Quantum Computing Will Personalize Higher Education

In a previous episode of the Enrollment Growth University podcast, we talked through a high-level understanding of quantum computing and how it’s already touching higher ed. We also looked at some next-steps advice for preparing our campuses for a quantum computing world. 

Now, Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor of Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield, and Senior Fellow at UPCEA, returns to the Enrollment Growth University podcast to talk about how quantum computing will personalize higher education.

How Can Quantum Computing Help Predict Market Sector Growth?

“There’s a great opportunity here,” Ray said. “As we’re looking at predictive analytics and anticipating the future, quantum will allow us to analyze where we have been and where we are going.”

It will predict what academic programs, degrees, and certificates will best meet the needs of students in the near term  — 1-3 years out. (Even quantum has its limits).

How Could Quantum Computing Help Students Choose a University?

Third-party vendors will be able to provide access to services that will match the student’s academic and social experience, along with their aspirations, to the programs that put them on the right trajectory to meet their interests.

“Certainly quantum will process the data,” Ray said, “and instantly synthesize a plan for an individual student and show the advantages of specific programs compared to others.”

How Could Quantum Computing Help Develop Personalized Learning?

“I will begin with a caveat,” Ray told us. “As we get into this area, we have to be aware of privacy rights and potential issues.”

If a student is willing to share background information, then quantum can take control of designing programs. Even while the course is underway, it can adapt to the student’s achievements and abilities as well as backfill where they might be a little foggy. 

“This requires developing two pools of data sets,” Ray said. “Those of the students and those of engagement. Then of course, creating a relational database for the outcomes.”

To do that, you take the experience of the students along with a variety of potential engagements, and map them to desired learning outcomes to assure that the student reaches those outcomes. It’s a continuing process because throughout their careers, students are going to build on their prior knowledge in order to adapt to the workplace environment as it changes.

One more role for advanced computing will be projecting and revising the curriculum map for students. This will involve the analytics model of predictive and prescriptive approaches of artificial intelligence, modeling careers and projecting the impact of technologies on those careers, as well as evolving societal needs. 

“It sounds complex,” Ray said, “but that’s what quantum computing is so good at resolving.”

How Could Quantum Computing Help Adapt Teaching to Both Ends of the Bell Curve?

With the power of quantum computing, adaptive learning becomes really a phenomenal. It individualizes learning by identifying outcomes and then working backwards from those outcomes.

“As you begin a class,” Ray said, “you kind of aim at the middle because you want to teach the most students the best you can. And then there are some you don’t want to leave behind, so you talk to them along the way and others get bored, and well, you talk to them too. But neither of the two sides of the bell curve get served as well as those in the middle.” 

With quantum computing and artificial intelligence, however, we can meet the student where they are as far as knowledge, understanding, reasoning skills, and logic patterns. Those are the elements that are going to help us identify each step of the process to reach the learning outcomes for the class.

“The student enters what I’ll call a labyrinth of learning,” Ray explained. “Imagine a maze, a very complex network of possible paths, and at the far side are the desired outcomes. Some students are going to get through that very quickly. It may take them two weeks, not 16 weeks. Others will take 20 weeks, not 16 weeks. But they all end up with the same shared knowledge and outcomes.”

As they progress, the AI adaptive program maps the process turn by turn, through the maze, meeting students where they are and backfilling where they need be, so that they all can reach the same outcome.

The Future of Quantum Internet

Imagine an internet that is faster than the speed of light using entangled qubits. You change one here, and it changes instantly in Singapore. It would require an array of satellites. You don’t want to pipe it into fiber optics because they’re limited by the speed of light. So you want to transmit directly through space from satellite or node to node. 

“At this point,” Ray said, “institutions need to think outside the box. They have to ask questions: How could we best serve the needs of students? What are the needs of employers in society, and what are the linkages that would need to be made?” 

It’s difficult to ignore current limitations, but we need to do that to visualize where could we go. Using that outcome, we begin to backtrack and ask how we step into the quantum realm and the enhanced artificial intelligence realm.

Next-Steps to Prepare our Campuses for Quantum Computing

“That is a big challenge,” Ray said, “because we need to look across our disciplines. It can’t just be the communication department or the computer science department. We need to look across all of the departments, and we need to look broadly at our students because that’s the goal.” 

And we see a whole new context arising  — the 60-year-old student, the lifelong learner. We have to look at students in the workplace and what they’re looking for. 

“A lot of it is really reconfiguring ourselves,” Ray said. “Those first steps are to reconfigure ourselves to be more responsive to what the students want, to what employers need, to what society desires. In order to accomplish that, we will then naturally access quantum and AI.”


This post is based on a podcast interview with Ray Schroeder from the University of Illinois Springfield. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.