Over the past two decades, EdTech (education + technology) slowly and methodically emerged as a value-added buzzword and magnetically pulled in investors seeking next-generation returns on new technology approaches to old school paradigms. Over the last three years, Covid-mandated restructuring transformed classroom experiences into the almost fully-digital space, leapfrogging a generation of slow growth trajectories across all segments of secondary education.
And now a second wave is crashing against the status quo. University leaders must rapidly incorporate AI into various aspects, such as testing and curriculum development. They lack the time to thoroughly assess the impact of the last three years and address post-pandemic technology needs.
AI-enhanced technology has been productized overnight (just in time for the new year), and nearly every LMS company, study aid developer, and courseware design vendor has leapt forward with a new offering. Their reasoning is sound. They know that while every university leader is under threat from new online competitors, they are also under pressure to lead their boards, professors and instructional designers in the era of large language models (LLMs) and chatbots. Vendors are eager to help them understand the possibilities and potential.
From finance to healthcare to legal services, the transformative impact of AI is hard to miss on your television screen or from your digital streaming account. Newscasts are full of fear-inducing stories about future human displacements and at-risk occupations. The spotlight is very bright in the realm of education too. While AI has been fueling incremental advancements in all digital sectors during the pandemic period, the tipping point for LLM mania seems to have occurred just as 2023 came to a close.
Let’s unpack AI and EdTech Tends and see where the hot buttons are likely to be in the first half of 2024.
To understand the changing landscape, let's consider that the very definition of EdTech will be changing. It often refers to the use of technology to improve or accelerate the potential of time-tested pedagogical practices. In the recent past, this could include anything from online learning and content management platforms to the entire industry of companies that create learning tech. But soon, the very use of external AI chatbots and other natural language solutions may need to be considered – whether they have been integrated with traditional EdTech systems and best practices, or not.
In the university context, legacy approaches to assessment, grading, curriculum development and tutoring will be among the functional areas ripe for revolution. AI-enhanced solutions offering valuable benefits to educators have been circulating through professors’ inboxes for years. But now, we’ll see the schools themselves promoting the use of these tools to deliver personalized learning, enhanced educator productivity, global accessibility and data-driven insights. Latecomers may find it harder to convince potential students that they have evolved their learning environments to best prepare learners for the job markets of tomorrow.
Suggesting an approach beyond a one-size-fits-all education and more in line with tailored experiences for each student, early adopters (experimenters really) of AI tools may blaze a trail that emphasizes individual learning speed, style, and knowledge gaps. By leveraging newly combined technology, educators lucky enough to have access to the right training resources and mentors may be able to shape their syllabi to provide a level of personalization that enhances the learning experience for each individual student. Traditional degrees no longer guarantee jobs. Skill-based learning platforms, practical courses, and micro-credential certification programs are expected to emerge rapidly. AI is playing a key role in this trend, aiming to equip students with in-demand skills to meet the evolving job markets. Schools that have already ramped up their visions for personalized learning may be in the best position to embrace AI tools to go live in the next semester.
EdTech Administrators will need time to work with their providers to ensure that any new elements of personalized learning are captured within their learning management systems. Many of the AI-enhanced personalized learning tools are beta level developments and unproven in campus settings, including those from the leading LMS companies.
Gamification in education is the artful blend of game design and mechanics in learning spaces to captivate students, inspire motivation, and elevate their learning experiences. In recent years, educators have highlighted how this trend has positively impacted student growth and development. By capturing students' attention and promoting active involvement, gamification provides instant feedback, enabling students to learn from both their mistakes and achievements in real-time. The approach cultivates a diverse array of skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, team building, decision making, and creativity, paving the way towards more engaging classroom assignments. Where does AI play? Generative AI tools may be able to transpose an educator’s trusted materials into learning templates without the use of dedicated gamification tools.
Professors and instructional designers can take the lead here, but before institutionalizing AI-gamified content their administrators may want to make sure it doesn’t run afoul of university policies for the use of AI tools. And, of course, no one has developed these policies yet.
Progressive educators who have played around with popular chatbots may want to leverage their potential this semester, to get a jumpstart on their own career development and establish themselves at the forefront. With mature horizontal platforms like ChatGPT, it's evident how they can efficiently pose and answer questions, provide clarifications, and facilitate more in-depth discussions with students. Some professors have shared their experiences of developing class exercises. In these exercises, students use AI chatbots to solve problems or arrive at solutions. More likely, forward-looking professors will want to volunteer to serve on the committees and boards that will decide how these platforms are used on their campuses and hasten the development of official policies.
As EdTech leaders picture a world full of cheating-as-a-serve applications, educators will continue to be drawn to these chat services (and so will their students). While educators worry that AI chatbots, including ChatGPT, could unintentionally propagate false information or encourage plagiarism, universities will need to consider all the permutations of their use. The year began with January’s milestone announcement that Arizona State University (ASU) became the first institution to partner with OpenAI, the research and deployment company that develops ChatGPT. For now this partnership is an outlier, but it will blaze a trail for many others.
Online courses and blended learning programs have expanded access to students locally and around the world. As universities stretch further into the digital world, they will continue to change the way people access and engage with educational materials.
Leading universities are leaning into micro-credentialing and certificate programs in a big way. Not just to remain at the forefront but also to enhance the availability of education. Learning methods will likely become more self-paced and self-driven. This shift will provide learners with more control over their educational journey, moving far beyond ”live” instructor-led courses. The shift to self-guided learning aligns with the changing needs and preferences of students. They seek a more personalized and flexible learning experience. An example of this trend is the rising online enrollment in community colleges. This demonstrates a move towards a self-directed approach to education.
EdTech administrators actively implement modular and microlearning technology while actively standardizing online courses. The intricacy lies in harmonizing these diverse elements to ensure a cohesive and effective educational experience. Balancing the need for modular flexibility and the required standardization for real-world application poses a nuanced challenge. It demands careful planning and collaboration with educators to achieve the right equilibrium.
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Universities, colleges, and training schools have faced a surge in cybersecurity attacks recent years. Many have been identified as high-profile targets. Moreover, the growing dependence on digital platforms makes security in EdTech a major concern. The emphasis on resilient cybersecurity measures in every delivery channel and administrative sector of higher education is higher than ever. New technology approaches and countermeasures have a dual focus: safeguarding student data and upholding the integrity of online assessments. These efforts aim to establish a secure digital environment for both educators and learners. This unwavering commitment to security plays a vital role in fostering trust in digital education platforms among educators and students.
Establishing comprehensive data security measures and privacy policies that effectively protect student information is key. Moreover, EdTech administrators and university leaders must navigate the intricate landscape of data protection, ensuring that the measures implemented are both rigorous and adaptable to evolving threats. Simultaneously educating students about online safety will be crucial for responsibly navigating the digital learning landscape.
In conclusion, 2024 will be another year with obvious leaps forward, and substantial progress in determining the optimal use of AI in classroom environments. A clear focus on establishing guidelines for ethical usage will be obvious at every institution.
As this promising future comes into focus, educators will rely on the emerging AI stewardship teams that are being assembled to study these toolsets. LiveCarta is committed to guiding our community of educators through this evolving environment, by evangelizing the applications that make educational content more relevant, accessible, and engaging. We proudly stand as your partner in this journey.