Key trends in Technology Enhanced Learning


I recently came across a Horizon summit looked at the future of education and in particular the wicked problems/challenges education faces. The three-day summit bought together global leaders and thinkers to brainstorm the future of education and associated challenges. There are a plethora of factors impacting education, but I think of particular note are: globalisation, technologies and a changing work place.

The summit listed a number of challenges and made suggested for how these could be addressed. Firstly that we need to rethink teaching to better prepare students for the future. Secondly we need to re-image online learning (and I think also campus-based learning and in particular the design technology enhanced learning spaces). Thirdly we need to allow for productive failure. Interestingly this is also listed as one of ten things of importance in education by the most recent OU innovating pedagogy report. Finally we need to innovate as part of the learning ethic and ensure our institutions are agile and responsive to the external market and associated drivers.

This got me thinking about what the key trends in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) might be and how we can make more effective use of a spectrum of use of digital technologies from more effective use of the tools associated with Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) to more innovative and cutting edge technologies.

There are a number of useful sources that give us an indication of emergent technologies. These include the much cited New Media Consortium annual Horizon report,   which for 2017 lists the following as important:

  • Blended learning design
  • Collaborative learning
  • Growing focus on measuring learning
  • Redesigning learning spaces
  • Advancing cultures of innovation
  • Deeper learning approaches

The OU Innovating Pedagogy report for 2016 list the following ten things that are likely to be important in education in the near future:

  • Learning through social media
  • Productive failure
  • Teachback
  • Design thinking
  • Learning from the crowd
  • Learning through video games
  • Formative analytics
  • Learning for the future
  • Translanguaging
  • Blockchain learning

Finally Gartner’s hype curve attempts to position technologies along a spectrum of ‘hype expectations’.  Garnter suggests the following  10 technology trends 2017: 

  • Applied AI and advanced machine learning
  • Intelligent Apps
  • Intelligent things
  • Virtual and augmented reality
  • Digital twins
  • Blockchains and distributed ledgers
  • Conversational systems
  • Mesh App and service architecture
  • Digital technology platforms
  • Adaptive security architecture

I would suggest the following as overarching factors and key trends. In terms of overarching factors it is evident to me that TEL will continue to become increasingly important in terms of supporting formal, non-formal and informal learning. Furthermore today’s learners face an uncertain, but constantly changing and dynamic future. They will be doing jobs that do not even exist today. Therefore, we need to shift the focus from knowledge recall to the development of transferable skills and competences, such as critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. We need to help them develop strategies for meta-cognition, or learning about learning, and help them to become lifelong learners. Also it is evident that the learner experience will change as a result of digital technologies, see for example Pearson’s – ‘The future of education 2020’, which includes a number of vignettes of learners of the future (for example Simone’s story). Finally, I believe that there will be a spectrum of educational offerings: OER/MOOCs, online, blended, face-to-face, one-to-one tuition. Key trends of importance to my mind are the following:

I would argue that there is a spectrum of ways in which digital technologies can be used in education, from more effective use of the tools associated with VLEs to more innovative use of technologies. VLEs have a range of tools to support communication and collaboration, the present administrative information and learning content and to enable students to submit assignments and receive feedback. These include: discussion forums (to provide structured discussions), blogs (to encourage reflection), wikis (to enable collaboration), and e-portfolios (to support students in gathering evidence of their achievement of learning outcomes). The EDUCAUSE 7 things you should know about…. series of reports provides a useful and practice guide to a whole host of different tools, including the ones just mentioned. In addition to more effective use of VLE, other technologies can augment the learning experience. Examples that are routinely used include use of OER or MOOCs on topics related to the students’ course, lecture capture and to record and store lectures, podcasts as a means of lecturers discussing particular topics, use of social media to enable students to communicate with peers and the broader expert community, and use of mobile devices to enable learning anywhere, anytime, webinars. Looking back at the trends in Technology Enhanced Learning described at the beginning the list of augmented technologies is only likely to increase, potentially given students an even richer and enhanced learning experience.

2 Responses to “Key trends in Technology Enhanced Learning”

  1. Vuillaume Says:

    Thank you very much for this great review of the TEL phenomena (I don’t know if we can speak of trends since after - 20 years of elearning (from old WBT lessons to addictive bite sized video), - 10 years of blended learning, - 5 years of Moocs - 1 year of AI making automated recruitment interview more relevant than human driven one, it looks difficult to guess what will really shape the future of learning)

    One aspect of TEL that you did not mention is the impact of AI on what will be worth learning. For example - real time translation will impact the need for learning foreign languages. Not only AI will change the way but also the need for learning most of the hard and soft skills: An intelligent App will be able to guide you discretely how to interact with your environment (people, robots, decision making, …)
    For Education and Corporate learning organizations the impact of Technology on what is worth learning will soon become bigger compared to how to learn probably bigger

  2. Gráinne Says:


    Yes very good points and of course AI is particularly interesting given the comments by people like Stephen Hawking…. I will think some more about AI and hopefully write some more about it in due course.

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