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3 Technologies Transforming Education

Higher education is changing and evolving rapidly. Like other trends, many shifts in technology, especially if it pertains to education, are largely consumer driven. Students were among the first to drive the “bring your own device” trend, while other education trends have been propelled by the changing needs of university professors and admissions recruiters. Technology is placing new opportunities directly in the hands of students and faculty, with seemingly endless possibilities.

Below are three tech trends which are turning colleges and universities into sci-fi places of the future.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality has moved into the classroom, admissions office and marketing departments. VR is creating a more engaging educational experience than ever before and this industry is projected to reach $408 million by 2018.

A few schools are leveraging VR technology in interesting ways for teaching purposes and to better connect with students and faculty. Duke is holding events throughout 2016 for its Digital Initiative campaign, which trains undergrads and staff in VR tools like Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR. George Washington is designing classes for  future health care providers by combining VR and the Internet of Things (IoT) in a simulation lab where med students operate on dummy patients with lifelike features and responses. Many other schools are exploring the options of how the technology can be used to help athletes gain an advantage in college sports. The Stanford football team, for example, recently used VR in training and improved its quarterback’s pass completion rate by 12 percent.

The VR industry is continuing to expand, other applications include:

  • VR-based courses
  • In-person learning experiences for online students
  • Campus tours for prospective students
  • Location-based engagement
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Integration with wearable tech
  • Opportunities to “travel” to new destinations

Self-Directed Online Learning

Self-directed online learning can mean a lot of things. It is often referred to as self-paced learning, or the ability to complete a program as quickly or as slowly as needed for the individual student.

At HEG, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for this kind of learning due to the convenience and flexibility associated with the course offerings. For example, online learning provider, Udemy, recently hit the 10 million student mark. The company has successfully enrolled these students in their industry-changing courses, allowing people to access more than 40,000 courses for $250 or less.

Similarly, the creator of the nanodegree, Udacity, is creating an online university to support booming startups in Silicon Valley with courses that prepare students to become software developers or data analysts.


The industry may be years away from this trend, but experts say robots could eventually take over many of the tactical duties of the traditional professor: lecturing, grading, test creation, and more. Some argue that “robo-teachers” could be much more effective at teaching material and delivering content through online videos, allowing professors more time to mentor students in the classroom.

Mentoring will still be important, as artificial intelligence may be far from having the human elements of creativity and community, or the ability to truly inspire and engage with students. In addition to benefitting students, creating hybrid programs taught by humans and intelligent machines has the potential to save colleges and universities up to 57 percent.

The higher education industry is experiencing a shift like never before. The days of traditional classroom settings may quickly be a thing of the past as higher education institutions move toward a more technologically advanced, hybrid approach.