The Most Significant Technological Advances in Education for 2015

Education technology is making significant strides forward. Learn which tools and trends will have the greatest impact this year.

Technology has long been disrupting and modifying the education space. But what kinds of tools are most likely to make an impact on us this year?

The technological advances that change the way we learn do so through a variety of methods. They may improve our understanding of the learning process, facilitate our access to content, increase the retention of learners by improving the educational experience, or address systemic inequalities by making learning affordable.

Here are some technological trends that will do this, and more, in 2015:

Big Data

The advent of big data enables us to track student behavior and gather other relevant information that will enhance our understanding of how people learn, what keeps them engaged, what helps them retain information, and how we can improve outcomes.

In the best case scenario, these tools will be applied to improving the teaching and learning experience. There are, of course, privacy and security concerns relating to the capture, aggregation, and potential misuse of data. The industry will need to address the “Big Brother” aspect of Big Data head-on, and act transparently with respect to the use of the information and judiciously with respect to its security.

Since its start, Noodle has been a leader in evaluating the role big data can play in education, attending the White House's Education Datapalooza 2012.

Cloud Computing

Cloud-based learning platforms represent a significant advance in technology’s potential to improve access to content, instruction, and collaboration. They provide users with the ability to access material easily and foster connections between and among students, teachers, and institutions. These platforms also have the power to create truly global education communities and facilitate groundbreaking research.

Many new learning management systems (LMS) used by teachers now use cloud computing. Follow this link for the full list of the top 25 LMS of 2014.

Mobile Learning

Mobile learning provides “anytime, anywhere” access to content and community,as well as allows for contextual and supplemental learning at given locations (e.g., downloading a museum’s app). It literally meets students wherever their phones go. Students of all generations will be able to fit their education to their lifestyle, and the convenience and affordability of mobile devices will facilitate access for all. Ironically, a person’s physical location may become a significant part of the enhanced mobile learning experience. For example, a student could participate in an art history class on her phone while visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

See Noodle's collection of reviews of educational apps for effective mobile learning on variety of subjects.

Gamification

The emergence of gamified learning and the application of gaming technologies, such as virtual reality for educational content, will have a significant impact on how people learn. Studies have shown that education is most effective, with respect to understanding and retention, when the learner is engaged in doing, applying what she has learned, and having fun, as is the case with simulations.

Universities are increasingly adopting virtual reality technologies in a variety of ways, from creating school tours for international students to offering difficult-to-deliver lab instruction, like human dissections, in medical schools. Who knew that a generation of young gamers could become the guardians of our future?

Check out our infographic about educational video games to understand better their use and effectivness.

Personalization

This is the holy grail of online education, in which technology and design (information architecture, user interface, and so on) combine to create a learning experience tailored to the individual needs of a student. It promises to make education more engaging, improve outcomes, and create efficiencies in educational ecosystems.

Personalized learning that allows for differentiated instruction will have a significant impact in learning environments where there are students with varying degrees of knowledge or skills, such as public school classrooms. Personalized learning can serve as a powerful tool for teachers and students faced with overcrowding, and in so doing, begin to address inequalities between poorer and more affluent school districts.

Learn more about how flipped classrooms incorporate personalized learning into everyday education.

Deconstruction or Unbundling of Content

The delivery of nano-degrees based on specific work skills or the chunking of master’s programs are examples of this technological advance. Deconstruction will change the economics of education and the way we think about learning by allowing students to access the information they need to progress or to find employment without having to consume content that is not immediately relevant to them. It presupposes a more practical approach to higher education, in response to the needs of the largest population of students saddled with debt.

This deconstructive approach, however, raises concerns for many who believe in the value of a well-rounded, traditional liberal arts education, with its exposure to a broad range of subjects and grounding in the development of “higher level” skills, such as critical thinking and independent analyses. That said, unbundling of content has the potential to challenge the culture of established educational institutions as the sole providers of valuable and legitimate education and as the gatekeepers to rewarding employment.

Wondering if your school is adopting these trends in a smart way? Read about effective ways to incorporate technology in the classroom.

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