Education technology tends to last. Take the abacus: it was invented in 500BC, and still is used in the classroom today.

In a couple of millenia’s time, which technologies will people look back on? Four technology trends are driving massive change in higher education, a new report has revealed.

Geoff Mugan, the chief executive of Nesta – a British innovation institute – has written a must-read report on the topic. Here are the four tech trends he highlights.

1. Adaptive learning

Adaptive learning refers to online educational systems that modify their material in response to students’ performance. They track progress and change the curriculum accordingly.

“These systems attempt to transform the learner from being a passive receptor of information to being a collaborator in the educational process”, Mulgan states.

Such platforms are more commonly used in distance learning, it continues, analysing students’ answers and tracking their cognitive abilities. It can also allow students to work at a different pace, where educators can access their progress and performance and adapt their teaching methods.

For example, CogBooks is a cloud-based learning platform which collects, analyses and sends teachers real-time reports and performance dashboards. The system was trialed in Arizona State University in two courses, where it was received positively in 80 percent of students, according to the report.

2. Crowdteaching

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Crowdteaching allows educators to co-create a curriculum that is open to everyone online.

An example of this is Phonar, a photography and narrative course for undergraduates by Jonathan Worth and Matt Johnston. The classes are attended by 20 students physically, and open to over thousands of online users simultaneously. The “audio-recorded lectures, class assignments and discussions attracts over 10000 visitors from 1632 cities in 107 countries”, it adds.

The tech has allowed students to gain access to famous photographers, and insights from expert critics, directors and designers.

Both instructors and students can use the hashtag #PhonarEd to share notes, discuss their findings and experiences with one another. This also opens up opportunities for users to work with expert photographers.

3. Blockchain

Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that are held in real-time across a distributed network of computers. The platform is secure to hacks because it requires acknowledgement from all parties before changes can be made. Information, once logged, are irreversible.

In San Francisco, Holberton School is using the tech to authenticate degrees. This allows employers to verify the credentials of potential hires in an efficient and fool-proof way. Time GovInsider takes down those old photocopies with the letters changed…

4. Digital textbooks

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Students are increasingly shifting to digital resources for their learning content. According to a 2013 study by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research, 71 percent of students used Open Educational Resources (OER), an open digital library to source for their learning content. This saw a 46 percent rise from 2010.

Currently, Pearson has built a search engine for users to search for specific content on OER, while Boundless provides students with the digital equivalent of a physical textbook, once it gets fed the contents page.

The report suggest that physical textbooks will one day be phased out and replaced by digital alternatives. “This is established by the fact that textbook publishers, such as Pearson, are shifting from the supply of educational materials to the provision of education services, such as testing, assessment, student information systems, and course management platforms”, it adds.

Will they replace the Abacus? Perhaps, but in this case the tools themselves are secondary. Instead, they reflect a changing environment where teaching and learning will be performed in a completely different manner. Viva la revolucion!