Over the past two years, it is quite evident that learning processes, at any level, have experienced some extraordinary changes. According to the Holon IQ report, around $20 billion was invested in educational technology during 2021; 25% higher than the $16 billion invested in 2020. Between 2001 and 2021, Europe has invested $5.5 billion in total, India $7.9 billion, and China $29.5 billion. According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, there will be 186% more undergraduate students taking only distance education courses in 2020 (7 million vs. 2.4 million in 2019). Global expenditure on educational technology is expected to reach around $400 billion in 2025. Obviously, this phenomenon represents a great opportunity to rethink and redefine learning processes.
There is a two-way relationship between technology and education. While technology enables opportunities such as Virtual Reality or Cloud-Based Collaboration, learning can also influence the development of technology and its adoption in our personal and professional lives. The global environment and society are also determining the learning processes. Thus, is important to look at the learning processes through a multidimensional lens.
We can expect, for example, that some great augmented reality platforms will be available and easily accessible to every learner. But how much are learners ready to use it to really enhance their learning experience? How ready are faculty and staff to create such experiences? Moreover, what will the next generations of physical classrooms look like? How are teaching and learning (traditional and new) methods going to be adopted within a learning path? These are some questions that should be addressed by any educator and administrator. Here are four recommendations:
What can be done
Keep the focus on learners. When designing an educational programme, we must first put ourselves in the learner’s shoes and ask: are learning goals clearly defined and well received by learners? How will the programme be experienced by learners? What kind of connections will learners perceive between this programme and the previous ones? What are the learning preferences and styles of learners?
Review the portfolio of teaching and learning methods. Learners need to be engaged and made to feel that they are active protagonists of the programme. Faculty members must adopt the methods that best fit the learning goal, the content, and the learner.
Introduce a faculty development programme. Learning is for everyone, faculty members included. Creating initiatives to support their development is a critical factor in success. This is necessary also to better understand how learners’ preferences are evolving, how to better use technology to enhance the learning experience and more.
Provide continuous feedback. Learners will definitively benefit from continuous feedback from faculty. The learning process can be adjusted accordingly, and this creates a kind of “individualised learning path”, which in turn will make learners take charge of their learning progress.
Learning and technology are continuously evolving and how this is reshaping the learning experience needs to be further investigated and explored.
The writer is Professor of Practice of Organisational Behaviour in the Leadership, Organisation and Human Resources Knowledge Group at SDA Bocconi School of Management and SDA Bocconi Asia Center.