Future of learning
& research outputs


Here we look to the future of research outputs, contemplating how they can be improved to reach all users. We reveal the future trends that students and academics believe will make research more effective and consider the role of technology in making research more usable for non-academics. 

Turning attention to specific groups, we share the top content forms that students and academics believe will make research more accessible to learners and effective for decision makers.  

The role of technology

Universities around the world are using technology to enhance their learning environments. Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), usually delivered via an online platform, is increasingly used in higher education, and has become central to the delivery of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

TEL can improve engagement and accessibility and it helps students to pace their learning and understand complex information. Research has shown that universities can increase the benefits of TEL by using it more frequently to build connections between lecturers, fellow students and external groups.


How might technology improve research accessibility?

Considering the benefits of TEL, we asked students and academics for their thoughts on using technology to improve the useability of research in general, as well as enhance learning within higher education.

Results in tabular format
Response Academics % Students %
46% of academics and 27% of students believe that technology and traditional methods should play an equal role in research / learning 46 27
26% of academics and 36% of students agree that technology should play a large role in research / learning, along with some focus on traditional methods 26 36
19% of academics and 29% of students want technology to play a very large role in research / learning, with very little focus on traditional methods 19 29


Both academics and students are keen for technology to play a role in improving both research accessibility and learning. However, there are mixed views over how much technology should be used versus traditional methods. Students generally feel more strongly than academics about technology playing a large or a very large role in research / learning.


Regional views about the role of technology

There are mixed opinions on the role of technology at the regional level. In all but one region (Middle East and Africa), academics agree that both technology and traditional methods should play an equal role in research – around 50%. However, students are more disparate and equally spread, with most agreeing that technology should play a large role in learning, along with some focus on traditional methods, rising to 47% of students in China.

Academics most in favour of change are those in the Middle East and Africa (32%) and India (26%), who want to move away from traditional methods and for technology to play a very large role in research. This was echoed most strongly by students in Egypt (46%) and the USA (53%) who want the same for learning. Meanwhile, academics in North America (7%) and Latin America (8%) are least in favour of technology playing a very large role in research.


Technology versus tradition

In their verbatim responses, students repeatedly call for a break with traditional learning approaches and for technology to play a greater role. One student in Egypt urges universities to 'stay away from the old ways and methods' and make 'more use of modern technology to keep pace with the times'.

Another student in the UK sees traditional teaching approaches as merely a tick box exercise he must endure to earn a degree: '[…] traditional teaching facilities have just stuck to the norm and ignored the fact that a majority don’t get on well with the traditional and are just putting up with it to get a piece of paper […] University is not a space to learn, it is a place for lecturers to "teach you how to learn" which is the biggest cop out.'

Most students want academics to use technology and new content forms such as videos to support learning at university.

'Improve media communication abstract themes. Each YouTuber can do something like this nowadays better than professors whose task it should be.' Postgraduate student in Germany

'They can provide us animated notes and give us some creativity assignments that are fun, and we gain knowledge from it at the same time too.' Undergraduate student in India

'Make study tip videos and helpful articles and content.' Undergraduate student in UK

Academics generally agree that videos and other tools can help make learning more engaging and digestible.

'Five-minute video summary. It can be made for students, juniors and seniors or one for all.' Academic in Egypt

'Learning should be fun, and interactive. There should be a degree of freedom. If students choose not to do exams, that should be fine.' Academic in Malaysia

'Learning Bytes – 1/2-minute videos, 5-minute videos depending on the content.' Academic in India

'Flexibility is key, accessibility of course. Variety of information formats – text, but also visual audio and AV.' Academic in Australia

A minority of students and academics are less confident about the role of technology in opening learning opportunities. One UK academic raises concerns over the idea that technology automatically offers quality learning opportunities:

'Learning is fundamentally a social process', explains the academic. 'Relationships mediated by technology are not ideal though they might be the best available in certain, limited circumstances (e.g. COVID). The evidence is that social media often does not support connection and mental health.' 

Likewise, a UK student kicks back at the notion of technology leading to quality learning experience, describing first-hand how remote learning has muted opportunities. 'In the current term learning is extremely poor, online lectures just do not have the same captivating power as in person lectures', they note.


Four groups of learners who could benefit from technology

Most academics agree that technology could help the following groups of people gain access to learning opportunities.

Results in tabular format
Response Academics %
Remote learners: Academics believe technology could benefit those wanting to study remotely from any location 87
Professionals / carers: Academics think technology could help those with work or caring responsibilities 86
Returners to study / school leavers: Academics see technology being useful for people returning to study later in their careers as well as students starting straight from school 82
Career changers: Technology helps professionals retrain when switching careers 79


Future trends to make research more effective for learning outcomes

How important do you think the following trends are in improving learning outcomes from academic research?

