Education, 2026… [brain dump]

What was the answer to the question in 2006?

If we were asked the question 10 years ago - what does education look like now in 2017 — is this how you envisioned it? More or less.

Well, its gonna change, again.

The traditional higher education model has remained more or less static for more than a century. Yet our institutions often remain “provider focused” rather than “user focused,” even as they struggle to evolve.

The Technology They Are A-Changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing
— Bob Dylan.

Technology change leads to sysmic shifts in our day to day lives

Technology can be soft (non physical) or hard (physical).

Technology can be seen as simple as a paper book. (Mass printing technology enabled ‘the people’ to become educated — this was only ever reserved for the elite.)

Technology is empowering.

Now we have Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with thousands and learners at a anytime all around the globe — learning with and from each other in a mirriad of subjects.

Learn with technology the way students live with technology

Its wonderful, democratic, inclusive and available when you are ready to learn.

We are connected 24/7 with our devices and each other — surely this is the biggest network of them all. Can we harness social learning?

New platforms, new interactions, new possibilties

Depending on your subject matter, it is a great time to start thinking about revamping content for todays learners. Your students will thank you for it and see that you are at least trying new stuff.

Academics (in partnership with education technologists and students) can start re-puposing old learning objects for new devices or interactivity. Dont get left behind. This is about bringing all academics on a journey too,

We are not looking to reinvent the wheel, its about working smart with what you got, talking to experts in that field and ultimately — taking a risk.


Alternative modes of delivery (AMD) may naturally lead into alternative forms of assesment (AMA). This offers students another option rather than a standard essay. The working world has changed — so do student outputs.

We now require critical thinking skills in an information overloaded era. Both for staff, students and life long learners.

This provides a platform for creatives to shine, something we do not do well in education — harnessing creativity, being playful remembering what makes a good learning experience — emotion.

Does the traditional lecturer stir enough emotion, some do, but most fail. Is there room for more ‘experiential learning’, such as active or project based in the HE curriculum? Or does research output dictate over pedagogy?

Virtual, Augmented and AI realities

VR, AR and AI are maturing around the same time. Its fair to say we are at the early stage — but I strongly believe it has the potential to transform education and bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century, where most of its learners come from.

“AR will happen in a big way, and when it does, we will wonder how we ever lived without it. Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today.” Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Costs have reduced and more rapid production will result in commercial viable product you can make on your phone. This technology is ready.

These tools will become the next big game changer in education and general consumption, are we ready?

We have only barly begun to touch the surface with what is possible with this new technology. Here are a few examples.

3D and 360 Images

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then just imagine another dimension.

Rapid, cheap production of 3D/360' objects can add a layer of learning and bring infomation into context and to life. This reduces the cognitive load on the student. Also, its great to visialise abstract thought or concept in a safe and manipulative environment and also offer instant feedback and sharing abilities. This technology is ready to go, are we?

Virtual Assistant (AI)

As animals, we learn from each other. But what if the ‘other’ was a ‘bot’ (robot) on a server on from the other side of the world. Does it matter they are not human? Its the interaction thats the key.

Remember this guy? He has come a long way

To have an online study buddy or ‘Virtual Assistant’ would enable AI (artificial intelligence) to constantly check what you are doing, any areas of weakness or opportunities available locally or online.

It may even suggest a website or twitter follower to a learn this new skill or concept. The ‘buddy bot’ can see what interests you (or might interest you) looking in your search engine, calender, location or sport for example.

However, if we are to get the best out these technoogies - we need to research best practice and slowly develop our provision of VR/AR and 3D/360 components into our courses. It will just become ‘normal’ as a video.
Is there an appetite and investment for this from Universities?
Are institutions agile enough to move in this changing market?
Who instigates change, providers or institutions?

Example: The Medical Industry

An obvious candidiate for VR, AR and AI and probably the first educational sector using it in anger.

Do we need physical classrooms in 2026?

Fast and accurate diagnostics

AI facilitates the imitation of human brains and also the ability to learn from past cases.

Using AR, Doctors can explain complex procedures to their patients.

Therapeutic robots

This helps deliver much needed improvement in the quality of life. Patients get to stay in their homes longer.

Human fatigue errors are reduced

Doctors roughly treat 80 patients per week. AI steps up to expectations here, helping reduce workload with automated testing, and accurate treatment.

Decrease in medical costs

Accurate first diagnosis that may prevent future visits, and the ability to diagnose patients online.

