Speaking at a Westminster Higher Education Forum event on technology in education, Feldman told delegates that although many of the transformational technologies underpinning Industry 4.0 are not ready yet, there are still things universities and colleges can do to prepare.

Jisc’s response to Industry 4.0 – known as Education 4.0 – would represent a shift in the way students learn, led by artificial intelligence (AI), Feldman said.

“The jobs of the future need an education system to match,” he added. “Re-thinking our approach and expectations of how education is delivered now for the future workplace needs to consider the full lifelong learning experience.”

Feldman did, however, recognise the practical challenges for education providers of a 15-year vision such as Education 4.0, when it is difficult to predict what the sector will look like in 15 months. But he said it was not too early to plan ahead.

"There are building blocks that universities and colleges can put in place now"

“There are building blocks that universities and colleges can put in place now,” he said.

“For us that includes realising the power of data through analytics; making campuses smarter through the internet of things; investing in the experiential and arguably more efficient power of VR for real-work skills; and giving staff and students a helping hand through the virtual support of chatbots.” 

Another challenge is how to prepare the education workforce for a future where lecturers, freed up by technology from the mundane aspects of teaching, focus on passing on wisdom, insight and soft skills.

He said:85% of higher education staff we surveyed stated they were unsure of their roles and responsibilities in response to technology - we must support them.”

Feldman said that if the UK’s education sector positively embraces the technologies driving Industry 4.0 – including AI and robotics – the nation could maintain or even extend its profile as a world leader.

He said now is the time to embrace emerging technologies and lead the redesign of the centuries’ old model of education for the benefit of our students, lecturers and nation.

Now is the time to embrace emerging technologies

“We recommend that education providers get started now and do what they can to evolve current models against a vision for transformation,” he said. “We can help colleges and universities on that journey – it’s what we’re here for.”

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