Online Learning Enhancement: Higher Education’s Timely Boost

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Indeed, there’s more to online learning than Zoom and instructions. If we look at it, higher education must offer more than just the service of upgraded video conferencing, reminiscent of the ones we did in the 1990s.

There’s no question we need online learning now. As schools were shut down battered by the onslaught of the virus, education changed dramatically. In a flick of a finger, over 1.2 billion children in 186 countries were sent out of the classroom. Indeed, never has there been such a time in the history of man.

But educators may have been a step too late. As magnificent as the halls of the best universities in America today, digital adoption was a plan that educators never took seriously until the virus. By not enacting needed changes soon enough, many colleges and universities were caught unprepared by the virus. Even when education is one of the most people-intensive sectors in our economy, it is the least digitized. Truth be told, technological innovation is largely overdue.

Thankfully, there are ways online learning can go beyond the usual video + instructions format. Today, a slew of novel and powerful platforms has given e-learning a timely makeover. Looking at these innovations should give a new meaning to how our future leaders can become more equipped and better prepared for what lies ahead.

Next-gen Learning

Education can take a page from online courses, a multi-billion industry today. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), in this sense, is leading the way. World-renowned platforms such as UDX and Coursera make the most of data points to leverage data coming from students from just about anywhere in the world, numbering as many as tens of millions. We’re talking about data points from machine learning, allowing automatic grading of assignments and forward apt content.

The implementation of technology can also benefit the faculty. In the University of Illinois, for instance, technological disruptions have reduced faculty labor. Also, this allows the entire M.B.A. to be available to thousands of students at a discounted price of $22,000. In the end, the traditional residential degree offered before has to be retired. Everything has to be done online.

To a large degree, another technology showing a lot of promise for educators in America is Extended Reality (XR). Virtual Reality (VR) is already a byword in the gaming industry. The ability to replace the real world with a virtual one makes VR a gamer’s paradise as anything can be conjured online. Additionally, Augmented Reality (AR) and its ability to add characters to the real world has been gaining ground lately.

But it’s combining both worlds, VR and AR, into XR that have offered education a wider perspective and greater depth. For one, XR in education allows the dissection of the frog, a common theme in biology, without the actual frog itself or of a cadaver without having to deal with the mess.

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Greater Possibilities

But technology does not only help the learner. It also helps the educational institution itself. To date, machine learning, AI, and even SMS messaging are giving educators a timely lift.

A shining example here is the use of 100% AI-based chatbots. These chatbots have been very helpful in guiding students and answering their queries. By doing so, data taken from student questions can be directly integrated into the overall learning management systems or LMS. Additionally, such data sets empower supporting personnel who directly handle students. It gives them needed input to better their quality of service. Pattern recognition has also been a shot in the arm for students by helping them navigate key dates in the educational calendar (e.g., enrollment, course deadlines).

In a way, technology has also improved the campus experience. Instead of the traditional speakers that dot campuses, smart speakers are being spread all over campus dorms. Increasingly, the campus is being digitized, so self-service innovations have become a recurring theme.

Replacing the Teacher

Would you like to learn from a robot? That may not be that far-fetched. That’s how Georgia Tech leveraged Artificial Intelligence. In its elite online degree program, the sought-after university uses an AI-based teaching assistant.

Well, this AI assistant would be a welcome addition to Siri and Google’s Hey Google. Its name is Jilli Watson, a brainchild of tech guru Ashok Goel. They call her a virtual TA, short for teaching assistant. Jill TA was introduced to a residential classroom in 2019 and has been teaching actively ever since. Don’t be afraid to bother Ms. Watson. She also has an assistant who can help you. Its name is Jill Social Agent, another AI.

It may make perfect sense to know these educational robots. If there’s one thing that’s certain, they’re bound to multiply faster in the near future.

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