Personalised Learning in Higher Education

The health world is heading towards the new possibilty of Personalised medicine . Instead of ‘off the shelf’ you would have bespoke treatment for your unique body chemistry. Also, as a patient, having access to your own medical records should empower you to look after yourself better. Instead of someone else checking on us or waiting for a problem to occur.

Your body, your medicine.

Off the shelf vs Tailored.

I know which one I would want if I was buying a suit. Of course, this comes at a price, but it looks darn good. Students demand good value for money, this personalisation of their studies would offer this added value and give students a ‘custom fit’ for there needs.

The traditional ‘paper’ is now more of a fancy RSS feed that you populate with your own interests. The news ‘comes to you’ rather then you searching for it. This form of aggregaing content is providing people with a bespoke newspaper, just for them. (think cookies..).

Your paper, your news.

So, how are we harness this in education? Can giving students their data be a watershed moment, a twist of power — ownership of their learning.

Your career, your course

What If We Designed Universities Around Students?

While there might not be obvious similarities between a Silicon Valley start-up and UK Universities, taking a page straight from the tech industry playbook may be the key to the future of higher education

Learn with technology the way students live with technology

UX — User experience

The term refers to the interaction between a person and a tool or system. Businesses and organisations have user-experience teams that constantly seek to understand their customers’ needs and to redesign their services and products when necessary.

Successful companies make user experience a top priority.

The traditional higher-education model has remained, in many ways, static for more than a century. Yet our institutions often remain “provider focused” rather than “user focused,” even as they struggle to evolve.

What would happen if every University in the country created a user-experience team?

A focus on user experience could be transformational for Universities.

Understand users’ needs and motivations.

A typical UX approach would be to observe students throughout their daily activities.

How do students approach registering for classes? Do they have the data necessary to make informed decisions? How much are they paying for textbooks? Is it intuitive or confusing? How do students interact with the institutes LMS?

Furthermore, for higher-education leaders, this may be a useful approach for understanding the needs of non-traditional students in particular. Interviews, surveys, and data analysis can also help fill in the picture. However, a survey administered at the end of a course may prove less useful than catching students on their way out of class (timed notifications).

Identify patterns and opportunities by creating “personas.”

A user-experience team would try to identify underlying patterns relating to their needs and motivations. Many teams create personas — representations of students based on real people and their circumstances.

Effective personas embody three basic components: needs, wants, and challenges. Do we know or assume what these are for our students?

Prototype Education

Just as apps can be prototyped, so can educational experiences. New instructional approaches might be tested with a small group of students to get feedback before they are adopted more broadly.

Prototyping can help a design team understand what steps might be missing or what assumptions are incorrect while it is still easy to make adjustments.

A mock-up of a new website or new communication package could identify points of confusion before costly programming time has been used. New physical spaces might be prototyped by moving existing furniture into new configurations before knocking down walls. The use of , 360, 3D and VR to ‘imagine’ a space before making it physical are available too.

Serious Play

Technology will rarely just jump at you fully formed and ready to go. We have to invest in ‘playing’ with the technology, with ‘fresh eyes’ and delight to see genuine learning opportunities (and limitations). We need in involve students and staff in this journey.

Do Universitities have a dedicated team who can look into these emerging technological opportunities?

I think we need to offer students ‘more’.

More of what they are used to, instead of ‘downgrading’ their tech when coming to University (“Why cant I use my own device in lectures”)

More social networking with their teacher(s) outside the classroom, or chatting with experts actice in that field. Buiding online relationships.

More real life experiences to compliment online provision.

Then they may get a more ‘authentic’ experience as opposed to old didactic model we are quickly moving away from. Furthermore, Academics could get help with social networking themselves, to communicate their research to a wider audience. A genuine win-win.

If you cannot communicate effectively in this arena (as an organisation, department, or individual) then you are dead in the water.

Open vs Closed (Google vs Apple)

Coming soon


I believe that Universities that place students at the center of their decision-making will have the best chance to close the gap between what students need and what they are getting.

Universities may say they care about their students, but caring isn’t the same as understanding their needs and designing for them.

If we are to accept that teaching and learning has changed due to new platforms and interactions — then we need to ready for that challenge.

We need to be willing listen to experts who work in emerging technologies and learning design to see the value in good online learning and the dangers of poor design and poor tech.

Together we might be able to create engaging learning opportunities that truly meet the needs of today’s learners and also the needs of tomorrows teachers who are naturally digital first.

You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing — Bob Dylan.

Please feel free to comment or join this conversation

Jagdish Singh Sohal