25 October 2018 by Dan Gray

How emerging technology could enhance higher education

How emerging technology could enhance higher education

Early adulthood is tough. We work with lots of students and see how hard they work, as well as how much workload they take on. Juggling a budding social life, choices for the future, part-time work and courses is hard enough - but there’s also a lot of legwork to be done in order to take in the correct information efficiently and effectively, and generally it all hinges on hearing, recording and recalling the exact right piece of data at that exact time.

How many students have missed a vital lecture due to illness (whether self-inflicted or not), and struggled to get decent notes on the topics covered? Or got to the end of a term only to find that the notes they scrawled are as illegible as the text messages they compose at 4am on an average Friday night out? For all our advances in technology, specifically those that have influenced the way that we learn and absorb information, higher education is still by-and-large a very manual experience - and for the cost of the average degree for students today, we should expect more.

Imagine the classroom experience of the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. Any question over attendance or non-attendance is null; students in attendance are logged by way of beacons, and their status updated if they have to leave early. Handy not only in time-saving, but also for accurate numbers in the event of a fire, preventing any unnecessary searching.

As the lecture begins, an AI is listening, dictating, and enhancing the source material by recognising patterns in each lecture, tagging sections for relevance to certain subjects, and even linking to previous content that holds supporting relevance. Rather than a book full of pages, or a folder full of files, an entire course is a massive interconnected web of information with multiple entry points, suiting different ways of learning, as opposed to one sculpted by the author of the curriculum.

When exam time comes and a student finds themselves needing to brush up on one very specific aspect of their studies, new lectures can be generated on the fly from the complete map of lecture information, excluding specific keywords that add bloat to the study guide. A student’s learning experience is no-longer restricted by which words they misheard, missed out in hastily jotting them, or the context in which they understood them at that one specific time. The information available to them can even be more balanced and impartial with lectures on the same subject from different speakers.

Whilst the education sector is never exactly known for its massive investment in advanced learning aides, it’s exciting to think how technology that is already (or very nearly) within our grasp could vastly change the landscape of a generation of students.