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Future of Higher Education Technology

The Trends of Digital Transformation in Higher Education

Maya Georgieva, COO and Co-Founder of Digital Bodies, an immersive learning consulting group, shares her thoughts on the inevitable digitization of higher education.

Maya Georgieva

Director of Education Futures and leads the XR and HCI Innovation Labs, The New School, Co-Founder, DigitalBodies 

What are your thoughts on the future of higher education?

We are continuously exploring and understanding the use and impact of extended reality (XR) on education, the workforce, and society. By the end of this decade and under the umbrella term of XR, the use of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, as well as 360-degree video, will permeate our daily lives in ways mobile does today. Headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 are becoming lighter, more flexible, and powerful, and Silicon Valley will be delivering augmented-reality glasses by 2023.

As we move forward, the convergence of emerging technologies and artificial intelligence will lead to novel applications and solutions that transport us into multisensory virtual worlds or seamlessly integrate digital content into the real world. As learning institutions continue their exploration of immersive learning, there is little doubt in my mind that XR will profoundly reshape learning and, ultimately, our human experience.

In the future, learning will take the shape of a story, a play, or a game with many quests, involving multiple platforms and players, driven by dialogue, and augmented with technology. Learning will be an interplay of immersive experiences, data, and highly social virtual worlds. The major challenges in the future will be to provide access to these new learning experiences across the globe and to address the ethical challenges society will face as the boundaries between our real and virtual lives disappear. 

What are some of the trends in higher education technology today?

I think the major trend today for higher education is digital transformation, which is a journey rather than a destination. It is recognizing the opportunity enabled by the advances in technology that includes social, cloud, data science, artificial intelligence, and, of course, extended reality, or XR. It also recognizes the need for a cultural shift in how our institutions work. It inspires an urgency to create new business models for education. Digital transformation is not about adopting a single technology but rather embracing the convergence of these technologies to drive better student outcomes, as well as explore innovative approaches for teaching, learning, and research. 

Digital transformation in higher education does not happen in a vacuum and is shaped by social, political, economic, and increasingly environmental trends that take place in the world at large. In a rapidly changing and digital world, equity, diversity, ethics, and inclusion present critical questions that require immediate action. Higher education institutions need to adopt rapid decision-making approaches in addressing their strategic priorities. To thrive, higher education institutions have to embrace innovation to reimagine their place in the future of learning.

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