Martin Hamilton is a futurist at Jisc

Few people would deny that the learning landscape has transformed over the last few years, particularly when it comes to the proliferation of education technologies.

Given that even ten years ago you would have been hard pressed to predict such a wholesale change, many teachers will be wondering what the next big digital trend will be and – perhaps more importantly – what they will have to do to remain relevant and continue to attract and engage students.

My job as futurist at Jisc is to do just that; anticipate new developments and policies, and help organisations to respond. I want to tell you about some of the changes that we're seeing, both in the use of tech and the changing expectations of learners, and what we can expect in years to come.

Alternative education models

Before putting yourself in the shoes of the modern-day learner to try to understand their wants and needs, think back to your own youth. Sources for knowledge and information weren't as freely available for young people hungry to learn. Outside of school, it's likely you had to rely on public libraries, or perhaps you were lucky enough to have a set of encyclopaedias at home.

Contrast that with what I call the iPad generation. The learner of today has always had the sum total of human knowledge at their fingertips. Curious individuals are able to go off and learn all about a subject from online open educational resources (OERs), in a way that involves minimal friction. No longer are learners confined to studying within classroom, or library, walls – and this has very real implications on post-compulsory education.

Missing until recently, though, was the ability to be assessed on this self-paced, self-directed learning. Not so, for much longer. Developments such as the UK's FutureLearn partnering with Pearson VUE – who will now offer certification for individuals that sit proctored examinations – are a step in the right direction towards education models that better suit more personalised, mobile learning and accreditation.

From entertainer to enabler

If we've accepted that mobile devices are now part of the normal learning experience, then there are a few misconceptions that need to be tackled.

Some teachers may find it hard to shift their thinking that mobiles and tablets are primarily for entertainment, but actually, there's no reason why they can't facilitate both. Good examples would be apps like Duolingo and Math BINGO, which 'gamify' to make what could otherwise be dull rote learning into something fun and interactive.

Expect to see more gamification of learning and even administrative processes – such as using and borrowing resources from the library – as a means of engaging students.

Virtual and physical experiences

In a world where the monopoly on information has (by and large) been broken and where learners can pursue their interests independently to achieve recognised vocational qualifications without entering an institution, I think colleges will increasingly need to reconsider how they can provide exceptional experiences.

My feeling is that concrete incentives such as physical work placements, higher level apprenticeships and hands-on experiences will come to be more important – but the ability to virtually experience these things online will also add value.

Let's say that I am a school leaver who has developed a deep interest in the computer networking technology that powers the internet.

Being able to try out and use network simulators will aid my understanding in how all this works together, and give me a good idea of what I need to do when it comes to accessing the physical hardware.

There is a nice parallel here with the Cisco Networking Academy programme, which provides vocational training based in FE colleges and universities, leading to CCNA and other certifications.

Find out more

If you're interested in learning more about how technology is changing the delivery of education and qualifications – as well as seeing some of the latest technologies and apps – Jisc is hosting a series of regional events this summer to help you do just that.

There will be an opportunity to hear from Jisc experts and other practitioners, and to network with peers. Check out the events in your local area and come along to find out more.

Martin Hamilton is a futurist at Jisc, which provides digital solutions for UK education and research

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