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The Six Tech Advances In Higher Ed That Are Preparing Students For The Future Of Work

Source | FastCompany : By George Lorenzo

Media coverage of higher education often focuses on the increased cost of college that places its graduates into an overload of debt with no decent job at the end. What’s often missing in that coverage is how higher education globally is developing technological innovations that are tremendous catalysts of change.

Two decades-old international education organizations on the forefront of technological change are the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Last month they published the NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition that charts emerging technologies in higher education.


Makerspaces and Affective Computing are two of six key developments the Horizon report lists as modern technologies—along with six trends and six challenges—having a big impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in colleges. All are very likely to achieve widespread adoption over the next five years and significantly alter the workforce of the near future.

Makerspaces are informal workshop environments where people gather to create prototypes or products in a do-it-yourself setting, explains NMC Horizon Project director Samantha Becker. “The key here is that these environments offer communal and cooperative access to devices and supplies [such as 3-D printers, Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, MaKey Makeys, Adobe Creative Suite software, laser cutters, and even sewing machines] for users to engage in self-directed activities that really build off of their curiosity and help them identify what they may be passionate about.” One such Makerspace among many on college campuses is the seven-story, $35 million Sears think

at Case Western University in Cleveland.

Affective Computing, as explained in the report, is based on the notion that we “can program machines to recognize, interpret, process, and simulate the range of human emotions.” For example, through advances in gesture-based computing and speech recognition, context-aware, emotionally responsive machines can cater to subtly communicated needs. We are starting to see this kind of research come to fruition in such products as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, both capable of responding to voice prompts. “The addition of emotion recognition would take the category to a new level.”

Some higher education institutions leading the way in this area include MIT’s Affecting Computing Group (ACG), the University of Michigan’s CHAI Lab on the science of decoding human behavior and the emerging field of Behavioral Signal Processing (BSP), and Greece’s University of Macedonia Computer Networks & Telematics Applications Lab.

The four other emerging educational technology developments outlined in the Horizon report were Robotics, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).


According to the report, the world’s robot population—meaning “automated machines that accomplish a range of tasks”—is expected to reach 4 million by 2020, and “its potential uses are starting to gain traction.” New outreach programs are promoting robotics and programming as multidisciplinary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills that can make students better problem solvers.”

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