How is Technology Shaping Learning in Higher Education Institutions?

E-learning is predicted to grow fifteen-fold over the next decade and is likely to account for 30% of all education by 2030. You only have to look at how universities have adapted in 2020 to see that technology has the power to reshape the way students learn and engage with higher ed. 

How is technology shaping learning in higher ed

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Many institutions and providers are embracing new technologies to the benefit of students’ learning and also the administrative aspects of the university, such as admissions management. In this blog post, we take a look at some of the key ways in which technology is currently shaping learning.

1. Virtual & augmented reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are transforming the way students learn in schools and universities. Both technologies have the power to simulate real-life scenarios, therefore are proving particularly popular with vocational subjects such as medicine and engineering. The J and K Virtual Reality Learning Center at Western University of Health Sciences enables students to engage with cutting-edge technology for experiential learning. 

The aim is to broaden students’ understanding of human anatomy through Anatomage, the VRLC’s Virtual Dissection Table, which was developed by Stanford University. Anatomage allows students to view 300+ anatomical visualisations and enlarge the size of the body to see details. 


In China, students at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine are taking part in VR-enabled immersive learning. For example, acupuncture students are using 3D body maps marked with acupoints and meridian pathways. According to Professor, Cheng Kai, BodyMap – developed by Augmented Intelligence in the US – can also be used remotely. 

Professor Cheng Kai told the South China Morning Post: “There’s a very high level of requirement for precision in acupuncture teaching. For example, there’s an acupoint called jinming, which is situated very near the optic nerve. Needling this acupoint carries a certain danger. The VR learning system is a big improvement on traditional acupuncture teaching based on two-dimensional images and the use of real people as models.” 


The Centre for Immersive Technologies at the University of Leeds engages with partners from the public and private sectors to drive innovation using AR and VR across a range of disciplines. The centre’s evidence-based approach helps organisations to see the advantages and potential pitfalls of immersive technologies, enabling them to make informed choices.

2. Remote/mobile learning

With remote learning on the rise and increasing access to smart devices, mobile learning will continue to grow in popularity. In fact, a report by MarketsandMarkets estimated that the global mobile learning market would be worth  $37.6 billion by 2020. 

Many institutions are leveraging smartphones within the classroom environment to enhance the learning experience. Middlesex University, for example, studied how mobile technology affected the quality of learning of a group of first-year anatomy students.

Some students were provided with iPads that had apps showcasing 3D muscle and skeletal images that they could use in their classroom learning, while some went without. Those who had access to the mobile apps attained higher grades than those without. 

The University of Sussex’s SussexMobile app lets students access emails and course timetables as well as details of library loans, reservations and other useful content such as the University’s Skills Hub. Users can set alerts for important news about the University, such as details of campus closures or urgent announcements. 

The institution uses the Canvas Student app to provide users with quick and easy access to their programme content as well as an overview of what assessments they have coming up and any feedback/comments. Students can also participate in activities such as Discussions and Quizzes and view the latest announcements from tutors.

3. Real-time analytics 

Higher education institutions around the world are using real-time data points and dashboards to update student profiles. Information - which can relate to anything from financial information to attainment - can enable university staff to support students both holistically and academically. Ultimately, predictive analytics can help universities increase recruitment and retention rates amid increasing competition.

What is real-time data?

Real-time data relates to information that is quickly disseminated after it has been collected. So, instead of waiting to process data before analysing it, the information is analysed almost immediately. Edge computing is typically used to facilitate real-time data analytics. It means that universities can make informed decisions quicker. 

At Dartmouth College, IT teams use real-time data collection tools to inform the design of their academic programmes. The teams can quickly analyse metrics pertaining to attrition rates, course popularity and student performance to adapt their courses to better suit students’ needs. 

“Those leading ID teams should concentrate their efforts on making data available to instructional designers. Data transparency is a better path to advancing student learning at the institutional level than coming up with shared team goals or visions.  Make the data available, and let the work follow where the data leads,” writes Joshua Kim, director of digital learning at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, in Inside Higher Ed.

If you’re looking to leverage the power of technology to enhance learning outcomes, FULL FABRIC can help. For example, our Core solution helps advisors, teachers and other staff members to foster meaningful relationships with students by providing a single intuitive interface through which to build study plans, create course schedules, track attendance and assignments, manage grades and issue transcripts.

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Kate Tattersfield

Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.