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From hybrid learning to virtual reality, how will education change and what to expect in the future?

The last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to changes in education system and accelerated digitalisation. What was previously talked about only in terms of the distant future – distance learning, virtual classrooms, digital content – has become commonplace.

Pandemic has not only taught us how quickly the situation can change, or shown us how quickly we can move from traditional learning to a fully digital environment, but at the same time opened up new opportunities and highlighted gaps. Why is it important to pay attention to them? Because we don’t have to expect to go back to what we considered normal, ‘normal’ learning two years ago. The new reality of education will be tech-driven. So how will education change and what can be expected?

Hybrid learning is not just about a pandemic

Everyone had the opportunity to try out hybrid learning and got used to it, learning to work in new circumstances. Will this way of teaching survive a pandemic? A number of aspects show that this is the case. One of the main reasons is the flexibility provided by hybrid learning.

Situations where hybrid learning could be particularly useful are often ruled out by our own limited thinking. Hybrid learning is appropriate not only when a sick student is forced to drop out of school for some time, but also, for example, when traveling.

Traveling for a long time was seen as entertainment, leisure, incompatible with attending classes or homework. However, people are becoming more mobile and distance due to technological opportunities are becoming less and less of a barrier to work or study from anywhere in the world. It is noticeable that even families with younger children increasingly choose so-called worcation and leave for several weeks, even months. Where school used to be a barrier, hybrid learning now offers new opportunities – no matter which part of the world a child joins in.

I think that this situation will become more and more relevant, therefore education system will be forced to adapt and become more flexible. It may be easier for private schools to do this in the first place, but I believe that over time, hybrid education will have wider applications everywhere.

Lessons in space and other possibilities of virtual reality

In the near future, schools should become much more open to virtual education. Two directions of virtual education can be distinguished. The first is augmented reality, where lessons use a variety of digital, 3D-visualized, educational-ready interactive content, such as educational games, various gadgets, and so on.

The second is when virtual reality is used for teaching. Virtual lessons are not new, but they are still seen as complementary to the content of traditional education rather than real teaching. This is partly due to the lack of quality virtual content, where wearing virtual reality goggles can lead to a visual learning journey – learning and exploring the depths of the earth, mountains, oceans or space, or in some cases even expanding the possibilities of reality, such as plant or human, inside the body, in a cell, or something like that.

The focus on virtual reality is growing rapidly around the world, with investment in education projected to increase by 2025 will reach 700 million dollars. Can virtual reality be expected to take root in education as early as 2022? It’s probably not that fast yet, but we’re getting more and more receptive to technology, and we can expect that in the near future.

Will artificial intelligence replace teachers?

Artificial intelligence is another technology that is making rapid progress in education. Its advantage is the possibility to individualize and differentiate learning. Using artificial intelligence, learning content is tailored to each student’s personal abilities.

As a student completes tasks, an AI-based program monitors their progress: if they do better, they skip easier tasks and give more difficult ones when they become too difficult, the task is easier, and if they want to repeat the acquired knowledge, they present tasks that were more difficult. Such programs provide graphically appealing feedback and differentiate the tasks themselves much more effectively than teacher himself could do.

Artificial intelligence is especially suitable for the exact, natural sciences, where information that requires memorization and repetition can be very easily transferred to a program managed by artificial intelligence. The tasks created on the basis of artificial intelligence are a great help to the teacher, so I think we will see more and more of such solutions in the teaching process of the future. In some countries, this trend is already very noticeable, especially in English-speaking countries, which do not lack content tailored to their language.

The need of digital content creators 

Using technologies for distance learning, we are also looking for more appropriate content – e-books, apps, educational games, simulations and other tools that could increase interactivity and make the learning experience more visual and active.

Unfortunately, most digital content is currently produced in English. The demand for digital content and digital learning providers is growing rapidly, as evidenced by their popularity and audience. Therefore, one of the trends that we should soon notice is the growing number of Lithuanian content creators and the quantity and quality of the content itself.

The diversity of forms of education requires changes in teaching spaces

Even after returning to classes, it will no longer be possible to limit oneself to teaching from textbooks – it is necessary to look for new forms and methods. One of them is projects. They can become complementary activities to the regular curriculum, such as various initiatives or social projects, or be directly linked to the learning content as research projects.

More diverse methods of education require a freer, more open environment, spaces where project tasks could be performed in groups, working in pairs, where project discussions and presentations would take place. These are not simple and quick changes, but when thinking about a learning space adapted to modern needs, it should be borne in mind that architectural solutions should also be in line with the vision of education and help it to spread.

This philosophy is guided by the Oerestad Gymnasium in Denmark, which is one of the first in the world to be designed as one large classroom, easily transformed into different learning spaces. 2022 also draws inspiration from this example. The new building of Erudito licėjus on Aguonų Street, Vilnius, which will open its doors on September 1. The school will be distinguished not only by a modern science and technology laboratory, swimming pool, its own canteen, but also by a large variety of spaces where other learning can take place – not the whole building will be divided into classes, but a lot of space will be left for joint work and interactive activities.

Hybrid learning, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, other educational spaces are just a few of the areas in which education will move in the near future.

It is crucial to understand that we need to prepare our students for a different future in learning and ask ourselves, are our teachers ready for change? And what can we do to make the answer positive.