Whenever articles on the yearly trends of any industry are shared online, people tend to speak in big terms, like paradigm shift, disruptive technologies… but the truth is the implementation of any high-level element that arches over an industry takes time, spans multiple years and is usually carried out when either the final users or the society, in general, are extensively demanding it or when the associated costs are low enough to make them profitable. As such, putting in simplified terms and focusing on the higher education industry, the 2022 trends could be summarized as “nothing new under the sun,” but then again, there are always nuances to be made.
The only “suitable” placement for the word disruptive, at least for the last few years, is next to the word pandemic. COVID-19 had (and unfortunately still has) a tremendous impact on many industries and even more so on our daily lives. The rush to move online and implement technologies that not everybody was comfortable with or solutions that were not tested enough to ensure a problem-free implementation created many barriers in providing a smooth alternative to the traditional way of teaching. However, sometimes a crisis brings a multitude of opportunities and forces us to adapt to new situations and reevaluate our modus operandi.
The challenges lying ahead are primarily derived from how we will incorporate the lessons learned into our new ways of providing education, into a pedagogical flexibility that, more than being a temporary solution during COVID, has to be turned into a long-term strategy.
Quick overview of 2021
Looking back at the year that just passed, a big part of it was again under the sign of campus shutdowns, online Zoom lectures, and budget cuts in quite a few cases worldwide.
According to a study made by the World Bank and UNESCO Education Finance Watch (EFW), two-thirds of low- and lower-middle-income countries have cut their public education budgets since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of the necessary funding to provide adequate education, the move to remote/online learning options, although implemented throughout the world, came with disproportionate levels of quality and reach that impacted particularly the most marginalized students.
At a higher education level, many universities found themselves in need to find solutions for the drop in the international student levels and the decrease in funding that came with it. In Canada, a study made for the 2019-2020 time frame revealed that in terms of Gross Domestic Product loss, the provinces with the most significant numbers of international students were most affected, with Ontario losing over $4.1 billion in GDP, followed by British Columbia with a $1.2 billion loss, and Quebec with just over $1 billion.
On top of that, the loss in student expenditures equated to a loss of CAD $4.5 billion in labour income, or a loss of 64,300 full-time jobs in Canada (both directly and indirectly).
To say that COVID-19 has impacted the educational system everywhere still sounds like an understatement, and looking at 2022, it’s easy to foresee that this sentiment will be a reality for the year(s) to come as well.
The technologies likely to rule the immediate future in the educational landscape will still revolve around online delivery. One of the issues to solve remains the way remote exams are conducted, with universities still trying either to create their online proctoring solutions or to embed third-party options.
Even with the hope that the pandemic will soon be behind us, it’s likely that the online solutions will evolve and be integrated with increasing proportions in the higher-education curricula, however, not taking over the traditional educational models. In other words, the short-term future looks blended, with a mix of in-class and online pedagogical deliveries providing the universities with enough flexibility to respond to any disruptions and even more so to provide students with an education that aligns better with their technology consumption.
The pandemic has led universities to rethink fundamentally the added value of teachers and how to benefit students better and justify why students should travel to campus if only to attend a lecture where they are passive. Moreover, they are faced with optimizing teaching and learning by better combining online with face-to-face approaches, emphasizing active learning.
Anik De St-Hilaire – VP Academic Development @KnowledgeOne
It is also expected that slowly but surely, immersive technologies will be more present in the learning landscape — technologies that include Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Extended Reality (XR). You can check one example that we have worked on below:
“Three to four years ago, we would have had to pay 600-2000$ for a VR headset. That price wouldn’t have included the high-performing computer that the headset needed to be connected to via a long cable. Today, we can get standalone, wireless headsets with 6 degrees of freedom and good performance for 300-600$. Besides the overall decrease in prices, it is also important to examine the portability factor. Standalone headsets open up new opportunities for bringing VR in and out of the classroom or even out of the campus. Whereas the students would have needed to “go to the VR” to access wired headsets, it is now possible to bring the VR to the students. As the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, accelerated adoption will follow.”
Ping Ng – Learning Experience Designer @KnowledgeOne
From a mobile learning perspective, even though it allows learners to consume content when and where they want, it’s unlikely that in the higher education market, this flexibility will be a driving force, and this is primarily due to the nature and size of the content that needs to be assimilated by students. However, mobile learning can be seen as a viable solution for corporate training without taking over the other learning and elearning solutions.
It is also expected to see more examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education. The span of these cases would most likely not take over the industry, but significant steps towards automating certain aspects of learning are most likely to happen.
For 2022 and the following years, I think using AI in education will be one of the emerging elements. For example, I am now exploring Learning Analytics using Machine Learning algorithms, and I created a chatbot prototype using IBM Watson for professor support, integrated into Moodle. There are already multiple other examples of AI in education, such as Intelligent Tutoring Systems and Recommendation Systems.
Yamna Ettarres – Learning Technology Specialist @KnowledgeOne
As a last note on the technology side of the trends, it is expected to see an increased use of Rapid eLearning Tools to transfer in-class content to online platforms. This being said, and while beneficial from certain aspects, overcrowded with bullet points PowerPoint presentations should not be considered a viable online pedagogical tool.
There are many considerable changes to look forward to in terms of content (and how the content is presented) for the year(s) to come.
One of the facts that results clearly from the look back at the impact COVID had (and still has) on our society is that it has affected individuals and communities on different levels and to varying degrees. Physical distancing, self-isolation, and campus closures (to name a few) have weakened many students’ necessary support systems. Even though creating a sense of community in online environments is not an easy endeavour, it is even more needed and mandatory in the current times.
Linking to this, one of the aspects that got sometimes overlooked during the rush to move to online formats was the creation of accessible solutions. In all honesty, with the myriad of assistive devices and accessible software available, the lack of viable, accessible courses is not easy to excuse.
See the video below for an example of one of our accessible online courses:
Social issues, from racial discrimination to gender inequality or sexual violence, are also expected to be addressed more in the year(s) to come, not as course curricula but rather as mandatory training for all staff and students alike. Take as an example the course we created with Concordia University on sexual violence awareness and prevention (now implemented in multiple universities throughout Canada).
Open Educational Resources (OER) are also expected to gain traction this year, with more and more resources being freely available. The OER are, as UNESCO describes them, “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”
Gamification elements are likely to be more present as well, especially considering the need to generate engagement in online learning environments. One of our examples in this sense is the collaboration we had with Ubisoft in creating an online training program (integrated into different academic institutions throughout the world) inviting students worldwide to discover innovative ways to create engaging video games.
As online courses are increasingly available, a switch to video-based teaching is expected to happen, taking over the often-dreaded mandatory readings.
I think that written content will be included less and less in online learning, and the tendency will continue to move towards video interactions and experiences. This will most likely happen due to the way students consume media these days and its impact on concentration levels.
Stephanie Trott – Director, Course Development @KnowledgeOne
So, anything new under the sun for 2022?
While most of the elements written above are a continuation of efforts made in the previous years, we can look at 2022 under the umbrella of “nothing changes except our need to change.” In other words, as an industry in general, education is a slow-moving steamboat hard to steer but one that, once reaching fast waters, is in dire need of suitable strategies. This year, the main focus for many educational institutions will be (and must be) the creation and implementation of strategies that will allow them to switch gears depending on the fundamental disruptive elements impacting their environments (being pandemics or anything else).