The Future of Education: A Scenario

The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed. ~William Gibson

The following scenario illustrates one future of education. As we all know, technology is increasing at an exponential rate. Self driving cars, facial recognition, virtual-reality, augmented reality and 3D printing are extant today, but will be integrated into everyday life within 5 to 10 years, whether we like it or not. The interesting thing about the scenario is that each one of the technological advances illustrated here can be demonstrated in isolation today. Who knows where we will actually be in 5 to 10 years!

Our typical student Jane Doe (35 y.o. employed single mother), awakened by her Facebook phone, sees the package on her doorstep through the Ring Doorbell app. The Amazon-USP drone had just dropped off a small package containing a tablet from a new school. The Apple-Gucci tablet contains the syllabus, all the electronic textbooks, apps and links to all the open-access online resources she will need to take the free online course from MIT-Intel.

The course is free for her because her employer, Pfizer-Medtronic, wants her to study the latest on robotics algorithms used in the rapidly changing pharmaceutical industry. She only comes to the office when she needs to work with prototype robot hardware.

The camera on the tablet recognizes her face from her registration record, so she doesn’t have to remember a password to login. She summons her GM-Lyft self driving car with her Apple-TAG Heuer Watch, gets in the back seat and listens to her syllabus while the car drives her to work, 2 hours away. Of course, Lyft stopped at the Starbucks drive-thru for her daily scheduled caffeine fix.

Fifteen minutes into her ride, her Watch alerted her to a video conference appointment with her AI language professor. Having no fixed semesters allows her to customize her learning path, collecting Coursera Universal Credit Badges along the way. She conversed with her prof in real-time on her tablet. No matter that he was in Tokyo and spoke in Japanese. She saw an almost simultaneous Google translation in text and heard English in her wireless Apple AirPods. She answered in English and he nodded. Her voice was translated to Japanese just as fast.

He helped her tweak the feedback in the laboratory AR simulation that allowed her to feel when she pushed a button or dialed a knob in mid-air. Ultrahaptics uses tablet ultrasound to add touch while using her prescription Google-Luxottica AR glasses for these augmented reality simulation apps.

Jane accomplished a lot before arriving at her office to start her day job as Assistant Director of Robotics Research. At work, she would be able to 3D print the control switches for the back of the new life-like Toshiba customer service pharmacy tech robot for CVS-Walgreen.

This scenario shows how student demographics are changing, how business plans in higher ed institutions might evolve, and how new pedagogies and educational technologies will forever change the education landscape.

Copyright Ⓒ 2016–2017 Rodney B. Murray | Updated 4–25–2017