The hype around emerging technologies sometimes encourages skeptical observers to underestimate the likes of artificial intelligence, 5G infrastructure or virtual reality. But as Justin Reich, an assistant professor of digital media and director of the Teaching Systems Lab at the Massachusetts Institutional Technology, points out in his recent book, it’s not that technologies — like massive open online courses — are useless, but that their value and influence aren’t as unbridled as some have suggested over the years.
“[There are] students who vividly recall smart boards being rolled into all their classrooms and then never used,” Reich told EdScoop. “Smart boards probably didn’t hurt anyone unless they fell on someone. They probably didn’t help very much.”
This doesn’t suggest that higher education leaders should ignore advances in technology. As the past 14 months have shown, the benefits of IT are far from exhausted when it comes to improving institutional operations and enhancing student learning.
Virtual reality may not revolutionize education, but as the headsets become cheaper and the software more accessible, professors are finding ways to use it that unlock classroom experiences that were previously impossible. AI won’t change everything tomorrow, but many institutions are finding that a little automation can go a long way across a wide range of administrative functions.
This collection of editorial coverage — EdScoop’s special report on emerging edtech — is a snapshot of just what promise these technologies hold for institutions in 2021 and beyond, written for an audience of sensible skeptics interested in taking advantage of what the newest technologies might offer.