Student wearing virtual reality headset in classBy Sabina Hajizada, Educational Technology Specialist, EDC

A number of education-related experts and research think-tanks have made their annual predictions of the trends that will most likely dominate in the educational technology landscape this year:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR)
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The idea of AI refers to the development of machines with human-like thinking. AI-enabled machines are capable of simulating conceptual and creative reasoning. As AI develops, it will have a larger impact on education.

The predictors discuss the wide application of AI in data analytics and adaptive learning. AI-driven data analytics will help school instructors and administrators identify performance gaps among students in order to modify assignments and teaching strategies. While data analytics allows data mining with consequent human interaction to perform reports and predictions, AI-driven data analytics uses machine learning to create paths for student success, with automated interventions along the way. AI can develop personalized and adaptive learning paths for students, helping to bridge learning gaps with key skills and competencies.

According to Kenta Asakura, an assistant professor in Carleton’s School of Social Work, AI-based platforms allow students to practice skills in a non-threatening environment. Recently, his school started implementing an AI-based simulation platform for students to practice required skills (i.e, interviewing skills, assessment, goal setting). Students communicate via an online chat with an AI-based client who adapts the responses based on the students’ input. The AI-powered platform enables students in their early stages of education to practice the required skills on an ongoing basis with a limitless number of attempts. Prof. Asakura highlights the importance of such simulations in preparing students to work with real clients in their future workplace.

Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR)  

Augmented Reality (AR) is considered to be the most recent type of immersive technology, followed by Virtual Reality (VR). AR and VR facilitate teaching complex objects, such as planets or geometric figures, by immersing learners in a virtual environment with those objects.

With AR learners can interact with virtual and physical objects at the same time. AR applications are available on different platforms, from mobile to see-through head-mounted devices. Teaching with AR can help motivate learners who are exposed to electronic devices from a very early age.

Immersive VR requires specific equipment, such as a VR headset connected to a gaming console, computer or mobile device. It immerses learners in a totally virtual environment that allows for freedom of movement. VR technology is popular in disciplines focused on spatial relationships, such as geography, engineering and health sciences, since it allows for the exploration of 3D locations that would be impossible to visit physically. Both AR and VR allows learners to experience learning in a non-threatening and game-style environment.

The students enrolled in Carleton’s Human-Computer Interaction and Digital Media programs conduct research on VR and AR that will impact various fields, including education. Ali Arya, an associate professor in the School of Information Technology, says that one of the research projects focuses on using AR to customize the learning process and to provide personalized training based on students’ learning preferences. The backend intelligent system receives information both from the instructor and the student. As a result, a customized version of the teaching content is delivered through the AR console. It also helps minimize distractions during class when students are exposed to many topics and multiple resources.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things refers to the networks of devices connected to the internet conveying certain information. A basic example of an IoT is a wearable device that measures your motion and heart rate and conveys this information to you for health purposes.

Why has the IoT become so important? There are more and more opportunities to pair devices and appliances than ever before, and these devices can be used in a smart way to bring value to society. According to the analyst company Gartner, there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020.

The implementation of the IoT in education has big potential. Traditional pens have been turned into an IoT by acquiring additional functionality, giving birth to an era of “smart” pens. “Smart” or “digital” pens record whatever a person writes or draws and transmits the content via Bluetooth or WiFi to an app downloaded on an electronic device. “Smart” pens allow you to recreate a digital copy of your handwritten material and share it with others.

Connected devices can also bring value to the administrative running of buildings in terms of energy efficiency. For example, all vending machines at Carleton are equipped with sensors that turn off the energy when nobody is using the machine.

Have you incorporated any of these technologies in your courses? We’d love to hear about it! Email us at and share your story.