In 1944 Congress passed the G.I. Bill, making a college education — something once reserved for the rich — into a real possibility for returning middle class soldiers. Today, access to education is still being expanded, and not just across class lines. Modern day education institutions are using technology in unprecedented ways to make sure that no student is left behind, regardless of their disability, distance, learning style, or background. Many giants of the technology industry are also becoming pioneers in education, whether they’re announcing new partnerships with educational organizations or opening schools of their own, as Steve Wozniak has done with Woz U. One thing is for sure: the ways in which we use technology to educate will have a massive impact on the value of tech companies — both by training the next generation of workers who will continue to innovate and by placing technology in every school. Here are four trends in education technology that you absolutely must be aware of.

Distance Learning and Online Education

What’s one of the first questions someone asks before moving to a new neighborhood?

How are the schools?

In the past, the quality of education that a person can expect to receive has been inexorably tied to their location. If you were unlucky enough to live in a school district with poor funding during your high school career, then you can expect to have more trouble getting into college. Distance learning is set to help wipe away the effects of income inequality on educational opportunity and make a high quality education accessible to anyone in any part of the world.

Distance learning is a broad term that encompasses any number of educational formats that don’t rely on physical meeting locations. Perhaps the most common use for distance learning is the use of online platforms that offer for-credit courses to college students. Online courses allow students to take great courses from reputable universities regardless of their location. Online courses also help students with non-traditional backgrounds keep up on their schoolwork, as class lectures can be accessed at any time and tests typically have a window during which they can be taken. Studies show that over 5.8 million American students take online courses, and that number is only expected to grow as the practice becomes more common and universities increase their online course offerings.

Personally Tailored Education

In the past, getting an education meant following a predetermined path that the teacher or administrators had decided was the most likely to reach the most students. We’re all familiar with classes that run in one way and one way only: here’s the syllabus that lays out what we’ll be doing each day and that’s the end of it.

The trouble with this one-size-fits all approach is that not every student learns in the same way or at the same pace. Now, with the increased use of computers in education, we can make sure that each student is getting the education that’s best for them. Education software that’s student-driven can present a personalized course for each student by assessing that student’s interests and their progress through certain material and speed up the introduction of or withhold access to future lessons.

This kind of technology can be used to make sure that each student gets an education that fits their learning style, but it also has huge implications for classroom accessibility. Special education students have been shown to benefit especially well from this personalized approach to education, which can acknowledge individual disabilities and keep classroom stress to a minimum.

Artificial Intelligence and Education

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In order to make truly personalized courses a reality, we need to teach computers how to think about a student. Right now the software exists to present a student with lessons and classroom materials, but without a teacher to provide a guiding hand, that software is no different than the college course that’s a slave to its own syllabus.

Artificial intelligence in our educational software will be able to evaluate a student’s progress on a minute-by-minute basis, providing clarification where necessary and developing assessment techniques that challenge each individual student on their weak points. Essentially, we artificial intelligence will make sure that each student has their very own fully qualified educator on hand at all times to monitor their progress and provide encouragement and feedback.

Virtual Reality and Simulations

In the early 2000s, the goal of educational technology proponents was to place a computer with an internet connection in the hands of every student. Tomorrow’s educators should aim to do the same thing with virtual reality technology. VR headsets are quickly changing from a fun novelty item into the future of our interactions with computers, and for good reason.

Earlier, we talked about how education technology could make sure that no student is left behind, no matter their learning style. Well the use of virtual reality technology is the key to making that happen. Many students learn well by doing things or by experiencing them firsthand, and for lessons like volcanic geology or cell biology, virtual reality is the only way to help those students get the experience they need. Virtual reality can also help us simulate the modern classroom environment in distance learning situations, whether every student can be placed into the same virtual space to work on group projects together or use each other to talk over class material.


Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.