Disruption in Education – What is Happening in 2018?


Disruption is paving the way for change and progress in nearly all industries, but what are the emerging digital trends in education?

To try and answer this question, we offer you our top 5 of disruptive tendencies in education in 2018:


1: Cloud-based education technologies

This is the basis for most new emerging edtech. Cloud-based solutions make learning-oriented software cheaper and more accessible.

It supports a more economical approach to digital learning, as it eliminates the need for keeping up with both expensive hardware, software and IT staff to manage these on site. Instead, these operations can be managed by SaaS-companies that deliver low-cost, subscription-based software.

As cloud-based software requires nothing but a working internet connection and a web browser on your preferred device, it makes accessing and using software from remote locations and collaborating on projects from a distance much easier.


2: Mobile learning

By 2025, the first true mobile natives will enter higher education – those, who were born after the arrival of the first IPhone. This may mean an entirely new approach to the way learning is managed and teaching is conducted.

By using portable computer devices with wireless networks, teaching and learning becomes mobile. The devices, such as IPads, tablets, smartphones and laptops, all allow for the learning environment to move beyond the traditional classroom.

One example of using mobile learning remotely is the project EduApp4Syria. In this international innovation competition, two open source smartphone apps were sourced with the intention of helping children in Syria. The aim is to support them in learning how to read Arabic and to increase their wellbeing by providing a structure to their life through education.

Even within the classroom, mobile learning provides new possibilities. Instead of the traditional essay, educators can assign students small assignments in different formats, like audio and video, exhibiting how they retain the course content in different ways than a 2000-word essay. They can also easily create presentations for use in the classroom, utilising different media to further support their address on the subject.


3: Big data

One of the big talking points across industries is the emergence of ‘Big Data’. As we apply software solutions to more and more tasks, the data generated is just that – ‘Big’.

In the educational sector, the application of digital learning tools at educational institutions increase, so the data generated from the use of these software solutions grows. Each student generates a unique trail of data as a user, but what to do with all this information?

Done right, the information can be put to use towards improving the effectiveness of educational practices.

In standardised courses, some students may learn very efficiently, while others are incredibly inefficient, as the singular learning process does not trigger their optimal performance.

By letting the data pools of student information serve as a basis for research on learning processes, the data can help make better learning environments. In generating personalised learning algorithms from the data, it would be possible to establish a basis for unique learning paths optimised for each individual student.

One example of this practice is the University of Arizona, where the maths courses are now powered by adaptive learning software that gathers the students’ inputs as data and changes the courses accordingly. By putting this new technology to use, they increased their passing rate for first-year maths courses by 9%.


4: AR/VR in education

When we hear about virtual reality, we do not typically think of disruption in education. We first and foremost think of a person with large high-tech-looking goggles, stumbling around with a gaming console in each hand.

But, both VR and AR (augmented reality) hold many possibilities within education.

By creating a virtual learning environment, students see a visual representation of a theoretical example, that enables participation. By this extension, they are able to immediately engage in practising their skills without the added costs (or dangers) connected with participating in a real-life demonstration.

This technology can drastically impact learning environments in education, especially for high-stake practical exercises in medical and engineering schools.


5: Digital exams and assessments

Exams can be seen as the final manifestation of the set learning objectives in a particular course. But exams and assessments also exercise great influence on how the students act in learning situations during the course.

Generally, you can differentiate between deep learning approaches and surface learning approaches in education. Research tells us that when students engage in a teaching and learning situation, the exam format plays a major part in defining which approach to learning they will utilise. If the exam encourages a surface approach – thus fostering a more superficial or trivial kind of knowledge – the students will inevitably approach the taught material and learning with that scenario in mind and go for a surface approach, despite the teaching actually fostering deep learning.

And some courses and exams are well suited for surface learning, while others are not, making it vital that the exams are aligned with the learning goals of the course and the teaching. For example, an introductory course in skeletal anatomy in normal human adults can easily benefit from this format, as there are simply 206 correct answers, making it straightforward to align the taught material and the intended approach to learning with an appropriate format of testing this knowledge – for instance multiple-choice. Other courses might require a deeper approach to learning, but to proactively affect which approach the students will choose, the exam format must reinforce this choice. It is critical to ensure alignment between teaching and examination, and on this basis, we must care about exams just as much as we do about teaching.

In light of this, corresponding digitisation between teaching, learning and exams is increasingly necessary in higher education.

In the 2017 survey “Student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners“ by JISC,  79,6 percent of students answered that they “find it more convenient to submit assignments electronically

As research is progressively digitised, teaching and its materials are equally digitised in accordance with the research it is based upon. And when teaching and research are digitised and utilising digital materials, the testing of the students’ learning – the chosen exam formats and curricula – needs to be equally digital or at least be based on the same digital materials and processes to be properly aligned.


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