Emerging Technologies in Learning

Whether you’re pursuing a B.A. or studying for the GMAT exam with the hopes of getting into business school, technology will be your constant companion in and out of the classroom.

So you should expect to see numerous technological developments in the months and years ahead as emerging technologies in learning transform the way you learn in significant ways.

According to The NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition, there are definitely some critical developments in technology for higher education that could materialize – in some cases within months – even as you study towards achieving your academic objectives.

Emerging Technologies in Learning

What follows, therefore, is a rundown of what the report says about the six key technological developments that will make an impact across the higher education landscape.

Technologies to Look For: Time-to-Adoption of One Year or Less

According to the report, there are two critical developments in education technology for higher education that have a time-to-adoption time frame of one year or less. Those are, one, bring your own device (BYOD) and, two, learning analytics and adaptive learning.

Bring Your Own Device

The report notes that the BYOD trend in higher education is a function of the popularity of technology among millennials. Millennials, as of last year, became the biggest generation represented in America’s workforce, and this group is accustomed to using mobile technology. In terms of the classroom, a lot of students are coming to school with their own mobile technology, and they typically connect to the networks of their post-secondary institutions. One study in 2015 found, in fact, that 42% of post-secondary institutions in the U.S. had rolled out a BYOD program in 2014. This trend is likely to continue. The report adds that institutions of higher learning will increasingly ensure that digital textbooks, educational content, and more will be designed to cater to students who want to access these things on mobile devices.

Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning

Learning analytics refers to “an educational application of web analytics aimed at learner profiling,” according to the report. The aim of such a technology is to facilitate active learning, to identify at-risk students, and to analyze things that play a role in how students perform. On the other hand, adaptive learning technologies “apply to learn analytics through software and online platforms,” notes the report. The fact that adaptive learning technologies can be fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of individual students is a big benefit. An exciting development is a trend that has seen private entities team up with education providers to advance adaptive learning.

Technologies to Look For: Time-to-Adoption of Two to Three Years

The report adds that there are two critical developments in education technology for higher education that have a time-to-adoption time frame of two to three years. These include, one, augmented and virtual reality and, two, maker spaces.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

According to the report, augmented reality refers to “the layering of data over 3D spaces to produce a new experience of the world, sometimes referred to as ‘blended reality’, amplifies access to information, bringing new opportunities for learning.”  Meanwhile, virtual reality is a term that refers to “computer-generated environments that simulate the physical presence of people and objects to generate realistic sensory experiences.” While augmented reality and virtual reality have traditionally been used in the consumer sector, they are increasingly being seen as tools that can facilitate more thorough understanding of learning environments. The report references Google Cardboard, which is a headset that can be attached to a smartphone. With this technology combination, students can make their own virtual reality content. The report added that educators are paying attention because it is readily accessible and versatile.

Maker Spaces

Maker spaces is a term that describes the response to the question about “how to renovate or re-purpose classrooms and labs to address the needs of the future,” notes the report. They involve workshop situations in, among other places, education institutions, and they allow people to work collaboratively in a hands-on environment. Essentially, these environments provide a location where participants can take part in self-directed projects that trigger their creativity, that helps them to figure out their interests, and that set them on the path towards continuous learning throughout their lives.

Technologies to Look For: Time-to-Adoption of Four to Five Years

According to the report, there are two critical developments in education technology for higher education that have a time-to-adoption time frame of four to five years. These include one, affective computing and, two, robotics.

Affective Computing

Affective computing is a term that holds that people are capable of programming machines to identify, translate, process, and mimic a wide range of human emotions. This is possible courtesy of the technology that has helped computers to possess “humanlike understanding” courtesy of strategies like connecting a video camera to register “facial cues and gestures that work in conjunction with an algorithm that detects and interprets these interactions.” This technology has applications for higher learning, according to the report. For instance, it could be used in tutoring situations. For instance, a computerized tutor could get a student back on track if the student ever gives off facial cues that suggest that he or she is bored.


While it could take at least another four years before robotics can become mainstream, the report notes that “its potential uses are starting to gain traction, especially in the medical field.” It adds, moreover, that robots can be used to assist people with spectrum disorders to ultimately improve enhanced communication skills and social mannerisms.

As you can see, there are some interesting and exciting emerging technologies in learning. Some of them will undoubtedly manifest themselves in and out of the classroom as you complete your studies. So it makes sense to know a little about what these technologies are anyhow they could impact your learning experience.

Author info: Vera Marie Reed is a freelance writer living in Glendale, California. This mother of two specializes in education and parenting content. When she’s not delivering expert advice, you can find her reading, writing, arts, going to museums and doing craft projects with her children. Reach her on Twitter @VMReed

Updated: July 25, 2018 — 6:56 am

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