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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Recent trends in education technology

Technology has and is continuing to have a monumental impact on the way we as people interact, work, travel, eat and learn. It has revolutionized the workplace, improved our ability to grow and produce better food in larger quantities, enabled us to reach exotic destinations quicker than ever before, and completely transformed the way we teach and learn.

The education sector has slowly but surely taken advantage of new and emerging technologies both inside and outside the classroom, with more schools than ever now recognizing the influence wireless and mobile technologies has on students, as well as its potential in terms of shaping the way teachers think and teach. Investment in technologies related to learning is growing year on year, after jumping to 55 percent and hitting $1.87 billion in 2014 and not slowing down ever since, according to CB Insights. And it’s not just schools. Colleges, TAFE’s, online institutions and universities are now on board with using newer learning methods that target precisely how students want to learn.

So, what are some of the more recent trends in education technology?

Flipped learning – a form of blended learning where students essentially complete their homework in class and do their actual learning at home by watching videos and studying content online – has grown hugely popular in recent years. Wi-fi enabled classroom tech, an evolving understanding of how students best learn, and the growing availability of analytics that enable teachers to measure student learning are supporting this style of learning. Premised on the realisation that students actually learn more effectively from one another in small groups than they do from a single lecturer or teacher, the growing availability of mobile-app solutions and wi-fi technology has made Flipped Learning possible worldwide.

Those who have completed a degree online by correspondence, who regularly complete web assignments, or who learn English online  are well and truly conscious of the growing popularity of remote learning. A model that allows students who can’t physically attend school or university to attend virtually, remote learning involves a student “attending class” by watching pre-recorded videos or lectures, participating in class forums and accessing content online. Not only have wi-fi technology and the growing global reach of the internet made it possible for expats and overseas students to submit homework assignments and keep up with their studies, but this style of learning has opened much of the developed world up to education.

In Sub-Saharan Africa for example, only 6% of all eligible students were able to access higher education in 2011, but with the advent of internet-based remote learning came the extraordinary opportunity to address these disparities in access to education across the content. Online learning essentially equates to equitable access to education – a freedom for those seeking the flexibility of a self-regulated schedule, and a blessing to those rural students who cannot leave their families and communities to attend school.

Then we have augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) – technologies that enhance teacher instruction and that are succeeding in making learning fun, engaging, collaborative and interactive. Take for example, a geography lesson that virtually brings students to the Arctic Circle or to the Galapagos Islands, where students can explore the terrain, view local flora and fauna and very likely remember more than they would had the teacher simply told them about such places. The App world is well and truly clocking onto the growing popularity of VR, with Apps including Unimersiv capable of bringing students to ancient Greece or to London during wartime. At last, a method of engaging those students who don’t engage in traditional learning…

Technology is also transforming the way educators break down course content, with online competency-based training approaches an innovative new way of cost-effectively combining learning modules into bite-sized, examinable portions focusing on competencies rather than subject matter, competencies that are truly applicable to the changing labor market. Several universities, including Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University, are already leapfrogging others by integrating these programs into their degree programs. With any luck, this type of learning will create a network that enables students to connect directly to employers seeking those particular skills and competencies.

Next up, gaming. You may think this is a joke, but gamification is truly growing in the ed tech sector. Defined as applying game-thinking to classroom activities and learning modules, gaming tech is generally embraced as a means of making learning more fun and engaging. Through using game format to challenge students, reward winners and customize the level of challenge to the level of the student, gamification makes an otherwise unengaging lesson an exciting learning process for students.

Then we have artificial intelligence (AI), interactive textbooks, high-tech learning spaces, social media use in classrooms, evolving mobile technologies and learning apps, and a growing number of educational devices targeted toward classroom learning. The list is endless, and it’s not getting any shorter. By 2030 who knows – we could have highly intelligent robots delivering lectures, and educational courses available on international flights. Watch this space.

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