There aren’t many aspects of life that have changed more since the turn of the millennium than how we educate ourselves.
For that, we have the internet to thank first and foremost. The great depths of information we now have access to via a simple flick of the finger would almost have been unfathomable just 30 years ago.
In fact, the wealth of data and statistics we can use to form opinions and drive content is so vast that there’s a legitimate concern that there’s simply too much coming in from too many unreliable sources. Fake News represents the ugly side of this brave new era of unprecedented interconnectivity and will no doubt be a major concern for universities and higher education institutions as we move into the next decade.
Despite the increasing prevalence of misinformation, there should be very few reasons to be fearful of those associated with higher education. Technology has empowered students to collaborate seamlessly over social media in group projects, access extensive texts from university libraries online, and submit completed essays and work digitally.
The contrast between educational institutions in the early 1990s and today is emphatic, so what can we expect to see over the next decade of technological innovations?
Working with intelligence
Technavio predicts the educational artificial intelligence market will have grown by almost 48% by 2022 alone, with more higher education institutions eager to implement some form of AI technology to aid learning.
However, the potential power of artificial intelligence extends way beyond the domain of learning tools. Some institutions around the world are already working on implementing AI as a means of aiding the development of individual students. University 20.35 uses artificial intelligence to interpret big data into devising each of its students’ educational trajectories – ensuring that none of its online students are left behind or left feeling unchallenged. We sat down with Dmitry Peskov, the head of University 20.35, and had some interesting thoughts. Here are a few questions we asked him:
Hello Dmitry, please tell us about your role within AI in higher education?
I am faced with the task of training professionals for the digital economy of the future. When we started dealing with this challenge, we saw that educational programs in traditional universities and the teaching methods applied therein didn’t correspond to the needs of either private companies or the state. Everything is transforming very quickly, new specializations are created, and the requirements for traditional ones are constantly expanding. We realized that we need a data-driven educational platform where everything would be personalized as much as possible through the use of AI. Hence, the University 20.35 was established as a result.
Could AI help resolve some of the big issues when it comes to education?
Yes. Artificial intelligence allows for a high degree of accuracy in evaluating what is important and interesting for a particular person. A student who consumes only what is interesting for them learns much better. It is safe to say that the professional career of such a person will go uphill quite rapidly since the person clearly knows what they need and how to achieve that. But the beginning of everything is an individual approach to education.
How accurate can AI be in calculating students’ pathways?
It all depends on the quality of the data that we give the AI. It can take in a lot of data, but if we want to get the most useful information from it, then, we should help it. For example, I already mentioned that the AI analyses various multimedia materials that students upload into the system. But, in order to draw practical conclusions from that data, it must relate to the educational process. Our experience shows that students quickly adapt to productive interaction with AI.
AI is also already being implemented in the form of chatbots. At Staffordshire University, Beacon is the name given to the institution’s dedicated chatbot – happily on hand to deal with any queries its students may have while in the middle of the most arduous of all-nighters ahead of a deadline. Beacon’s able to handle a wide range of inquiries and can automatically answer over 400 frequently asked questions.
Moving into the 2020s, we can expect to see much more widespread usage of chatbots, as wells as a considerable increase in the complexity of the queries that they’re capable of dealing with. When higher education institutions are often scrutinized for the accessibility of its tutors, tools like Beacon will become an industry standard.
Artificial intelligence will also play a significant role within the future of HE. Algorithmic AI programs will be capable of not only assessing the aptitude of new students based on a wealth of factors but can also deliver extensive assessments of their submissions – simultaneously checking for plagiarism as well as highlighting potential areas of concern or merit for tutors to corroborate.
The value that augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) could bring to learning environments both online and offline cannot be underestimated.
In a study by the University of Maryland, it was found that students had an 8.8% better rate of recall when placed in an immersive environment rather than working with the use of flat-screen monitors – in an industry that’s driven by results, such figures could prove invaluable.
Remote augmented reality could also pave the way for a new form of assessment from tutors – especially in the world of healthcare and engineering. Students using AR glasses can effectively stream their line of sight to tutors who will be able to guide them through complex surgeries and the navigation of unfamiliar machinery – handing our visual cues along the way. Such technology is already being implemented in the engineering industry by Scope AR.
It’s fair to anticipate that students over the next ten years will experience a much more immersive learning environment to their predecessors, with tutorials and lectures conducted through VR and AR glasses. Such innovations will provide a significant boost to online university courses, too.
Another innovation that will prove to be music to the ears of online university students is the implementation of flexible collaboration tools.
In the near future, we will see both AR and VR play key roles in providing more immersive collaboration to students working on team projects and to those learning from home.
Students can also be excited for the wider implementation of more immersive meeting tools like Cisco’s Webex. “Teachers are also using Webex in classrooms to create real-time, synchronous collaborative learning opportunities on 1:1 devices. On top of whiteboarding and exchanging assignment files, they can chat with individual students who may be facing unique challenges. These important conversations can continue after the school bell rings,” explains Drew Lane, Executive Director of Information & Communications Technologies at Shawnee Mission School District.
The prospect of flexible digital collaboration will enable a much more immersive learning experience for students in Higher Education and will help to make tutorials for remote learners much more impactful in the future.
Keeping things real
With so much exciting technological developments swishing around the educational landscape, it’s important to keep grounded and understand that there will be fresh challenges that universities will have to face too. One of the most significant being the rise of fake news.
A Stanford study, published in late 2016, consisting of 7,804 students found that 82% of respondents were unable to tell the difference between a real news story and an advert labeled ‘sponsored content.’
Fortunately, the foundations for combatting fake news has already been set in Scandinavia, where Finland’s policy of providing media literacy education to children has resulted in the nation being considered the most literate in the world when it comes to interpreting news stories.
“Finland’s government considers the strong public education system as the main tool to resist information warfare against the country,” said Marin Lessenski, Programme Director for European Policies at the Open Society Institute, Sofia.
Misinformation has the potential to undermine the performance of students across the world. The problem of fake news has already been identified by many large social media platforms, and moving into the next decade we will see much more preventative measures being taken in classrooms to help the coming generations of students to better understand the credibility of the information they digest.