On April 25, 2023, LAB51 hosted a roundtable meeting on the topic of Education in Web 3. In his opening keynote Mark Forster presented 7 trends and their significance for the technological future, particularly in the Swiss educational sector. During the event, participants discussed the innovations and challenges awaiting us in the future of education.
The first trend is individualization, personalization, and instant feedback loop. Studies conducted by UNIBAS analyzed how the pandemic affected user behavior. Some results show that people are now using more digital tools for learning than ever before. At the same time, new technological offerings emerged that offered individual and personalized products with built-in feedback. One of LAB51's partners for instance provides a machine that scans the human body and quantifies how the individual progresses in sports and health based on the data captured.
While students return (to in-person teaching), technology will stay and increase.
The second trend is gamification, which has the potential to significantly improve learning experience and motivation. People are inherently fond of games, and games are increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives. Mark gave the example of Konstantin (16), a LAB51 employee who spends about 25h a week playing online games, and also writes game reviews for the company. By playing games, Konstantin earns money, makes new friends, and in parallel picks up English quickly because it is a means to succeed in a digital world. While he would not consider himself a student of the language, he is ahead of his peers simply because communication makes him more successful in what he enjoys.
Gamification itself is a structure to stimulate motivation over a longer period of time. With the example of Duolingo Mark showed the potential of gamification for better success, and therefore positive business impact. Education providers Duolingo and Khan Academy both have launched their AI assistants based on OpenAI GPT-4.
The third trend is AI. AI is a powerful tool to accompany any learning process. AI can provide custom, immediate feedback, tailor content to our ability and needs and reveal progress – which is important in staying motivated. AI can help us find topics of interest, break down content, and assist us in increasing our understanding.
We will see the rise of Augmented Humans – empowered by smart use of AI.
And just as importantly, we need to understand AI and how we can truly master it. “AI prompting” is the technical “how to” which will soon be part of any curriculum. As this capability will allow us to be more productive than ever. However, apart from the opportunities we also need to learn to understand the limits and failures of the outputs provided by AI. We still need to have expert understanding to know whether what AI tells us is true and valuable or whether it needs to be corrected and clarified. AI understanding and AI prompting require us to “learn (how to) AI”.
Blockchain technology could play a significant role in future certification. For example, the POAP - Proof of Attendance Protocol – can make use of GPS data and blockchain to verify that certain classes have been attended regularly over a period of time.
More importantly in a global world, verified CV’s can guarantee candidates have indeed successfully graduated, have taken certain classes and were truly advancing as they claim to have. The blockchain ensures such data is verifiable and not permutable, which creates trust on both sides.
The fifth trend is immersive, virtual experiences. Mark highlighted that for something to be immersive, it does not have to be in VR, it can also be mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR) and it can be experienced on smartphones and laptops – a headset is not required. The form-factor of the future can still be smartphone/flat screens, headsets, projections – we will likely see new technologies soon. At the same time, it is critical to recognize that not all VR experiences are associated with the metaverse. Just because Meta as a company has failed does not spell doom for the Metaverse – unlike what people believe they were never an important player in the Metaverse. Many companies offer immersive experiences. The immersive approach offers unique new ways of experiencing education; history, craftsmanship, geography etc. BMW, for example, uses digital twins of their factories to train new employees on processes and machinery management skills, as well as it allows to verify and optimize processes and identify how issues occurred.
The physical part of education will not disappear. Both digital and physical formats are important and each offer their unique advantages. Digital learning allows students to enroll in whatever interests them and also move at their own pace. Education will move away from the old “I like this one song so I need to buy the entire CD to I pick and mix the courses I like – across education providers – to create my personal curriculum. Education has the potential to create a future learning not restricted by campus borders, and truly catering to needs and interests over time. Why should learning end if the subject matter ends? Like flying, staying current and thinking about education as a continuous process will reshape the future of lifelong learning.
