Leaders give their 2016 higher-ed predictions

By Meris Stansbury, Managing Editor, @eSN_Meris
January 4th, 2016


From predictions on data governance to the influence of elections, higher-ed leaders say 2016 will shape up to be a rollercoaster of a year for student services and campus operations.

predictions-2016-educationVirtual Reality is the technology that will dominate 2016, and data will basically permeate every aspect of campus decision-making. At least, that’s what a handful of higher-ed’s innovation and technology visionaries are predicting.

Talking to higher-ed speakers that made the 2015 conference circuit, as well as prominent think-tank leaders, in-the-know bloggers, university leadership, IT specialists, and popular vendors, it seems that 2016 will continue its reinvention—focusing heavily on flexible IT infrastructures with technologies that support one another, as well as whatever it takes to attract and retain students.

[Predictions listed in no particular order]

Alana Dunagan Headshot_300Elections Will Matter
By Alana Dunagan

In 2015, key issues in higher education began to receive much overdue attention, such as addressing employer needs and college affordability. As we look to 2016, particularly as an election year, the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation sees three distinct areas that are critical to bringing real change in the higher education landscape:

Hashing out affordability: The Presidential election will bring affordability debates to a head in 2016. Some like Hillary Clinton have proposed simplifying the grant and loan process, including income-based repayment plans, while others like Chris Christie (who recently declared an ‘epidemic of rock walls’ on campuses) are advocating for unbundling programs and services so that students can pick and choose what they pay for. Whoever wins, institutions will have to reckon with the fact that students have less willingness and ability to pay for an ever-more-posh college experience, resulting in weak enrollment and rising discount rates.

Adopting new measures of quality: Start-up training programs and boot camps are putting pressure on our traditional measures of quality by connecting training directly to employer needs at a fraction of the usual cost, while low completion and post-graduation employment rates shine a spotlight on weaknesses in traditional accreditation processes. These issues will come into focus as Congress considers reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, but regional and state accreditation organizations will likely take the lead on experimentation and reform. Hopefully, a conversation on quality will ultimately shift regulatory focus from the inputs of the educational process—seat-time and enrollment—to the outputs—student learning and attainment, employment outcomes, and student experience.

Refocusing on students: We expect 2016 to put pressure on traditional institutions to take a hard look at their business models, as scrutiny mounts on both college affordability and educational quality. Traditional institutions will look for new ways strengthen their career placement programs and services in an attempt to compete with start-up training programs. They’re also likely to try embracing new structures for delivering learning, including online competency-based approaches that stand to enable student learning in an affordable, scalable, and high quality manner.

Alana Dunagan is a Research Fellow in higher education at the Clayton Christensen Institute.

(Next page: Predictions on retention, OER, virtual reality and IT infrastructure)

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