Looking to the Future: How New Technologies Can Transform Higher Education


It’s impossible to undersell how much of an impact technology can have on learners—from Kindergarteners to Ph. D students.  

Access to information and accessible classroom alternatives, like online and distance learning, are providing more education opportunities to more people than previously thought possible.  

On today’s episode, Illumination host Amrit Ahluwalia is joined by Maria Anguiano, Executive Vice President of Learning Enterprise at Arizona State University. They discuss why more and more institutions are shifting their focus to a lifelong learning model, and how technologies like augmented and virtual reality could be the next step in accessible learning.  

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality. AR essentially casts virtual things in front of the user’s eyes but in the real world. VR means everything you see is virtual.  

Both AR and VR could have massive appeal for educators around the world. AR and VR could be the next steps in continuing education and corporate training as tools that let students simulate hands-on work without any real risk of failure.  

“We’ve embedded AR and VR technology into one of our biology courses,” Anguiano said. “But we’re also looking to how to use this technology for continuing ed.”  

Use cases— such as virtual reality in a 16x16 foot holo-stage to view animals, either live, extinct or fictional—are impressive. Students can also study endangered species or species that only reside on another continent—something that couldn’t possibly do with traditional tools. 

For ASU’s continuing ed department, the development of a VR or AR program is still in the works, but Anguiano is confident that the result will be extraordinarily useful for students and business partners.  

Administrators looking to build continuing ed units, with or without VR tech, will still have to use their resources properly. Finding ways to balance budgets and serve both the overarching institution and the surrounding community can cement CE’s value within an institution. 

“We don’t all have the resources, but we all put a plan in place to get them,” Anguiano says. “To have that goal—whether you know how to get it or not—you start thinking of ways to achieve it.” 

This type of tech is easily adoptable for users and can be used in a variety of situations for different programs and courses. To best find use cases in continuing education, administrators and leaders must look at trends both locally and nationally. 

“We have to look at where our society is going,” Anguiano said. “Public education has evolved and continues to evolve to better serve the public, and learners, as best as it can.”   

Understanding where the economy is headed is also critical, Anguiano said. As things are evolving quickly, the skills that were taught just a few years ago may become outdated just as quickly. Upskilling and reskilling to move ahead and keep up with a shifting economy is imperative, not only for learners, but for the institutions themselves.  

In teaching new skills, colleges and universities are required to keep their fingers on the pulse and deliver on what students need to thrive.  

“We want to make sure folks at ASU don’t feel like they’re out there by themselves trying to figure out how to get these skills,” Anguiano said. “But instead, to feel like they have a community and institution that they trust to serve them for life.” 

That focus on lifelong learning is where Anguiano says things need to shift. The team at ASU considers a degree an accumulation of skills, something that could incorporate aspects of both digital and in-person learning. The method of delivery is equally as important as the knowledge a student is absorbing. Focusing on the quality of the education, and finding ways to best categorize quality, is the next step for higher ed, Anguiano says.  

The ways that people learn are evolving. Online learning took over for the better part of two years, something that may have been thought to be impossible a short time ago. This online revolution led to dramatic shifts in the way content is delivered and now these practices are being adopted for in-person learning once more.  

It’s just the same now, with newer technologies. The way higher ed has done things for the last 100 years, having physical items in front of students that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, is not going to last forever. 

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Student Experience

Last updated: May 27, 2022


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