By: Samantha Flores, AIA, NCARB, RID, Director, Hugo
Over the past decade, emerging technologies have changed how, where, and when students can learn. Most recently, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of education technology — to which we are deeply indebted for enabling the continuing of education while also slowing the spread of COVID-19. What we’ve realized is, technology is not a substitute for in-person learning. The sudden shift from traditional to remote learning has notably increased pressure and anxiety for students, teachers, their families, and communities — forcing 1.6 billion learners across 190 countries out of traditional learning and causing 24 million children to be at further risk of dropping out altogether. But even before the pandemic, our education priorities felt outdated — the “one-size-fits-all” education model does not work in the era of extreme personalization.
We have witnessed an inflexible education model that has been pushed beyond its limits. It’s time for a change. While the pandemic didn’t cause the challenges to the education system, it did exacerbate existing challenges that are ripe for innovation, accelerating the need to evolve the learning experience so that all students can receive the quality education they deserve, regardless of location, socio-economic status, age, and abilities. The one-size-fits-all standardized approach neglects the fact that we are unique individuals who absorb content in various ways — each with our own support systems and a diverse context for our experiences. To truly evolve the education system of today, we need to examine the evolving learning styles of students, the changing ecosystem of the classroom, and the emerging technologies of tomorrow.
Evolving Teaching Methods
Prior to the pandemic, the way we educate our students were already evolving to better support various learning styles, with a deeper focus on personalizing student engagement. These evolving methods aim to provide educators with tools that will help ease, modernize, and tailor education to fit the learning styles of their students.
- Flipped Classrooms: At home, students watch pre-recorded lessons tailored to their level of learning and complete in-class assignments alongside their peers.
- Kinesthetic Learning: Rarely based on technology, this method values creativity and encourages hands-on learning that requires students to do, make, or create instead of being instructed.
- Inquiry-Based Learning: The teacher provides guidance and support for students throughout their investigatory, hands-on learning process and encourages students to ask questions. Students develop their own education by asking the teacher high-level questions and making research suggestions about the process rather than the content.
- Expeditionary Learning: A project-based learning style where students experience real-world problem-solving in their communities, develop an understanding of the current issues, and work alongside teachers to find a solution they can actively implement.
- Personalized Learning: Students follow personalized learning plans specific to their interests and skills, enabling them to progress to work beyond their grade level as they master topics and receive specific help on topics they struggle with.
- Game-Based Learning: Encourages a mastery mindset rather than a focus on grades. It requires students to be problem solvers and use soft skills that they will need as adults by working on game-like quests to accomplish specific goals to earn badges and points and develop valuable team-building communication skills with their peers.
Changing what students learn and how performance is measured has become a crucial issue for schools and colleges, making traditional grade progression outdated. Current systemic flaws allow students to progress with the rest of the class, even when they haven’t fully understood a particular concept or mastered course content. Competency-based models, however, require a higher standard of learning. Using a blend of online and instructor-led learning, they reflect the diversity and individuality of the learning experience more accurately. This ultimately enables students to graduate with a complete mastery of skills based on their chosen area of study, making their achievements more robust and attractive to future employers.
This type of “leveling-up” challenges students to learn in sequences similar to videogames — advancing to the next level only after all tasks have been completed accurately — and is an incredibly powerful and motivational learning tool. Integrating artificial intelligence (A.I.) and gamifying the competency-based experience could lead to a more enjoyable, tailored learning experience that uses data to augment and inform educators as they develop customized curriculum from each students’ unique performance metrics. The use of gamification in education could not only improve the rate at which the brain processes and maintains information but also increase classroom engagement, productivity, and peer-to-peer interaction and instruction. It also increases accessibility and inclusion for differently abled students.
Leveling up as content is mastered creates a much more varied system, with multiple age groups in one subject, better peer support systems, and a personalized portfolio of metrics to support students as they move into future careers. For this model to become commonplace, the current education system will need to evolve a few key teaching strategies, such as removing standardized assessment structures and traditional grading systems, encouraging informal learning, allowing for hybrid in-person and online courses to become familiar, and teacher certification requiring a more diverse education. Additionally, by enacting information transparency of performance metrics between parents, students, and teachers, A.I.-driven education models are still in their infancy but show incredible promise. Spending just 34 hours on Duolingo, for example, equates to an entire university semester of language education.
This is just the beginning — an early 2020 study shows that A.I. in education is expected to reach $6 billion by the year 2025. This market will not just focus on performance metrics but also various A.I.-enabled education tools.
Quickly becoming a fundamental tool in next-generation education, chatbots are arming educators with new strategies for more engaged learning while simultaneously reducing their workload by providing:
- Spaced Interval Learning: Chatbots use algorithms to predict when students will start to forget what they’ve learned, setting time reminders for subject matter repetition to optimize memorization.
