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14 hot higher ed trends for 2017

By Meris Stansbury
January 2nd, 2017

Educators and tech leaders look back on 2016; predict where higher ed trends in teaching and learning will head this new year.

higher ed trends

With every new year comes new ideas. To get a glimpse into what the next 12 months will hold for everything from micro-credentialing to energy savings, and the rise of nontraditional students to focusing more on outcomes, 14 higher ed luminaries looked back on 2016 higher ed trends to help predict what’s in store for 2017.

Here’s what they said:

stephen_downes2016 was The Year of Video

By Stephen Downes, National Research Council

Now there are different ways things can be a ‘trend of the year’. They can be something everybody uses; that’s how 2012 became the year of the MOOC, and why virtual reality will no doubt be widely cited as the trend of 2016. As that sort of trend video has come and gone. YouTube and Netflix are old hat; everybody’s watching video online today.

But what’s new is that in 2016 video became something that everybody is making as well. We see this in various ways. Sharing and streaming video games has become widely popular and has grown to be one of the major uses of YouTube.  So has sharing and streaming just about everything else. From FailArmy to GoPro bits it’s like the old saying: if there’s no video, it didn’t happen.

The rise of video carried over into education. MOOCs continued to increase in number and attendance. Conferences ran streaming video events. Lecture capture became mature and campus video management and hosting services began to attract attention. Duke University ran a widely read lecture capture survey. Companies like Kaltura, Panopto and Warpwire battled through the year for market share.

Video may feel like it has been here a long time. And it has. But it surged in big way in 2016, below the radar, but touching lives like never before.

Stephen Downes works in the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. He is one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, writes about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.

lisa-malat-0613-largeThe Rise of Non-traditional Students

By Lisa Malat, Barnes & Noble College

Experts anticipate that in 2017 U.S. colleges and universities will see continued growth in non-traditional student enrollment. In fact, it’s projected to increase more than twice as fast as traditional student enrollment from 2012 to 2022, according to the CLASP Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. To hear directly from this important college segment, Barnes & Noble College recently conducted a national survey of more than 1,000 traditional students and nearly 800 non-traditional students. Following are three key learnings on their unique perspectives and experiences.

Non-traditional students are particularly stressed about money. Only 15 percent of non-traditional students feel financially secure – and finances represent the top reason that they’ve dropped out of previous programs. Not surprisingly, financial assistance is the top request non-traditional students make for additional support from their schools.

Non-traditional students are disengaged from their school and peers. A sense of belonging and support is essential to a student’s capacity to succeed, both in and out of the classroom. However, just 44 percent of non-traditional students feel connected to their school; only 20 percent feel socially connected. And, they’re much less likely to feel supported by their peers or that they have friends at school, compared to traditional students. Events and activities tailored to non-traditional students can help foster valuable connections.

Non-traditional students are open to digital learning. Sixty percent of non-traditional students have taken at least one online course. And, after they do, they’re twice as likely to prefer online courses as traditional students. A majority of non-traditional students also prefers OER, adaptive learning and collaborative learning materials equally to or more than print materials. These options offer flexibility and individualized support to help balance school, work, family and other responsibilities.

Lisa Malat is the vice president & chief marketing officer at Barnes & Noble College, providing strategic direction and executive oversight to 770 campus stores in the areas of consumer and corporate marketing, learning and development, and in-store and eCommerce strategies and operational efficiencies. To learn more, download Achieving Success for Non-traditional Students from Barnes & Noble College InsightsSM.

alana-dunagan-headshot_300Focusing on Outcomes

By Alana Dunagan, Clayton Christensen Institute

The biggest trend of 2016 was higher scrutiny on for-profit colleges, including the closure of several high-profile schools, ACICS loss of recognition as an accreditor, and regulation by the Department of Education on defense to repayment. To the extent that these moves prevent or ameliorate fraudulent and nefarious activity, they have been a benefit to students and the higher education industry. But 2016 has also entrenched business model–for-profit vs. nonprofit–as the unit of analysis, rather than focusing quality–and defining what quality means. This is a missed opportunity to protect students at institutions of all types, and to improve standards across the sector.

We expect 2017 to be the year where higher education focuses on outcomes. Many regional accreditors have now shifted to incorporating outcome measures in their reviews, and the data available through the College Scorecard has made outcomes easier to compare. But more pressing than either regulations or data, disruptive competitors are bursting onto the scene. These new entrants, ranging from bootcamps to competency based education programs to microcredentialers, provide alternatives to the traditional degree. The disruptors eschew traditional measures of prestige, like rankings and, in many cases, accreditation. Instead, they compete based on outcomes: jobs, salaries, promotions, and learning. As these programs gain traction with students–and even more importantly, with employers–traditional institutions are likely to mount a response by considering their own track records in these areas. The results should benefit students across higher education, as the market forces greater transparency on the outcomes that matter most to graduates.

Alana Dunagan is a researcher on higher education for the Christensen Institute.

(Next page: Higher ed trends on AI, energy, and micro-credentialing)


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