Universities of the future: what is actual now and what Ukraine should prepare for

Sergey Khorunzhiy
CBDO, Atom Online University
Photo: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

Photo: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

Obsolete education is a global problem. In this sense, Ukraine is not the only country in need of changes. A year ago, the government announced a change in the system of financing universities and plans to close branches of large universities in several cities.

This is the Western approach to reform. Time will tell whether foreign experience is suitable for us. One thing is already clear: in the next decade, universities will radically change. The same is true for the entire learning process. What will the universities of the future be like?


Education today: what we are dealing with

The volume of the edtech market is estimated at more than $76 billion. Until 2027, the industry will grow by 18% annually. Elements of distance learning are evolving over the decades, and the lockdown has only increased the impact of this trend on education. It turns out that standard activities can be interactive and fun.

During the Age of Enlightenment, universities were considered the place where discoveries were made. It was a platform of opportunities and great achievements. World universities keep traditions, but strive for more—for creating a digital environment for productive learning and the development of "flexible" skills: communication skills, empathy, the ability to work in a team and find non-standard solutions.

Post-Soviet universities have partially lost the spirit of independence and creativity. For the past ten years, we have been trying to follow the path of Western educational institutions, encouraging independence and freedom in students. But so far this is more often observed in non-state training programs. Let's take a look at global trends in education and how they can manifest themselves in Ukraine.

Е-learning

Digital learning will play an increasing role in the education of the future. It is believed that technology is increasing the social divide between people. We use Zoom all the time and see little of each other live. This is partly true.

In a traditional classroom, we sit at a desk and listen to the lecturer, in online learning it is the same, only the learning is conducted from anywhere. I think there should be something in between here—something that brings together the best of both formats.

In what I have no doubt about: technology provides equal access to quality education from anywhere in the world.

Artificial Intelligence

Recognizing speech, translating text, organizing data for processing—"smart" systems cope with all this much faster and no less efficiently than humans. AI solutions can be used for mixed and personalized learning. In a pandemic, when everyone avoids crowded classrooms, this format will help students not to reduce the quality of knowledge.

VR/AR

The educational potential of these technologies is endless. Instead of studying history from a textbook, we are transported to the events of the 18th century, we examine living organisms from the biology course near the Galapagos Islands, and not under a microscope in the classroom. Sounds fantastic? But this is the reality of many foreign universities. VR/AR promote deeper immersion in new material and improves memorization.

Gamification

Traditional approaches are being replaced by a new form of interaction between student and teacher—educational entertainment. Learning becomes fun. Game elements can be in the classroom and in homework. Every student is a "player". They master new material in order to get as many scores as possible and pass the next "level".

It's like getting into a video game where you compete with other teams for ratings and prizes. In reality, this is getting the desired post and earnings. Open storylines in the curriculum content allow to immerse in topics smoothly, and only by properly consolidating the material of the previous lesson.

Attention to mental health

In addition to developing specific professional skills, one should not forget about general human skills. These are mindfulness abilities. The concept is similar to soft skills, but much broader. Such skills are essential in any specialty. Financial literacy, creating effective communication in a team, developing emotional intelligence, attention, awareness, management of our state are what accompanies us all our lives, but this is rarely taught anywhere.

Responsive mentoring

Instead of the outdated carrot-and-stick approach, foreign education programs are using "‎restorative justice". The goal is to find out the motives and reasons for the student's misconduct. Perhaps he or she does not do homework again, because he or she made a mistake when choosing the field and does not have the courage to change the educational program. In this case, the inconvenience is solved by switching to another field.

I advise you to set up onboarding in the team—regular interviews and skills testing before the start of studies and in the first weeks. If it turns out that a student has a low level of sociability, then it makes no sense for him or her to be educated in the field of sales. Maybe a person does not like and does not want to communicate with strangers. It is in the first month of free attendance and acquaintance with the general program and teaching methodology that they will have the opportunity to change their specialty.

In Ukrainian universities, all innovations are superimposed on a morally outdated education system. Today, everyone can learn everything on their own. Therefore, universities need to create an ecosystem in which the student goes on a free float. The system should not force to learn, but motivate.

We all watched Western TV shows when kids and we know how cool teachers can be, what an inspiring environment can be in universities. There is every chance in Ukraine to reach the same level.

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