Sarah Porter, head of innovation at JISC, shares her view of the future to help you think strategically.
Sarah Porter

We have seen unimaginable change to the global environment in the last 50 years – and technology of various kinds has been at the heart of much of this change.

Sarah Porter, head of innovation at JISC, is uniquely placed to observe the developments across UK higher and further education. She says, “Technology offers tremendous advantages in some contexts – it can connect people across huge distances, help to cure illnesses, assist food production and help us to explore and solve problems. But, at the same time, technology can have negative impacts – and also unforeseen consequences.”

Sarah believes that in the present, education is at something of a turning point in its relationship with technology, so here she sketches out some predictions for the future to help you stay ahead. Click the button above to reveal Sarah's predictions…

Seven predictions for our technology-enabled universities


The concept of ‘digital’ will fade

Digital devices and content are already becoming a pervasive part of our lives.

There will be even more personalisation of technology

Users will will increasingly have integrated devices that they use for many different social and leisure pursuits as well as for their education and their paid work. Smarter devices will be worn, and be voice- and even brain-activated, giving the user the ability to access content and services from the networked, immersive environment of multimedia content in which they move.

The boundaries between formal research and scholarship, formal education and training will become increasingly blurred

As the ‘network effect’ – the connections of people with all kinds of content at a global level – continues to expand, how content is created and shared will continue to grow. Content and learning opportunities will be contributed by ‘anyone’. Users may contribute to informal learning networks through content that they share, either as part of their formal research or as informal interest – for example, charitable work.

The ‘added value’ of face to face educational experiences will start to break down

As the quality of online content improves, and social technologies become ever more sophisticated online learning will become a mainstream option, using, for example,high quality, low cost, multi-person video conferencing on mobile devices. In a world where flexibility and choice are valued increasingly, and where people are increasingly comfortable with complex social interactions through technical environments, students and their parents will be less focused upon a face-to-face experience and more interested in the other benefits that can be offered in terms of choice, quality of support, flexibility, employability.

The digital environment will provide more opportunities for institutions to provide an enhanced and customised student experience

Intelligent, data-driven systems will work with the student to support them, to analyse their learning behaviour, to propose resources that may help with areas of weakness or further develop areas of interest. Interactions between learners and tutors will be recorded and stored to allow review and replay. Data analysis will help tutors to provide customised learning plans, to identify particular capabilities as well as weaknesses or gaps and use these to suggest employment tracks, industry placements, mentors.

More organisations will accredit chunks of learning

As the formal boundaries around knowledge break down, and the ability to provide a good educational experience without needing to invest in real estate becomes achievable, modular accreditation will grow. There will be more partnerships between commercial and non-commercial organisations, courses will be made available in more flexible formats, and on line course materials will be supported by distributed networks of high quality support organisations – providing academic and pastoral support, support for employment, and for many students providing practical experience of employment, peer networks and mentoring by distributed networks.

Organisations will think about services, not systems

The organisational processes will only survive if they make the provider more competitive, able to offer higher quality experiences, more focused on the changing needs of the end beneficiary – and whoever is paying for the educational experience. Institutional systems will need to be highly flexible and able to conduct real-time transactions with many partners and beneficiaries. As professionals, we will need new skills in order to understand the potential and risks associated with new and sometimes unproven approaches. We will need to have the right balance of flexibility and agility to be able to cope with the demands of this exciting but challenging environment.

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