Future Directions of Online Learning

Linda Harasim is an expert in the field of online education

Future Directions of Online Learning

Stephen Hawking, in May, 2017, declared:

“I believe that the rise of powerful AI will be either the best thing or the worst that has ever happened to humanity. I have to say now that we do not know which but we should do all that we can to ensure that its future development benefits us and our environment.”

Today we live in a world in which the term “Artificial Intelligence” has become a mantra, widely used but little understood. It evokes a range of strong emotions—fear, alarm, anger, excitement, adventure.

Nonetheless, the truth is that most of us—including computer scientists, academics, educators, professionals, journalists and the general public— are unsure of what AI means, both in terms of the technology today and its implications for the future of humanity.

As an online education expert, I study the fields of AI and how to design the technologies and pedagogies that augment rather than replace humanity. 

I explore what these new advanced technologies can accomplish at their current stage of development, where they are headed, and the challenges and the opportunities that they represent for the future of higher and professional education, for the future of a mindful and thinking public, and the future of humanity.

My work has significance to you if you are a professor or administrator in a university or a school of professional education, concerned about the implications of intense marketing by AI, VR, AR and LMS developers and vendors on your field. And how to develop an education platform or response that builds upon best practice and empirical evidence.  Or if you seek to build a state-of-the-art online learning environment for your university or organization and need to separate the hype from the reality. And wish to build on evidence-based information.

As a teacher, you may seek access to readings about advanced AI technologies for a project that your students are doing on the future of education. Or you might be a parent or a student trying to figure out what is going on in the world of accelerating technologies in the form of black boxes that are increasingly influencing and shaping our/your future, beyond our/your control.

Or you may be a member of the media, who is trying to figure out what is going on and how to identify real stories amidst the sensationalism.

I  believe that  humanity is facing an unprecedented  fork in the road, brought about by advanced technology. On the one hand, technologies designed to replace and surpass human intelligence and work are accelerating given vast levels of investment by corporate interests. Yet, these technologies are not yet proving successful in the overall tasks of replacing humanity.

On the other hand, opportunities and designs to transform advanced technologies into tools to augment rather than replace human intelligence and work exist.

The great question is:  why are we humans not acting to ensure that technological development advances our interests and augments our abilities and intellect?

So, my good news challenge to educators and members of the public, this is where we must place our efforts! This is where to invest our intellectual, financial, and physical energy: to create a planet of humans with augmented intellect, rather than a planet controlled by AI programs. To create new ways of teaching and learning, assisted but not controlled by AI.


It is time to create a new discipline: one of Augmented Intelligence, which combines researchers and practitioners from such disciplines as Computer Science, Engineering, Education, Humanities and the Social Sciences.

The School of Augmented Intelligence will become the foundation for a human future built on developing advanced technologies to augment human intellect. SAI, based on pedagogies of online collaborative learning, problem solving and knowledge building, will enhance the use of advanced communication, AR, etc. networks.

Imagine that! Engage now in SAI: discourse plus knowledge!!