Results in tabular format
Response Academics % Students %
Real world 64 44
Project-based learning 63 36
Lecturers' role 62 44
Collaborative learning 52 32
Visualisation 51 43
Personal learning environment 46 40
Personalisation 43 37
Mobile learning 38 37
Flipped classroom 38 29
Social media 27 28
Game-based learning 22 27


  • Real world: virtual experiences, simulations, other teachers/experts, real-world problems, and workplaces will bring the outside world into learning.
  • Project-based learning: students work on challenges and problems. Learning usually goes beyond traditional subjects.
  • Lecturers' role: lecturers bring their knowledge and experience to the learning environment.
  • Collaborative learning: less working alone and more time spent on group work.
  • Visualisation: visual devices bring content to life.
  • Personal learning environment: the online learning environment you engage with is tailored to your personal needs, learning style and personal interests.
  • Personalisation: learning that’s more personalised, driven by rich data and guided by learning analytics and advise which are the most efficient for which students.
  • Mobile learning: we get access to knowledge through smartphones and tablets, sometimes using virtual learning environments. It is learning anytime, anywhere.
  • Flipped classroom: students master basic concepts of topics at home. Time spent in classroom is used to reflect, discuss, and develop topics.
  • Social media: learners share ideas and feelings.
  • Game-based learning: learning is mixed with games or with game mechanisms.

Academics and students agree that a greater focus on the real world will make the biggest improvement in learning outcomes from academic research, through virtual experiences, simulations, solving real world problems and bringing the outside world into learning. Although, for students, the lecturers’ role is equally important in making research more effective for learners. Project-based learning is the next popular trend for academics, while for students it is visualisation.

Both academics and students want learning to focus more on the real world, bringing the outside world into the classroom through virtual experiences, simulations, other teachers/experts, real-world problems, and workplaces. Real world is a trend most favoured by academics in Latin American (71%) and Middle East and Africa (69%), as well as students in India (58%). However, it is least popular among students in Japan (16%). Although, students in Japan rated all the trends well below average.

Project-based learning, where students work on challenges and problems (often on non-traditional subjects), is the second most favourable trend for academics (63%), rising to 82% for those in India. This trend is closely followed by the lecturers’ role, a choice for 62% of academics overall, rising to 72% for those in India and 71% in the Middle East and Africa. The lecturers’ role is the second most popular choice among students, with 44% choosing this option.

Visualisation, where visual devices bring content to life in far more interesting and dynamic ways, is the third most significant trend for students, with 43% rating it very important, rising to 56% for students in Egypt. While, the average score was higher for academics, with 51% making this choice, other trends seem more important for this group.

Both groups place less value on game-based learning, with 27% of students and 22% of academics selecting this trend. Game-based learning is least popular among students in in Japan (12%) and academics in Australasia (11%).

See regional breakdowns of participants in this report for students and for academics.


Making research more usable for the next generation

We know that students want academics to use more videos and animations to help with their learning and academics are supportive of this move, with 64% of them choosing videos, podcasts and infographics as the number one way they could more effectively present research to students. Academics are keen that measures to improve research accessibility for students go further by providing article summaries (59%), making research open access (59%), and presenting research in more accessible language (45%). Academics are least keen on sharing policy makers’ perspectives at 21%.

Sixty-four percent of academics believe that content forms such as videos, podcasts and infographics could help when presenting research to students.

Thirty-two percent of students would like to see video and animation used for learning.


How best to present research to decision makers

'Paywalls are a massive issue. There are concerns about readability and digestibility – but these all pale compared to access. People can’t read papers, because they’re priced at horrific costs of which little to none goes back to the actual author/s.' Undergraduate student in Australia

'I often use more easily digestible videos – with interesting graphics and narrators for teaching – especially at the undergrad level.' Academic in the USA

'I would select game-based learning, videos and other edtechs, as they would allow students to learn in a more attractive way and, at the same time, make learning accessible to students in remote places. However, this will only be possible if internet is available to everyone.' Academic in Brazil


How do you think research could be more effectively presented to decision makers outside academia?
How do you think research could be more effectively presented to the next generation of students?

Results in tabular format
Response Academics % Students %
Using different forms of content (e.g. videos, podcasts, infographics) to highlight the research 52 64
Article summaries, such as lay summaries or structured abstracts which detail the key findings of research 57 59
Making research open access 52 59
Making research language more accessible; writing in plain English 44 45
Co-creating research with academics and non-academics 54 42
Making research accessible in different languages 31 33
Using impact statements for research 27 27
Sharing policy makers perspectives 31 21
Other 5 4
None of these 1 2


Academics believe that article summaries such as lay summaries or structured abstracts are the best way to improve how research information is presented to decision makers outside of academia, with 57% choosing this option. Article summaries are also within the top 3 answers for all regions, with 77% of academics in North America and 75% in Australasia choosing this option.

In addition to the lay summary, most academics agree they could more effectively present research to non-academics through co-creation between academics and practitioners (54%), open research (52%) and using different forms of content such as videos, podcasts and infographics (52%). Impact statements are the least popular option for academics looking to improve the way research is presented to non-academic decision makers, with 27% selecting this option.

'If a more layman’s report was made, the general public could have a better understanding of important issues like climate change, mental health, suicide rates, impact from COVID.' Undergraduate student in Australia

'Journals could provide an ‘alternative’ abstract that sums up the paper in very simple / nonscientific terms (if possible) so that the message that the article is trying to put across is clear even for someone not working in that field.' Postgraduate student in UK

'Animation and animated CAD tools are the most effective tool to connect research work to decision makers outside academia.' Academic in Egypt

'Publishing summaries in newsletter style/in relevant magazines […] Or making sure there is a regular summary of research in industry magazines.' Academic in United Arab Emirates

Next section: Conclusions & future trends

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