Classrooms of the Future

Looking Ahead: This article is the first in an occasional series of Bicentennial stories in which GW experts share their thoughts on what we can expect on a variety of topics as the George Washington University moves into its third century.


University experts say artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, a more diverse faculty, student body and curriculum, and virtual applications will be common in classrooms in the coming years.



Patricia Tate



Patricia Tate, associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy and executive director of the Office of Professional Preparation and Accreditation in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development:

“Technology applications will best serve our educational needs as tools for students to connect with the world and will serve as new avenues for sharing knowledge and demonstrating acquired skills and abilities. Academic writing aside, there will be more options and choices for assessing knowledge and understanding of our students through many types of virtual applications that are emerging in the technology markets today.”



Mahdi Imani



Mahdi Imani, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science:

"Artificial intelligence will individualize our educational systems through intelligent student-specific instruction design and using technological advances in the classrooms and beyond to identify and quantify each student's emotional and educational state to provide the best individualized instruction in response."



Elizabeth Vaquera



Elizabeth Vaquera, executive director of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute and associate professor of sociology and public policy and public administration in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences:

“In less than 25 years, the United States will be a minority majority country. I hope GW classrooms will reflect that demographic future among its students, faculty, leadership and staff. In the heart of the nation’s capital, I imagine all GW classrooms, regardless of subject matter, molding citizen leaders and ensuring that diversity—of cultures,  thought, experiences—are front and center. This will make us even more creative, empathetic and critical thinkers who are prepared to lead, work and live in an increasingly globalized world. I imagine classrooms where Latinx students, for example, see themselves in the faculty who teach their classes, in their assigned readings and in their class discussions. I hope we continue expanding on current efforts that pay attention to disparities inside and outside of the classroom, which will help us increase persistence and completion rates, and where we can look back at the investments we made today as the foundation of those successes.”



Geneva Henry



Geneva Henry, dean of libraries and academic innovation:

“Libraries and classroom instruction have continued to evolve together as new forms of information grow and influence our communications, research and work. Integrating multimedia into both instruction and student assignments is an example of this, along with making sure both faculty and students know how to validate information and algorithms to ensure the integrity of the data they use.” 



Crystel Farina



Crystel Farina, director of simulation and experiential learning clinical education instructor in the School of Nursing:

“Technology is shaping our future by providing us with virtual and augmented reality situations. The graphics and speed are improving so quickly. Additionally we are now seeing an improvement in artificial intelligence. This allows a student to talk with an avatar and have the avatar answer appropriate to the situation. We are using telehealth platforms to teach our graduate students how to complete a telehealth visit. There could be a future when we rethink our brick and mortar classrooms for a completely virtual learning environment."


Donna Hoffman



Donna Hoffman, the Louis Rosenfeld Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Marketing in the School of Business:

"Artificial intelligence is poised to revolutionize the classroom, paving the way for opportunities to improve both teaching effectiveness and efficiency. If we look at how businesses are beginning to implement artificial intelligence solutions, we can get some pretty good ideas of what might be coming soon to the classroom. Customer experience and content creation use cases lead the way in artificial intelligence deployment. As just one example, conversational artificial intelligence involves chatbots or virtual customer assistants. It makes sense that chatbots and virtual tutors capable of answering students’ questions and directing students to relevant material for further study could be helpful when students need additional help. Such bots could also learn over time and recognize when students’ need deeper follow-up from a teaching assistant or the professor. Adding speech recognition into the mix means that students can get assistance with writing, and faculty have an easier way to create lectures and related documents. Another area I can predict will explode are artificial intelligence applications for grading papers and exams. This will be a huge boon since it will free up professors to spend more time with their students one on one, where it’s likely to have more impact on learning outcomes.



Kavita Daiya



Kavita Daiya, director of  Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and associate professor of English in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences:

“In 25 years, our student body will be more international and diverse in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, age. There will also be more faculty diversity. The national mandate for advancing equity will advance Black, Indigenous and LatinX Studies, along with WGSS. We will have more BIPOC faculty, graduate students and postgraduate researchers. Our curricula will have integrated Black, LatinX, gender and Indigenous Studies in capacious and visionary ways that better reflect the great diversity of the United States."



Ryan Watkins



Ryan Watkins, professor of educational leadership in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development:

“The changes we will see in higher education over the next 10 to 15 years are driven by a number of factors, including economic, social and technological. Fortunately, many GW faculty members are pioneers in these developments and the university should be well prepared to leverage whatever technologies emerge to prepare our students. Looking further down the road, in 20 to 25 years we could see cognitive implants, brain-computer interfaces and even brain augmentation emerge as technologies that will further alter what, where, when and how all us learn."



Lorena Barba



Lorena A. Barba, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science:

“When I teach a class using Zoom today, the recording includes a near-perfect transcript. Artificial intelligence is already in the classroom. Chatbot learning assistants, algorithmic personalization of content and auto-nudges to drive engagement are all here. The next frontier is to escape the tyranny of time, where every learner starts and ends a course in sync. We will break 'courses' into smaller units and give learners flexibility to complete them in three weeks or less.” 



Gayle Wald



Gayle Wald, chair of American Studies and professor of English and American Studies in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences:

“Our collective experiment in distance learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic leads me to believe we will continue to value learning as something that happens in community, ideally when people are gathered together in time and space. My concern is that the intimate learning environment of the college seminar—or even the college lecture course—will become something reserved for the 'haves' and increasingly unavailable to the 'have-nots.' At the same time, as the Internet—for better or for worse—functions as our collective memory, the classroom will serve as a site for discovering the stories and people that digital culture tends to erase.”