Educational technology is shaking up the way we teach and learn, and there are exciting innovations taking place in the world of academia.
While tried and tested methods of study will always be around, technology inevitably brings change. Let’s take a look at developments that are already with us, along with what’s coming down the line, and how these shifts will affect and improve the way we learn.
We’ve already changed our habits
When new phrases like edtech come up, people tend to think of futuristic scenarios. But the reality is that technology has already altered our study habits in significant ways. Perhaps because tech permeates our daily lives, we tend not to think about it, and we take many amazing advances for granted.
Consider how we now, by default, gather information. It’s likely that most of your research is done online, perhaps from your home, maybe even from your phone. This is a radical, tech-driven change in information accessibility, compared with just a couple of decades ago.
Or have you ever needed to write an essay, had a deadline approaching, but were so caught up with other tasks that it seemed impossible to complete? Not so long ago, you would have been stuck, but nowadays, you can go online and instantly find an essay writing service. You can now hire assistance and delegate responsibilities, freeing yourself up in the process, all without leaving home.
Similar academic services, such as online tutoring, are readily available with an internet connection. This might not usually be classed as edtech, but in these ways, technology has altered the ways we study, bringing astonishing convenience and flexibility.
There are, though, certain technologies that immediately grab our attention, and seem new and intriguing. Immersive learning through Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is one such high tech innovation that looks likely to play a larger role in the education sector.
Virtual learning, taking place through the use of VR technology, enables the user to be fully immersed in a simulated world, which they are free to explore. Dangerous or inaccessible environments could be navigated in safety, and what once seemed unreal—a disaster zone, a long gone historical era, or the inside of an atom, for example—could become almost solid, and a deeply memorable learning experience.
Additionally, through VR, students and teacher could all be fully remote, but recreate the experience of being in a classroom interacting with one another.
Augmented Reality is a little different. It overlays the real world, through a headset or a portable screen, with simulated extras. Environments can become more information-rich, relaying additional facts through AR. Imagine walking round an art gallery, and as you look at each exhibit, information as to who created it floats into view, or perhaps paintings and sculptures themselves might come to life and move around in front of you.
There is great potential for AR to be used as a training tool, offering vital information to students as they perform tasks, and potentially doing so in a fun and compelling manner.
You’ve likely already come across chatbots on some websites. They often engage you with a question, to check that everything is going well, or whether you need assistance. Chatbots, currently, can deal with simple enquiries, and direct you to relevant resources. They’re commonly used on retail sites. However, as the technology improves, and chatbots become smarter, more versatile, and perhaps more human, their broader use is inevitable.
Could they become a feature of edtech? Absolutely. If you use the internet to look up information and perform research, then chatbots can become a means of interacting more intuitively with the internet, and might perform as a quick and obedient research assistant, who has instant access to vast resources.
And perhaps, at some point in the future when AI is further advanced, what started as a chatbot might even be able to take on roles that includes educational duties, offering guidance and answering questions as you perform research.
Big data and analytics
We have never before been able to gather so much data, about ourselves and our habits, or, if we provide an online service, about the behavior and needs of our clients. That data can be stored in the cloud, and accessed from any place, at any time, by whoever is granted access.
As Machine Learning advances, then so does our ability to analyze patterns, and make improvements. With AI and ML, might digital assistants be able to advise and guide us, improving our study habits and giving suggestions? Plausibly so, but even before that, having access to huge amounts of data, and cheap, automated analytical tools, allows for new insights.
At the very least, you’ll be able to keep closer track of your progress, and get constant, AI feedback as to what you’re doing well, and where you need to focus more attention.