Exercises in anticipating the future are always fraught affairs. Nevertheless, the Pew Research Center found over 400 technology experts willing to chance their arm and speculate on what digital world we might be experiencing in 2035. This particular round of future-gazing was distinct in asking for these experts’ hopes for “what a better digital world could be like in 2035”. In contrast to more dystopic visions, then, it is interesting to see how education featured in these optimistic imaginings:


“Straight extrapolation leads to better and higher-speed access to the Internet on a ubiquitous basis thanks in part to low-Earth-orbit networks and expansion of fiber and radio access methods. We will have figured out how to deliver education online in K-12 and post-secondary education. People will learn while they work and not only in a burst at the beginnings of their longer lives” (Vinton G. Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google)

“A large-scale educational ecosystem will emerge to meet people’s formal and informal learning needs and it will be buttressed with a similarly impressive credentialing and testing regime to give people and employers feedback on those participating in the system” (Mike Liebhold, distinguished fellow, The Institute for the Future)

“Education will be a multiway whole-of-life engagement, open to all at every level, with irrevocable freedom of assembly in the digital realm. … Out of near-universal admiration for Greta Thunberg’s role in getting and keeping young people engaged through a crucial juncture, all mechanisms promoting childhood ignorance will be abandoned with consequences as overwhelmingly positive as they have been anywhere similar liberations have been tried” (Tony Smith, Melbourne-based researcher of complex systems)

 “One of the most remarkable developments over the past 20 years or so has been the shift to thinking of learning as a public activity. Increasingly, keeping what you learn private looks like selfishness. If you have a question, you might as well ask it in a public place so that others can find the answer. If you know how to do something, you might as well write it up and post it. I hope that we find ways to bind this knowledge together more formally and openly than accessing it via search engines” (David Weinberger, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society)

Perhaps there will be a return to a kind of civics education that is more appropriate to the realities of public and private life online. People should be learning about the risks, responsibilities and ethics or ethos of ‘being a good citizen’ as well as being a genuinely good person online.” (Leah Lievrouw, UCLA)

“If we take the example of education, learning analytics will gather and evaluate with AI all data involving a student’s learning activities, which include social activities, sport, etc., and will derive the optimal course of studies for this particular student including not only content, but methods, learning path, etc. This personalized educational journey will begin in primary school and proceed throughout the individual’s lifetime, including on-the-job training, continuing education and all other learning activities regardless of institution or employer. The data will belong not to the educational institution alone but also to the student who has a say in how the data is used. Schools will be self- organizing networks including students as stakeholders. They will be regulated not by economic or political priorities but by the governance regime established by all the stakeholders following the norms of connectivity, the free flow of information, communication, participation, flexibility and transparency. The state plays only the role of auditor to ensure the governance regime is fair and effective.” (David J. Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication and Leadership)

“If I could envision one area with a new and improved digital experience, I am hopeful for education. Ideally, U.S. universities will become less selective and more expansive in their missions, developing collaborations and technologies that can reach more students with core content and partner for in-person local delivery and engagement. At the same time, the definition of a ‘student’ in higher education must change from our mental model of 18- to 22-year-olds on a physical campus. Even today, that’s a minority of undergraduates. As jobs require more-sophisticated use of technology (and the critical thinking, humanist concerns needed  for ethical deployment), by 2035 there should be an ingrained path for lifelong learning. Digital educational spaces must provide: (i) Effective content delivery; (ii) Online/offline learning opportunities; (iii) Peer community engagement in safe spaces; (iv) Meaningful evaluation; and (v) A self-learning capability where learning gains and challenges improve the model.” (Perry Hewitt, chief marketing officer at data.org)

 “I expect education technology that delivers personalized learning experiences. Classrooms today are outdated, and Zoom has only helped parents firsthand see the challenges with synchronous learning models. A massive investment in ed tech could help transform the U.S. education system” (Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation)

