People sitting at round table with virtual reality headset on

Top edtech trends in 2023 and the ASU example

January 11th, 2023

In spite of our tendency to break things down into tidy time frames, like a new year or academic semester, change constantly turns over the status quo. Especially in the world of technology, where disruptive innovation may evolve rapidly from the fringe to the mainstream.

“At ASU’s Enterprise Technology, we work in spaces where technology is not just revolutionizing higher education, but the world at large,” shares Lev Gonick, ASU chief information officer. “We strive to be proactive, not reactive, to new paradigms changing the ways in which we work, learn and thrive.”

The following technology trends – as illuminated by Fierce Education (plus one unique to Enterprise Technology) – face leading technologists, university leadership, the ASU community and beyond. And not-so-coincidentally, ASU is on the cutting edge of these educational spaces. 

In this two-part series, we will explore examples of our work – with insights from Gonick – that represents an ahead-of-the-curve approach, focused on adapting to novel technology and embracing continuous exploration across fields of study.

Trend #1 - Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is having its moment in higher education with the introduction of ChatGPT in the past few weeks. The AI program is gaining attention worldwide with the capacity to produce highly sophisticated writing. With the capability of linear storytelling, identification of fallacies, and grammar and syntax skills, ChatGPT far outclasses the writing AI that has come before it. 

While higher education leaders are still understanding the impact and implications of such a disruptive technology, our teams look forward to exploring this cutting-edge application of AI through the lens of responsible innovation for meaningful impact.

Beyond this example, AI is at play in numerous facets of university learning, working and living. In an entrepreneurial and community impact example, students working at ASU’s Learning Futures are using AI technology to provide real-time support to visually impaired students in the classroom. Learn more about how this group of students is exploring the use of 5G, classroom cameras and artificial intelligence to power the braille board. 

Last year, ASU Enterprise Technology announced a new partnership to become a Verizon 5G Innovation Hub; the partnership brings Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband speed to the Creativity Commons at ASU’s Tempe campus.  

Trend #2 - Chatbots

As an extension of AI principles, digital chatbots simulate human-like conversations with users via text or chat messages. 

With one of the most advanced chatbot strategies, ASU is working to find smarter, more meaningful ways to communicate with learners. And one area for impact focuses on financial aid services. 

The ASU Experience Center, which provides many 24/7 support across various ASU services, now utilizes chatbots to streamline the self-serving student experience and answer financial aid questions faster. 

Trend #3 - Extended reality

Exploration through education. This is the fourth realm of learning outlined by ASU President Michael Crow that calls for more immersive learning experiences. Technologies like XR, VR and AR are often used in this space.

Extended reality (XR) is a collective term for digital spaces, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). ASU is leading the way in immersive learning experiences through a partnership with Dreamscape Immersive, the world’s leading virtual reality company. Together, the teams have launched Dreamscape Learn, which offers fully immersive VR learning. Last year, students taking introductory biology experienced DSL as part of their learning. 

“At ASU, we’re blending real and virtual worlds to effectively remove barriers to where, when and how learning happens,” shared Gonick. “Through the use of technology, we can enhance, amplify, and facilitate deeper and more authentic learning experiences.”

Dreamscape Learn is held inside the Creativity Commons on ASU’s Tempe campus. Directly next door is a space where additional XR experiences are being designed and developed for students, by students at Learning Futures.  

One such project is Huddle, which offers classroom experiences in VR. And last semester, students in HST 130 slipped on the Oculus headset, strapped on the hand controllers and were transported to trenches of World War I inside the Huddle experience. 

Trend #4 - Digital twins

Simply put, digital twins are virtual representations of an object, system or space. These indistinguishable digital counterparts have been used for decades. 

However, building off technology trends noted in the first installment – including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and metaverses – digital twins are having a resurgence.

At ASU, students are developing a digital twin of the campus. The ASUniverse models, in full 3D scale, the architecture, classrooms and even southwest landscape of ASU’s Tempe Campus, accessible from anywhere. Future use cases of the digital twin include touring the Tempe campus, attending class, enjoying live entertainment and more.

Additionally, the ASU Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC), powered by Amazon Web Services, is developing a digital twin of downtown Phoenix for improved and strategic urban planning.

Trend #5 - The metaverse

In keeping with the previous two trends in virtual communities, the global metaverse is extending beyond organizational silos to connect people in a digital world. A main mission of the recently established Zoom Innovation Lab at ASU is to extend Zoom into the ASUniverse.

“The first-of-its-kind Zoom Innovation Lab at ASU will combine the resources available across the ASU Public Enterprise — including the university’s expertise, research, networks and learning assets — with Zoom’s technology and talent to create solutions that better connect society,” Gonick shared in a recent interview with Forbes.

Additional opportunities for more immersive experiences inside the ASUniverse include sporting events, telehealth counseling services and more. 

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The world, and by extension ASU learners, are shaped by technologies like those represented in these five trends. Check back next week for the second installment of this two-part series that will share trends around the Internet of Things, blockchain, gamification and more. 

Edited by Tristan Ettleman; photos by Mike Sanchez