- Self-Paced Learning: Chatbots can track student performance and adjust the curriculum to meet their individual needs better.14 They serve as a guide to help pace learning and manage assessment as students move from one lesson to the next.
- Immediate Feedback: Studies show that learners who receive feedback immediately see more significant improvement than those who get delayed feedback. Chatbots can respond promptly to questions both during and outside regular office hours, using programmed answers to frequently asked questions relating to the course syllabus and providing responses with images and links to help guide students. Additionally, essays can be graded with 92% accuracy and returned faster using an A.I., compared to human graders.
As hybrid education increases, chatbots will soon be able to create a sense of community and belonging among the online cohort, helping them connect and form buddy systems inherent to in-person classes.
The use of cobots is becoming more common across both workplaces and educational institutions alike. Designed to collaborate with teachers — not replace them — cobots have already been integrated into many classrooms, delivering STEM concepts to students. Cobots have gained momentum for:
- Remote Learning: Cobots follow action and sound — spinning as much as 360 degrees — and have become increasingly popular in K-12 classrooms, enabling remote students to see more than a fixed shot of the classroom. Online students who use cobots report higher levels of satisfaction and engagement with the course curriculum due to feeling more connected to both the instructor and in-person students.
- Positively Shape Group Dynamics: Cobots can improve social interaction by encouraging collaboration among young children. Certain cobots mimic human behavior in collaborative conversation, and with a simple rotation and connecting gaze, they can encourage shy participants to speak up more frequently.20 Some cobots can even help mediate conflicts between two people, building on basic negotiation concepts to create resolution.
- Teach Valuable Skills: Created to teach children the fundamentals of robotics and programming, Winky is the first educational robot proven to improve children’s cognitive performance in problem-solving, logic, memory, and concentration, among others. Children first learn to assemble Winky, then learn to program and customize their robot — skills that will come in handy as the career landscape introduces more highly customizable career paths in automation.
- Create Inclusive Environments for Differently Abled Students: Playing (and learning) with robots can offer exceptional education and other benefits for students with disabilities, helping them to learn necessary social, emotional, and communication skills. Using robots like Milo, students with autism can practice these skills without the pressure of interacting with a real person.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the education market are expected to grow from $9.3 billion (2018) to $19.6 billion by 2023, making education the 4th largest sector to invest in VR worldwide. The use of these tools can improve memory and create a more profound sense of empathy in students by:
- Boosting Learning Potential: When presented with complex concepts, theories, procedures, and subjects, there is a gap between understanding an idea from written explanations and experiencing something firsthand. Students who learn by textbooks and in-class lectures have a retention rate of 20% — only recall information one week after it has been presented. By bringing abstract concepts — such as learning how to perform a triple bypass on a patient — to life with AR and VR, the gap closes and brings student retention rate up to 80%, giving them the ability to recall the lesson up to one year after it occurred.
- Contributing to Inclusivity: Both AR and VR can help students with various disabilities blend seamlessly into class activities. Like VR Augmented Aid, specific devices allow visually impaired students to manipulate contrasts, alter text sizes, or add audio commentary to coursework. In contrast, Sign Aloud gloves enable students to communicate in sign language with immediate translation into human speech— an incredible way to help deaf and hard of hearing students “speak” with others in collaborative conversations.
- Language translation can be a significant challenge to individual participation when material and assignments are misunderstood, which is why the majority of AR and VR tools offer robust translation tools. To take language learning a step further, AR technology, such as Microsoft HoloLens, uses AI to recreate the user’s likeness — facial expressions, voice, speech patterns, and characteristics — to adapt the avatar to the language of choice. This can be extremely helpful for remote video learners in the future.
- Creating Empathy: It’s easy to reimagine field trips using VR — everyone, including those who would otherwise be unable to attend, can now take a class trip to the Louvre in Paris, thanks to VR platforms like Google Expeditions. Google has even created easy-to-use tools for teachers to generate new, imaginative virtual realities that fit the scope of their lessons. Teaching with VR and accompanying extended reality tools enables students to fully experience the sounds, smells, and emotions as the subjects of the lesson would be. Rather than reading about the Australian Bush Fires, students can experience the situation from a firsthand perspective, gaining a much deeper understanding of those affected.
When considering the challenges brought on by COVID-19, many educators see AI, AR+VR as the future of an education system that challenges, engages, and includes them — and one that doesn’t necessarily have to occur within the four walls of a classroom between 8:00 AM–3:00 PM bells. After centuries of classroom-based education, the learning experience is evolving at last.
This article is just one of several articles in Corgan’s 2021 Curiosity Report
. In the report, we examine the relationship between emerging technologies and user behaviors and embrace changes that sit outside of our comfort zone. By tapping into the power of data-driven design, we rethink everyday human experiences, promote access to better education, investigate the needs of the modern workforce, and renew our focus on the environment.