Perspectives on the Future of Education: Ed Leaders Weigh-In


Open LMS was acquired by Learning Technologies Group (LTG) on March 31, 2020. To learn more about Open LMS, please visit

This blog is one in a series on the future of education. Our Chief Learning and Innovation Officer, Phill Miller, offers his insights on the below questions around the future of education, and how technology plays a role in learner success.

How will teaching and learning practices over the next 10 years have to evolve to serve the learners of the future?

The one-size-fits-all, “sage on the stage” model of teaching isn’t sustainable. Just as consumers are increasingly expecting personalized purchasing experiences (think about how your smartphone asks if you’d like to reorder the same groceries that you recently bought), students are increasingly expecting personalized learning experiences. Students learn differently, and teaching models that don’t recognize this reality will be compelled to change in response to students’ calls for more personalized learning. Additionally, the outdated “traditional student” model is driving the need for personalization in higher-ed. More adult students are entering colleges and universities to retrain in response to a continually evolving job market. These students have different needs than their younger counterparts, and community colleges, as well as other further education institutions, are on the front lines of demonstrating how higher education can address these shifts.

In response to these changes, learning models will tilt away from the acquisition of knowledge and lean towards the application of knowledge. In the age of information, access to knowledge is much more plentiful than it was during the era in which the lecture was conceived. As such, knowing how to apply that knowledge is where educators will need to focus their students’ attention. This means embracing the tenants of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the growing body of neuroscience that supports it. Educators will need to think more holistically about the why, what, and how of learning to ensure that they’re engaging the affective, recognition, and strategic networks in students’ brains. Doing so will deepen understanding in ways that enable knowledge application in meaningful ways—not just spouted back on a traditional test. Greater support for UDL will also mean that more adult students will learn in a manner that better fits their lives and ways of understanding. Instead of reading course content, for example, an adult student who prefers to process information aurally could listen to a recording while commuting to work.

From the multiple content formats that Blackboard Ally facilitates to the Personalized Learning Designer that’s built into Blackboard Open LMS, we’re part of this important movement towards personalized learning and UDL.

What role will technology like analytics and data play in improving outcomes for learners in the next decade?

Data and the ability to transform it into action will be central to student success. The education community has just begun to explore the impact that data and analytics will have on learning outcomes. When learning analytics becomes more deeply embedded in educational institutions, we expect that it will focus on:

  1. Understanding the relationship between student behavior and student success
  2. Understanding how different materials and approaches influence learning
  3. Improving curriculum

The insights generated from these areas of inquiry will drive significant enhancements in teaching and learning. As analysis techniques mature and data becomes more plentiful and integrated, analytics technologies–and the insights that they facilitate–will grow in sophistication. Students and faculty will become more enthusiastic users of these solutions and will favor those that support the most meaningful insights for decision making and goal attainment. We’ll see learning analytics evolve into an invaluable tool for delivering, measuring, and experiencing education.

That’s all to say that analytics for the sake of analytics isn’t the aim–the aim is to use the insights that analytics technologies provide to better support faculty, students, and institutions. As universities leverage their research expertise to ask new questions of their data, we’ll see significant advancements in teaching and learning as a result. Researchers tied to the analytics community will continue to play an important role in sharing best practices to ensure that these positive impacts are widely experienced. At the same time, the analytics community will need to be careful about the data tied to their respective universities given the importance of data privacy and protection.

With the introduction of Blackboard Data, we’re establishing a foundation for secure, platform-wide data sharing that will enable us to effectively support students and faculty as analytics becomes more central to the teaching and learning experience. It’s an exciting development and one that I encourage you to follow closely as we continue to build out this solution.

How will the college/university of 2030 be different than today?

Many colleges and universities will have to change their current business models to continue to thrive. In parts of the world that are projected to experience enrollment declines (the United States being one of them), higher education institutions will need to boost revenue. Navigating these challenges will require university administrators to draw inspiration from other industries. They’ll need to adopt entrepreneurial leadership styles and develop novel educational programming in partnership with businesses, chambers of commerce, and other entities.

Beyond shifts in leadership, partnership, and programs, we’ll also see changes to credentialing. Higher education institutions will evolve from a credentialing model that’s largely based on degrees to one that embraces a broad ecosystem of educational credentials. Moreover, we’ll see a greater focus on the connection between workforce needs and credentials in response to questions about students’ return on their educational investments.

What role will technology partners play in helping shape the future of how education is delivered?

Technology partners will be invaluable as colleges and universities continue to address the fact that the traditional education system is unsustainable and ill-suited for a globally connected world that’s constantly changing. The higher education model that’s dedicated to educating the privileged in a campus vacuum can’t persist in a future that necessitates educational access and global relevance. Technology plays a critical role in helping institutions connect to broader groups of students and providing those students with global experiences.

When Blackboard was founded, digital teaching and learning was in its infancy, but within a relatively short period of time we saw it gain momentum. Suddenly, classrooms didn’t have walls, and students who may never have had the opportunity to attend a college or university were able to do so. As digital teaching and learning accelerates, the technology providers that will be poised to collaborate effectively with higher education institutions are those willing to expand beyond their silos in favor of interconnected ecosystems. As a board member of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, I see the importance that open architecture and integration offer higher education institutions as they engage in digital transformation…and, as a leader at Blackboard, I see an exciting future ahead as we continue to develop our EdTech Platform and its network of technology partners.