Published on 2013/10/01

Three Technological Trends That Set the Tone for Higher Education’s Future

Three Technological Trends That Set the Tone for Higher Education’s Future
As online education moves from the periphery to the core of postsecondary teaching and learning, instructors should look toward game-based learning as a way to engage students and support their success.

Innovative advances in education technology are complex in nature and application. This transmutation occurs at an astonishingly fast pace, creating difficulty in distinguishing a trend from a disruption. Lately we’ve heard the roar of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), the excellent outcome results from research on adaptive learning and the continuous hum of social learning, while we all wait for improved designs of the standard learning management system (LMS). The range of what works best with each technology depends on the company, use, environment and acceptance rate. Where is this leading?

1. Massive LMS Must Take a Front Seat

The greatest impact of MOOCs will  be social learning adapting large enrollment LMS.

MOOCs disrupted the accepted pedagogical approaches to learning, instructional course design and faculty/student ratios — not to mention tuition. MOOCs have forced thinking in new ways about old ideas. But, as the disruption became more common, questions arose: what is the business model, how can this be supported and is this an effective methodology? Many innovations incubate outside of business models; however, business models are needed for innovation to grow.  Somehow, MOOCs need a business model to advance beyond funding. Social media may resolve the business model problem by ads and other innocuous services such as games.

MOOCs were not the first disruption to traditional approaches or challenge to established pedagogy. MOOCs did postulate and prove education technology could manage large-scale enrollment and deliver instruction and assessment effectively. MOOCs merged this accessibility with earlier ideas of free tuition. University of the People has been around since 2009 offering free tuition. The Technological University of America began with free tuition and attempted an enhanced disruption with the ambitious goal of offering all programs on Facebook, using social media as the business model.

MOOCs have dispelled the myth that technology cannot be used to scale education. MOOCs have shown you can create well-designed courses serving large populations with technology to manage the load (server activity) and increased activity. The technology is here, the design methods are here and we have the new LMS. Now, we need the business model.

2. Social and Adaptive Learning Should be Blended

Social learning and adaptive learning are the future. We just need a way to harness all of our tools into a new framework.  

Social learning is more than social media and less than academic learning. There are some really great social learning platforms available, such as Remix Learning, SuccessFactors, SABA and more. All provide learning at the point needed and allow for a host of other features, including assessment. The key question is whether you need a social learning platform and a LMS. Many schools run both. It seems disruptive, and there can be challenges managing varying modes, along with storage and capacity issues.

Adaptive learning technology, as a new pedagogy, suggests we think about learning theory converging with adaptive learning. This transformation will change how we build curricula and understand learning. Adaptive learning allows for a type of self-mapped learning experience while using assessment to measure and adjust direction. Adaptive learning is not a LMS nor does it provide engagement while simulating immersive learning.

3. Games Must Come Out of the Woodwork

Game-based curriculum design is the only methodology that creates immediate feedback, learning on demand and learning pathways based on competence.  

If you want to find an innovative solution to difficult problems, just watch a group of little kids. Put a bunch of kids together, tell them to play and watch how they learn. They organize, sometimes by small groups, decide on some unwritten rules (which may evolve later on), they learn names and key places and they develop strategy and tactics and play. The outcome is they play and learn new skills, make new friends and develop social skills.

Game design curriculum concepts provide the only agile, fail-safe, socially engaging and adaptive environment into which we can morph the old LMS. The base and driving force is competence built by social interaction and achievement, not by memory but demonstrated ability. Imagine using a gesture-based game to build a holographic house to demonstrate mechanics or medical concepts. Award the ‘A’ grade for competency to achieve the outcome rather than to pass a test.

Current learning methods have structural challenges; much of what is being done is trying to make websites for mobile or adapting learning to fit in an old LMS. Students often do not feel engaged because they see the real world and fail to see its alignment with education. The trends tell us that if we do not change, we will cease to be effective.

The coming culmination of these trends: a Game-Based Learning Experience Environment — or my new acronym, GBLEE©. Now, who is up for the challenge?

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Readers Comments

Xavier Fleming 2013/10/01 at 8:12 am

It’s interesting to read an article about new technologies’ impact on higher education that doesn’t focus strictly on user interfaces. Often, what’s happening on the back end is even more exciting and potentially transformative for higher education.

Bill Davis 2013/10/01 at 4:07 pm

Good article. I’m surprised Dull didn’t bring up improved data analytics capability as another major technological change for higher education. Improved data collection and analytics is poised to change the way we deliver programming, grow enrollment, offer services and much, much more.

Ben betts 2013/10/02 at 8:30 am

Challenge accepted!

As humans we spend billions of hours playing computer games, so it’s a very logical to implement gamification methods in learning; the desire to progress, win badges, and develop strategy and tactics would encourage most learners. When this is applied within a social learning environment, where learners can discuss topics and bounce ideas of one another, well this is an environment that learning can thrive in.

We’ve built Curatr v3 (, a gamified, social learning platform, with all of this in mind. We’re running a number of free MOOCs (including one about social learning and another about gamification). Do sign up and join the discussions.

    Chuck Dull 2013/10/08 at 9:20 am

    Thanks Ben, I am on my way to your site now.

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