Six Higher Education Trends and InnovationsThe cost of higher education gets considerable attention, at the cost of news about higher education trends and innovations that can benefit students now and in the near future.

A new article from Fast Company describes six tech innovations that matter to higher education. Whether you want to study accounting information systems management, these innovations may figure into your future education.

Augmented and Virtual Reality:

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer generated environment that educators can use in a wide range of STEM and medical disciplines, for practicing skills that are expensive or dangerous to practice in real life. Augmented reality (AR) is about layering data over a real-world view of streets, a machine or a landscape. The University of Maryland’s Augmentarium is a good example of a learning lab that combines VR and AR in one high-tech facility.

Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning:

Schools are turning to Big Data to find out what works and what doesn’t. All universities have huge databases on hand, but mining that data to make good education decisions is tough.

Adaptive learning is about taking those learning analytics and using the information to better serve students. The iLime project at Universidad de La Rioja in Spain uses information on student interactions to give students better, personalized guidance. An online university could use similar information to help mentors give better advice to students.

Bring your own device (BYOD)

The risks and benefits of letting people bring their own wireless devices into a workplace have been a topic of conversation in business and government for several years. The educational value of BYOD is not hard to see if you think about it. Students who can make full use of apps, tablet PCs with browsers and e-book readers with Wi-Fi access will be better students, at least in principle. BYOD does raise some information security concerns, but the potential for faster and better learning experiences must be weighed against the risk.

The MyTech app from North Carolina State is one example of how students’ smart phones can become learning tools. MyTech collects data from the phone as it drops, slides and spins. Students use the app to extract and plot that movement data. Students can also use a spreadsheet to analyze their smart phone data.

Spaces for Making Things:

Makerspaces are collaborative workshops where people can build their own gadgets. These spaces can include workstations with Adobe Creative Suite, Raspberry Pi computers, 3-D printers, power tools, hand tools, and other equipment students would use to make things. The $35 million Sears think[box] at Case Western Reserve University may be the largest and most well-equipped makerspace in higher education.

Affective Computing:

Computers that understand human emotions might prove highly useful in higher education. Affective computing is about programming computers to understand human emotions. Computers that understand subtle communication through gestures and speech patterns might be useful teaching tools. MIT’s Affective Computing Group and the University of Michigan’s CHAI Lab are examples of places doing applied research on computers that can recognize human emotions and respond.

Gesture-based controls, context-sensitive programming and devices that read emotions might be coming to higher education soon. Speech recognition that responds to commands, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa represent a first step toward truly responsive software and robots.


Robots as teaching tools, or as automated helpers, can be put to good use in online learning and on-campus work. Educational programs exist now that use robot design and programming as problem-solving challenges that encourage students to polish their STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) skills.

Information technology, robotics, and 3-D printing are among many fertile fields for education innovation. If you want to pursue either an online or an on-campus education that embraces advanced technology, contact us to learn more about University of the Potomac.