As higher education leaders and their CIOs, CTOs, and Technology Directors dive deeper into the conversation on Digital Transformation and Education 4.0, they are also learning how to incorporate the Digital Twins realm concept into their curricula. But, what is Digital Twins technology and how can it serve the university of the future

A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of a real object or system which is updated from real-time data, uses machine learning, simulation, and reasoning to help decision-making. In other words, a Digital Twin creates a highly complex virtual model which is the exact replica of a physical thing. 

Connected sensors on a smart campus can collect data in real-time. This data is used to create a map onto the virtual model, thus creating a Digital Twin of a campus. When you look at the Digital Twin, you can see crucial information about how the real campus is doing. 

The applications for Digital Twin technology do not stop there. Students and faculty can benefit from using the technology as well. 

Digital Twins in the classroom 

Hybrid classrooms have become more and more common during the pandemic. Digital technologies have accelerated the transition into the university of the future. Digital Twins technology, one of the trending technologies related to Industry 4.0, helps faculty to create simulation models based on course requirements. 

Digital Twin technology makes the ultimate immersive learning experience possible. By using a Digital Twin, students can learn highly engaging tasks which can be too dangerous, complex, or expensive for the classroom. Rather than hands-on laboratory dissection of a physical frog to learn animal science (going against animal rights) or having to wait for an available human cadaver in the health science lab, medical students can use the virtual twin of an animal or human organs, or even a complete human body for their study. 

Virtual Twin technology supports personalized learning, since each student can use their own set of digital twin organs to learn and experiment at their own pace instead of sharing a physical human organ or cadaver with other students in the lab. 

The complexity of chemistry or microbiology require students to be totally engaged. By using Digital Twins in an Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) simulated learning experience, faculty can achieve a maximum level of engagement helping each student learn abstract concepts in their unique way and much faster. By running simulations, students can better explore system behavior under different conditions, understand failure and develop understanding on system sensibilities as well as how changes in the system parameters and external disruptions make an impact on the results.  

Some universities have already incorporated Digital Twin technology into their teaching curricula. Stanford University has applied Digital Twin technology to architecture, construction, and engineering in several projects. Copenhagen School of Marine Engineering and Technology Management has integrated Digital Twin content into their teaching curricula as they believe they are the reality of the industry. 

Overall, the use of Digital Twin technology in higher education increases student motivation, facilitates and accelerates understanding, and improves the overall learning experience. In addition, industry encourages universities to incorporate pedagogical Digital Twins in automation to give students the initial understanding of tools and skills they will need in their future. 

For related articles, see:

Future of Higher Ed: Collaborative Robots as Future Colleagues

Preparing for the University of the Future

Future of Higher Education: Automation to Better Assist Instructors

Higher Ed CIOs Prepare for the Future by Embracing Automation