TMCnet Feature
May 28, 2020

Technological Advances in Higher Education

Technology has led to nothing short of a revolution in education, and this has gone far beyond the widespread availability of online classes or the ease of accessing journal articles from a university library. Today's high school graduates have grown up immersed in a fast-changing digital world, and that will continue in their college years. Below are just a few of the current and future technological innovations that will change learning at the university level.

Applying for Student Loans

Even online learning costs money, so whether or not people are attending a brick-and-mortar university, they will need money for tuition, books and other expenses. Scholarships, savings, grants and part or full-time work are all among the ways people may fund their college education. Many people also take out student loans, and this process is far easier and more transparent than it was even a decade ago. An online Free Application for Federal Student Aid has skip-logic technology that makes it less tedious than filling out the paper version, and students can complete it on their phones. The rise of online lenders means it is easier to find private student loans as well. There are a number of comparison tools that help people determine the best offers.

Artificial Intelligence

AI can be a benefit in online classes where a professor would struggle to answer questions from hundreds of participants in a forum but a chatbot can often field many of them. This has already been a success in some virtual classrooms. AI can also be used to track individual student progress and identify those who are struggling so that interventions can be made, boosting retention. AI can offer a more tailored experience to students from the initial admission process to specialized learning approaches. Big data will be a significant factor in deploying AI effectively in university settings, but this will also mean considering questions around privacy, data protection and ethics.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Many people are familiar with VR from science fiction, in which a digital environment becomes entirely immersive. Augmented reality allows an overlay of digital information on the existing world. Use of both is increasing at all levels of education. In higher education, VR and AR offer many of the same benefits as they do to kids but on a more sophisticated level. For example, while AR might teach kids to label human body parts, for medical students, VR and AR can help with examining the structure of the brain or replace working with medical cadavers. They lend themselves particularly well to certain disciplines in which they can provide unique perspectives, such as astronomy, but their use is growing in many subject areas. Historical events can be recreated, or theater students can use VR and AR to experiment with set design. Academic conferences can also be held online using VR. As successful as online and distance learning has been, it does have its limitations compared to the experience of learning in class. With VR and AR, online learners can continue to enjoy the advantages of virtual learning along with many of those that normally only come from in-person classes.

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