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Higher Education in the era of artificial intelligence

05 Jun 2020 | Dr Kay Hack (PFHEA) Ahead of the upcoming Innovation in Teaching Practice workshop on 12 June, Kay Hack, Principal Adviser (Learning and Teaching) at Advance HE, discusses the challenges that will arise in the fourth Industrial Revolution and how the sector can respond to the rise in artificial intelligence.

Dramatic changes in industries and patterns of employment were predicted with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). These changes have been accelerated by the global pandemic, forcing a rapid introduction to new ways of interacting within the world of work.

The predicted global recession combined with an ageing population and the rise of AI will increase the demand for higher education to support a reformed workforce for the knowledge economy. The pandemic has exposed the fragility of global supply chains and will require a review of the just-in-time, out-sourced manufacturing sector. Advances in 4IR technology including artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IOT), will facilitate a re-evaluation of the economic benefits of reliance on low cost, off-shore manufacturing centres. The emerging skills landscape will require agile, lifelong learning opportunities to meet immediate and longer term economic needs.

The increased global demand for higher education driven by developing countries’ aspirations to become knowledge economies cannot be met through on-campus provision alone. The reliance of the global higher education sector on location-dependent delivery models including transnational education and international student mobility has also been exposed by the current crisis. It raises questions on ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘for whom’ higher education is offered and how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and provide life-long opportunities for all” can be met.

This in turn prompts reflection on how best to facilitate lifelong learning and whether existing approaches to online learning are nimble and flexible enough to evolve with these economic and social transformations. The changes will not only impact upon students in terms of where and how they will work and continue to learn across their careers, but also upon how these on-going learning opportunities are provided.

There will be a pressing need to upskill and reskill the current and future workforce to develop familiarity with 4IR technologies and the ability to work with the big and open data sets amid the tsunami of information which will be intrinsic in our daily lives. However, think-tanks such as the World Economic Forum and the Institute for the Future recognise that success in the future job market will be based on uniquely human qualities such as emotional intelligence, compassion and empathy.

How far do we need to integrate 4IR technologies into learning and teaching to provide authentic experiential learning and how can we ensure that learners develop the creativity and metacognitive skills required to innovate and solve complex inter-disciplinary problems?

Preparing for the next generation

Join us for the Innovation in Teaching Workshop which will provide you with the opportunity to reflect on how your school, faculty or institution is preparing to deliver the next generation of learners for living, learning and working in an ever changing technological environment.

This interactive online workshop will give you the opportunity to reflect on a range of questions in the context of your own institution, including:

  • What type of attributes and competencies do your graduates have and what will they need in the future?
  • Is your current teaching future-proof - what are its defining features?
  • How are you preparing your students for Industry 4.0?
  • What teaching learning and assessment approaches will help to develop more resilient, flexible and cognitively agile learners?
  • How can you use AI to enhance the student experience and support learning?

At the end of the day you will have been enabled to:

  • Reflect on the challenges and opportunities associated with the impact of AI and 4IR on Higher Education globally;
  • Evaluate your current state of readiness for delivering the next generation of learning and teaching;  
  • Design a future-facing, holistic educational experience that takes into account the challenges and opportunities explored in the workshop.


Innovation in Teaching Practice: HE in the era of AI will take place on 12 June. Click here to find out more and book your place.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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