Discussions on the future of education and universities in particular go on without no interruption whatsoever at a time when digital transformation is taking effect faster than ever and new technologies and digital applications are influencing every sector and profession. In this direction, different pinions stand out that in a world where many course contents can be followed online, where we can access all kinds of information instantly, at our fingertips, there will be no need for university education and universities will not be the focus of our lives in the future. This view indicates that universities will be disrupted, in other words, they will disappear.

Another view suggests that universities will be needed more than ever in the world of today where new professions are emerging and traditional professions/sectors are forced to change. Accordingly, the university education received or will be received will be for a certain period of time (which means that the university diploma will have an expiration date) and we will have to retake university education during certain periods of our lives.

In addition, the online curriculum, which was mandatory during the pandemic period, showed that there is still some time before the full digitalization of education. Bringing online education to the level of face-to-face education will only be possible through virtual reality (VR) applications to be provided via 5G infrastructure. Through VR, experiences where everyone receives education and discusses as if they were in the same class, albeit in different locations, can be constructed. Also, through the metaverse, this experience will reach its most productive state. Even though it is not associated enough with education-specific applications at the moment, it is obvious that the metaverse will bring a completely different approach to education. Despite these, I do not believe that education will be fully digitized or moved to the metaverse. Mixed models that blend physical classroom education and online education will be successful.

Being successful in the new education model is based on adapting not only students but also teachers and academics to the system. Therefore, in this process, instructors also need to quickly access the necessary support as they move their courses to online channels. Institutions need to make plans in this regard and develop a common system for everyone who teaches.

“Purpose-driven education” will come to the fore in the education of the future. The “mission” to be adopted by the student following university education will become more important than the “degree” to be received. In this direction, taking part in social responsibility projects and working to benefit society will be among the characteristics that university education should instil in students.

So, how will or should technology and education change:

– Technology awareness, future awareness, effects of digital transformation, understanding of ethics with artificial intelligence, making sense of data, cyber security, metaverse design, design thinking, sustainability, climate science and other courses will become more significant.

– Graduation projects and theses will become more important as the number of companies that emerge as a result of these studies will increase. As a result of the participation of stakeholders from different disciplines in these projects, the problems will be analyzed much more deeply with scientific studies and a managerial perspective. Projects developed by heterogeneous teams with an interdisciplinary approach will make a difference.

– The role of academics will also change. In this period, where the new generation uses digital technologies as if they are their limbs and learns to access all kinds of information very easily and quickly at a young age, lecturers will turn from experts who teach one-sided lessons to mentors who moderate interactive education and provide students with the right mentorship. Instructors will become so-called enablers in the education of the new generation. Likewise, university students will adopt this role for their younger generations and will transfer their knowledge to middle school/high school youth. For this reason, academicians need to create a flow in which they will support the course content with current events.

– In-class training, the smart board used by the lecturers and the computer or tablet of the student will be connected to each other. In this way, questions and discussions, and data sharing will be much more flexible. Attendance checks can be done digitally and automatically. Experiences shared in the metaverse will be provided with avatars and artificial intelligence support as if it were worth the class.

– The lessons will be shared on youtube channels as well. Instructors will be able to share courses and course materials on these channels, raise discussion questions, and students will also be able to upload approved content to course channels.

– AR/VR technologies will allow courses to become more visual and more experimental. Rote learning will completely leave its place to concrete learning, and the right educational content will enable students to learn by living and experiencing the subjects… Experimental education will become very important. In medicine, surgical simulations have started to be performed via VR, and concrete studies have started to be carried out by making use of technology in biology in the same way.

– Each student will be given a virtual assistant service when they start university. These virtual assistants will both guide the students towards the courses they should take in line with their goals and wishes and the education within the university, and will provide predictive analyzes for the academic staff and university management regarding the student’s progress. Universities will also have a general chatbot, and students will be able to learn easily about daily/weekly events, academic calendars or campus-related topics by consulting the chatbot.

– I mentioned that universities are going to turn into lifelong learning centres. Many universities, especially corporate training units in our country have implemented continuous education/training centres. However, no university has yet taken the right steps to organize new training/education programs for graduates. Considering that Meta, which is currently shaping the world’s technology agenda, is a social networking platform that started at top universities in the United States, it is a fact that university portals have the potential to turn into critical interfaces that can be used after graduation when they are designed more efficiently and interactively. For the upcoming period, when the online education market will gradually improve, we still do not have the platforms to meet the needs.

– University-Industry collaboration is pregnant with disruptive innovations: It is a known fact today that Apple implemented the algorithm for early detection of heart attack via Apple Watch together with Stanford University Hospital. In line with this, Apple has implemented a radical innovation that no institution has been able to achieve so far, with the support of medical expertise, by correctly interpreting the data collected by its watch. In the upcoming periods, companies that use the expertise of universities correctly will realize applications that will make a difference.

– Universities will also open the “api”s or “libraries” required for software developers, and carry out activities that will guide the sectors.

– And finally, it is not difficult to predict that university diplomas will also be a thing of the past. Blockchain-based smart systems will enable diplomas and different certificates received during university education, training and participation events, achievements in sports teams, and references to be kept in a much more secure manner in digital certificates and these will be shared with employers or other universities during application processes.

Well, are we ready for such a transformation in education?

Ergi Şener

Country Manager, Türkiye at NomuPay