The changing role of teachers and learners


As part of the preparation for a talk I am doing at Limerick Institute of Technology next week I had a discussion with the person who invited me Brendan Murphy. One of the things he wanted me to focus on was the changing role of teachers. So in this post I am going to summarise my thinking on this and also the changing role of students. A recent report by Educause lists the following as key issues in education:

  • Academic transformation
  • Accessibility and universal design
  • Faculty development
  • Privacy and security
  • Digital and information literacies
  • Integrated planning and advising
  • Instructional design
  • Online and blended learning
  • Evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations
  • Open education
  • Learning analytics
  • Adaptive teaching and learning
  • Working with emerging technologies
  • Learning spaces design
  • Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and Learning Management Systems

The shows that today’s educational environment is complex and dynamic and each of these facets has implications for the roles of both teachers and learners. In terms of peering into the future there are a number of important factors. Firstly the changing nature of work; it is likely in the future that people will have more than one career change and we are teaching students for an unknown future to do jobs that don’t even exist today. This means that we need to move beyond knowledge recall to teaching students the competencies they need to be lifelong and adaptive learners. Secondly there is now a complex array of learners from the younger generation of those who demand flexible and personalized learning to an older generation who have different learning needs to their younger counterpoints. Thirdly there is now a spectrum of learning opportunities from learning through free Open Educational Resources and Massive Open Online Courses to the one-to-one Oxbridge tutorial model. New forms of accreditation are arising, such as digital badges and micro-credentials. Finally we are seeing an unbundling of education; learners in the future may choose to pay for: resources, support, a guided learning pathway or accreditation.

So how does all of this impact on the role of teachers and learners? For teachers there are a number of aspects. Their role is shifting from one of delivery to facilitation. Furthermore, they need to harness the power of digital technologies to facilitate communication, collaboration and reflection. For this they need new digital literacy skills. Learners also need to develop new digital literacy skills, and although they are technological savvy they don’t necessarily know how to use technologies for academic purposes. They want personalized and flexible learning and need to harness the potential of being part of a connected global community of peers. In future it is likely that learners will learn across a range of contexts, therefore they need to take control of evidencing their achievement of learning outcomes through e-portfolios or more radically through the use of blockchains.>

The future of education is likely to continue to change and co-evolve with technologies and needs to meet the challenges of a complex future. Some have argued that the role of teachers will diminish as the use of technologies becomes more prevalent and as we see the impact of Artificial Intelligence. I disagree, I think the role of the teacher WILL change but will be increasingly important to help learners navigate their learning and make effective use of technologies.

2 Responses to “The changing role of teachers and learners”

  1. Shane McMordie Says:

    Interesting thanks.

    How do you see the future of the university degree? Under immediate threat as a credential, or likely to remain a stable factor for the next decade or so?


  2. Gráinne Says:

    I think we will see an unbundling of education where learners will choose to pay for resources, support, a guided learning pathway or accreditation. Also a spectrum of offerings from free resources and courses through to the one to one Oxbridge model.

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