foundations for this approach are being laid in the realms of education technology as well.
“I think knowledge outcomes are also going to become increasingly important,” Filipe adds. “Not all natural knowledge that is learned by students is converted into economic knowledge, social knowledge and so on. I think that in the future, students, teachers and universities will all play a bigger role in this transformation, and technology will be essential for that.”
More interactive education systems will enable students and teachers to effectively create their own, more individualized, learning tools and networks. We can already see this in action with the University of Europe Laureate Digital’s specialized student and teacher social networking and learning system. These kinds of systems are only going to get more advanced, and that means the rigidity of traditional subjects and disciplines will probably change as well.
The use of mobile computing and the internet has already radically altered the possibilities for learning environments, and virtual and augmented reality are the logical next step. “I think we could see a blurring of the boundaries between real and virtual environments. Virtual and augmented reality is likely to play a big role,” Filipe states, and the evidence is already there to support him. 2016 has been a landmark year for virtual reality in the gaming world, but it has many, many more potential applications.
So far, virtual reality has been used to help students learn about biology and other sciences. Although not yet widely adopted yet, systems like AltspaceVR are already showcasing what is possible. Students and teachers will no longer be bound by location, and that means almost limitless possibilities for learning. Teachers can show their students actual simulated demonstrations or locations, perhaps in the future even altering and designing them in real time, based around the participants’ learning needs.
Augmented reality has similar possibilities. Although it may be more limited than virtual reality, it is more likely to be predominant in the coming years. There are already a number of education-related augmented reality apps for smartphones and tablets available, from translators to science focused programs.
Augmented reality is an important role in bridging the virtual and physical worlds. Virtual reality is a complete step into a virtual world, whereas augmented reality allows both to be accessed. Augmented reality apps can already be used by physical and digital learning spaces, enabling students to visualize 3D models in real time, for example. In a digital only educational setting, this becomes even more useful and important.
One thing is certain – digital education is set to become an even more interesting area, with the potential to have a huge impact on education as we know it. “By using virtual and augmented reality systems in the ‘classroom’, it could be possible to test and simulate solutions that can actually go live for implementation in real time.” says Filipe, as just one example.
This would mean that students not only learn while doing but are actively learning in real spaces while simultaneously affecting them. Whatever the future holds, it is likely to be fascinating new ground for students and teachers alike.