 “By 2035, we will have a better perspective on the value of in-person and virtual experiences and interactions. The pandemic has accelerated this trend by forcing people to try more digital experiences than they might have in the past. Digital education will be much more prevalent and accepted in 2035, especially in college, graduate school and corporate training. This will result in more access to education for those who are working and with families. More universities will adopt the online student support innovations of South New Hampshire University, Western Governors University and Arizona State University. At the high school level, students will have broader access to courses not offered in person at their school, again leading to broader access. Relationships between teachers and students and among students themselves will continue to be of primary importance, and in-person education will be considered the gold standard for relationship building, even as relationships are supported online.” (Eileen Rudden, co-founder of LearnLaunch)

 “We are at the tipping point at which we can see a majority of learners engaging online. The flexibility and personification of learning online using AI technologies will change the way that we teach and learn. Already, we are seeing a growing community of adult learners who are seeking upskilling, reskilling and career-changing credentials in online programs. Already, Coursera and other massive online programs are thriving. They are turning real profits. As such, their field will grow and grow. Surveys of workers show that they seek professional development. As we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will see expanded online learning and development. It will be increasingly self-paced and adaptive.” (Ray Schroeder, senior fellow at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association)

 “Our digital futures will be fluid, deictic, and ambiguous in nature. New as-yet undeveloped literacies, technologies, and practices will soon take root. This requires a continual re-examination of the knowledge, skills and dispositions utilized as we read and write the web. We need our schools to create cognitively flexible individuals that are nimble enough to handle any digital contexts while being empowered to create new possibilities.”  (Ian O’Byrne, College of Charleston)

“There are many ways to imagine a better world online, many of which are already in the process of development, including a free, universal education offered by organizations like the World University and School, which envisions free universal education through people-to-people wiki teaching … but in each of 200 countries and in the 7,139 known living languages; a free online university offering high school, college-level and graduate school degrees.”  (Scott G.K. MacLeod, University of Colorado-Denver)

 “I would like to see education to be a true hybrid model with seamless handoffs between on- and offline with AR and VR as mature technologies that are easy to use. I would like to see seamless connections between online and offline” (Kate Carruthers, chief data and insights officer, UNSW)

“I would love to see an internet that advances people from the Global South and other groups left behind. The internet’s affordances of open, borderless education combined with jobs that can be performed online can be transformative. An internet that enables people to participate more fully in the global economy is an incredible boon to the world.” (Jeremy Foote, Purdue University)

“It is clear that face-to-face education has its advantages. However, supplementing this with remote education increases the reach of the system. Education is known as one of the ways to reduce intolerance. Thus, the growth of remote education can be a positive force in the reduction of social/racial divides.” (Rich Ling, Nanyang Technological University)

 “Digital spaces in the future will be so widely varied that there will not be any canonical digital space, just as there is no canonical physical space. A multitude of new digital spaces using augmented reality and virtual reality to create new ways for people to interact online in ways that feel more personal, intimate and like the physical world will likely arise. These spaces will provide opportunities to experience the world and society in new and exciting ways. One imagines, for example, that in the future, digital classrooms could involve students sitting at virtual desks with a virtual teacher giving a lesson at the front of the room” (Andrew Tutt, law expert and author)

“Better platforms for quality educational resources and open access, with or without support from public institutions” (Miguel Moreno, University of Grenada)

“Education must go far beyond the generic sorts of ‘digital literacy’ that tend to focus on basic how-to’s of digital technologies. A robust and democratically/humanistically-oriented digital education includes attention to digital media alongside other media that remain centrally important. Diverse media technologies entail diverse affordances, styles and capacities for thought and expression and so forth. This education would begin with a thorough examination of the role of freedom of expression in service to democratic societies, norms, processes and so on. This would include an understanding of the classic limits to freedom of expression – i.e., its forms, such as hate speech, defamation, and any speech that does not contribute to open and informed democratic debate and deliberation. Such well-educated citizens could largely be trusted to recognize and respect the boundaries between democratically oriented freedom of expression and merely destructive speech, and thereby have a better sense of how to engage more fruitfully in democratic deliberation”(Charles Ess, University of Oslo)