The future of Digital Education: Remote Learning and Virtual Reality in the class

While home-learning has been the new norm since the pandemic started, it is expected that this is only the beginning of what is about to come in the future which will completely change the way we learn. Here, we will present to you some of our insights on how technology will shape education by 2050. Our findings can be used as a a base for future thinking, and not a prediction of the future.

Learning virtually anywhere, anytime. By 2050, access from anywhere will enable learning and collaboration, both locally and globally. Teaching and learning will be social and interaction based. Schools are expected to have a traditional physical cohort of students, as well as online only students who live anywhere. Hybrid learning that combines remote learning as well as presence-based learning will become the norm.

Notably, learning is going to be gamified using a mix of augmented reality learning and VR play experiences, with additional “in nature” activities, shown to improve mental and physical well-being. Gamified learning will be used to develop values such as compassion towards others. Creativity and other soft skills are going to be developed by focusing on imagining, creating, playing, sharing, and reflecting on an ongoing basis.

At the same time, by 2050 data-driven algorithms combined with developments in neuroscience tailor education delivery and scope to optimize learning outcomes of individuals based on their neurological learning profiles as well as genomic and metabolomic profiles that are adapted in the course of the life time. Users will have their own personalized instruction shaped specifically for their unique learning style.

Study as you go. As a result of individualized education, student-led, self-paced learning prevails and the universal education system is eliminated. Students feel more motivated to learn as they play an active role in designing and developing the teaching-learning process. International large-scale assessments could become obsolete and curricula could harmonize bottom up. Some countries may retain their own curricula in a wish to ascertain sovereignty, leading to international fragmentation and polarization.

Another key trend is that universities will break with the -3 to 5- year curricula allowing flexibility and choice to study through personalized programmes that “Calibrate — Elevate — Activate”. The most in demand universities will excel at coaching students to develop life skills and a meaningful purpose in life. Students come in and out of universities, with programmes offering for example 6 years of learning over a lifetime.

In addition, in 2050 universities are more research driven than ever. Students will get much of their knowledge base outside of tertiary education and universities focus on peer-to-peer projects that contribute to teaching and research, so that students learn by innovating and creating their own ventures (social, environmental, business, or others).

Universities will be highly specialized in specific, niche research areas mapped against societal challenges. Research is going to be organized in highly networked intergenerational hubs and is interdisciplinary, mixing for example behavioural science with medicine, system innovation with environment, computer science and psychology. Universities will be more connected internationally through technology possibly in closed networks among selected countries or universities.

From lab rat to robot. Machine-assisted research, from robotic lab technicians or atomically precise manufacturing for prototypes, gives human researchers more time to exchange ideas and explore connections across the world.

Superlearning. New, data-based learning approaches will allow students to study in repeated “Skills Sprints” to perpetually, remotely and rapidly acquire new, highly specialized skills. Data is going to help identify career paths for employees and build next career steps into the work environment to acquire skills for the next career change while working. Technological progress is followed by a change in attitudes in favour of career hopping in the course of a lifetime.

Developing skills across the logic-creativity spectrum. For instance, integrative thinking, combining logic and creativity, is prized to keep science and technology and business models from becoming too narrow and to find new ways to apply knowledge. Individuals will be profiled for their innate skills using advanced psychological testing, genetic profiling and brain imagery to match them to areas of expertise and professions and then trained intensively to boost the forms of creativity best suited to that field.

How will the teachers look like by 2050? The traditional student-teacher relationship is disintermediated as the classroom disappears. In a remote setting, AI handles personalization of the teaching flow, content and objectives and teachers are in charge of teaching core competencies instead of subjects.

Teacher as a guide, coach and playmate. With latest generations of EdTech (VR, Cloud connected learning and on demand information) gaining ground, teachers’ and professors’ role is to develop students’ transversal skills and coaching them to strengthen their life coping skills. Many of the most important transversal skills require guidance and coaching rather than teaching.

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We are a Swiss Think Tank that promotes a transition towards a future economy that is sustainable, inclusive, technology-driven and growing.