When Walden began in 1970, digital technology was in its infancy and the internet as we know it was many years away. Nevertheless, the spirit of innovation was a fundamental part of our founding, and it was only a matter of time before our passion for expanding access to higher education intersected with the digital revolution.
In 1995, we became the first university in the U.S. to offer a fully online master’s program in education. By the 2000s, we were providing online degree programs in a variety of in-demand fields, giving an ever-increasing number of people around the globe the ability to advance their education and reach their goals.
Now, as we move into the 2020s and prepare for the future ahead, we’re seeking out opportunities to transform even more technological inventions into educational innovations. From virtual reality (VR) to artificial intelligence (AI), we’re excited about all the ways we can expand access to higher education and provide our students with cutting-edge learning environments. Read on to learn about the technologies we plan to employ.
Virtual Learning and Training
In the past decade, we began adding advanced simulation tools to our courses, such as patient simulation software used by nursing students to replicate complex patient interactions. But such software is just the beginning of what’s possible. Following a successful VR pilot program that allowed students earning degrees in social work to experience on-site visits in all their unpredictable (virtual) reality, we’re partnering with companies like Google to develop VR learning programs across our curriculum. Through VR, students can gain valuable, real-world knowledge and experiences no matter where they live, allowing us to provide a richer—and more practically applicable—learning experience to all our students. The possibilities are truly vast.
Recently, students using their myWalden portal have met Charlotte, Walden’s assistance bot designed to guide students through the various stages and complexities of their Walden experience. But Charlotte is more than a simple Q&A tool. In the coming years, the program will expand to become a personal AI assistant capable of giving every student individualized support on matters ranging from turning in assignments to registering for classes to troubleshooting technological issues.
And Charlotte won’t be alone. We’re also in the process of developing an AI-driven doctoral research coach designed to help doctoral students move through the research phase of their capstone project. It’s an innovation that will make earning a doctorate far more feasible, especially for working professionals without an extensive academic background or research experience.
Additionally, we’re working with Google to develop an AI-driven tutor that will be available to all students. This tutor will augment our already robust support services, ensuring students can take advantage of academic help 24/7.
We can’t say for sure what technology will look like in 10 or 50 years, but we can say, if a technological innovation can improve the way we teach, how our students learn, or the amount of support our students receive, we will invest in it. The best education evolves with the times and the needs of learners. The founders of Walden knew that. Today, we carry that same conviction forward.