Dynamic NFTs provide innovative features and increase transparency on all sides. Student can use them for access and membership perks. For instance, NFT’s can unlock certain courses only after completion of foundational courses and exams. As the NFT’s track every event (courses, certificates, etc), progress becomes visible to the student, the education provider and also the employer.
From a provider perspective, investing in the campus, having new equipment, providing new courses can all increase the value of the (paid) NFT membership.
The roundtable discussion on "7 Trends in Education in Web3" explored the various topics raised in the keynote, by starting with the current needs and thoughts of education providers. Andreas Lucco, Lecturer of Business and Service Innovation at HSLU (Hochschule Luzern), started the conversation by wondering what universities would look like in 10 years, given the growing trend of AI in education?
Participants speculated on the role of technology in enabling personalized education, such as the use of avatars and the development of a two-class education system. They noted that AI and other technologies have the potential to make learning more engaging and relevant, allowing students to apply their knowledge more effectively in real-world situations. However, some participants cautioned against oversimplifying education with technology, and they contended that not all education must be digital. Education might be digital and gamified, but some material requires deep thought over a longer period of time rather than instant gratification.
The discussion also explored the diverse formats of learning in the future, with participants agreeing that education is multifaceted and that the tools used (e.g., VR, nanobots) will depend on the subject area. While there is a growing trend toward digital learning, participants noted that traditional teaching has been successful in many cases. For instance, Andreas Lucco pointed out that traditional teaching is still effective, and they are not planning to move entirely to online courses. The desire for face-to-face learning was also observed, perhaps more so for an elite class, as per Milan Kostic, Head of Digital Examination and Program Director at SIB (Swiss Institute of Business Administration). Participants, however, acknowledged that digital technology can be used to improve learning in- and outside the classroom.
The participants discussed some crucial issues, including content quality and content validation. While AI can help students write papers, even as large as dissertations, it is widely acknowledged that such complex work requires personal research and cannot be completed solely with the assistance of AI. In addition, quality checks and factual validation are also necessary to ensure the content is reliable. On a positive note, although AI tools, such as ChatGPT, rely on pre-existing data, they may be useful in discovering new correlations across multiple research fields. For example, AI could assist pharmaceutical researchers in locating new data for developing drugs to address diseases and health issues.
Another issue discussed during the roundtable was the needs of employers and what students need to know to be competitive. Dr. Daniela Gunz, JobHub Project Lead at the University of Zürich, noted that the requirements vary among faculties, such as medicine being different from business or accounting. In this context, participants also discussed the importance of life-learning certificates, such as using NFT technologies to provide dynamic certificates that encode student-alumni learning paths and activities beyond the 4-year degree. Moreover, NFT technologies offer the opportunity to provide more trustworthy assessment certificates that encode students' locations and confirm their attendance. As a result, NFT certification may be regarded as a reliable asset in the near future. Mark highlighted that this practice is already in use in the United States.
The discussion also explored the role of universities in navigating the fast-evolving educational landscape. In the era of widely available content, identifying valuable information and showing and shaping ways of thinking will be crucial. Participants pointed out that universities will be critical in helping students acquire relevant skills and knowledge. Going forward, universities will still provide exclusive knowledge specific to industry ideation and assessment methods (the "Three Ps") and teach soft skills (emotional intelligence). The value of consistency and dedication among university students was stressed, as learning valuable content and shaping ways of thinking takes time and commitment rather than just stimulation.
In conclusion, the roundtable discussion highlighted that education is diverse, and its format will remain mixed, with personalized and digital learning being part of the future but not the only solution. Quality and validation of information were essential issues discussed. However, the value of state-of-the-art technologies and innovative tools cannot be underestimated. As education continues to evolve, the role of universities needs to be redefined as it will continue to be essential in navigating the increasingly complex educational landscape.
An overview of some popular AI tools can be found here: AI Tools Gallery
Here’s a short video that captures the highlights and key takeaways from the day: Roundtable: 7 Trends for Education in Web3