#1: These are the top 10 workforce skills students will need by 2020

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on June 20th of this year, was our #1 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Today’s workforce, as nearly everyone knows, is increasingly global. And with that global nature comes fierce competition–students will need an arsenal of workforce skills in order to stand out from their peers.

According to a recent McGraw-Hill Education survey, just 40 percent of college seniors said they felt their college experience was helpful in preparing for a career. Alarmingly, that percentage plummeted to 19 percent for women answering the same question.

That same survey also found that students in STEM majors were the most likely out of any group to report that they are optimistic about their career prospects (73 percent).

According to data from the nonprofit Institute for the Future, there are 6 drivers of change in today’s workforce:

1. Extreme longevity: People are living longer–by 2025 the number of Americans older than 60 will increase by 70 percent
2. The rise of smart machines and systems: Technology can augment and extend our own capabilities, and workplace automation is killing repetitive jobs
3. Computational world: Increases in sensors and processing makes the world a programmable system; data will give us the ability to see things on a scale that has never been possible
4. New media ecology: New communication tools require media literacies beyond text; visual communication media is becoming a new vernacular
5. Superstructured organizations: Social technologies drive new forms of production and value creation, and social tools are allowing organizations to work at extreme scales
6. Globally connected world: Diversity and adaptability are at the center of operations–the U.S. and Europe no longer hold a monopoly on job creation, innovation, and political power

(Next page: An infographic illustrates today’s in-demand workforce skills)


#2: 5 major ways Trump’s proposed education budget would impact schools, students

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on May 22nd of this year, was our #2 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

If “near-final” documents obtained by The Washington Post are true, education would see deep cuts to the tune of more than $10 billion under President Donald Trump’s education budget. The budget is set to be released as early as Tuesday.

The Washington Post reports that funding for federal K-12 and higher-education initiatives and programs would vanish or be redirected.

The education budget documents indicate that the administration would direct some of the savings from large cuts to various programs to school choice programs instead.

“Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives,” Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel wrote in the May 17 article.

As talk about department cuts and a focus on school choice ramp up, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to reveal more details about the administration’s focus on school choice during her speech at The American Federation of Children summit. DeVos is the the former chairwoman of the organization, which supports tax credit scholarships and vouchers.

(Next page: 5 ways the budget would impact education, students)


IT #1: 6 essential technologies on the higher ed horizon

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 15th of this year, was our #1 most popular IT story of the year for 2017. Happy Holidays!]

Tablets are just the beginning of Natural User Inerfaces (NUIs) in college and university settings; and any institution interested in remaining relevant in the next five years should start redesigning their learning spaces to better promote collaborative learning. These are just some of the revelations part of the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s (ELI) 2017 Higher Education Edition of the annual Horizon Report.

The report, which decides which trends and technologies will have a dramatic influence on higher ed in the next 5 years thanks to a panel of 78 education and technology experts from 22 countries on 5 continents, aims to help inform the choices that institutions are making about technology to improve, support, or extend teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in higher ed across the world.

With more than 15 years of research and publications, NMC says that the report can be regarded as “the world’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.”

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

According to the report, the trends that will affect technology use and adoption in higher ed are:

(Short-Term, 1-2 years):

  • Blended Learning Designs: This trend has topped the list of trends for the past five higher education editions of the NMC Horizon Report. The current focus of this trend has “shifted to understanding how applications of digital modes of teaching are impacting students. Many findings showcase an increase in creative thinking, independent study, and the ability for the student to tailor learning experiences to meet their individual needs,” states the report.
  • Collaborative Learning: According to the report, technology plays an important role in the implementation of this trend: cloud-based services, apps, and other digital tools promote persistent connectivity, enabling students and educators to access and contribute to shared workspaces, anytime. “Further, through adaptive learning and student advising platforms, data can be shared across an institution to illuminate student performance in order to inform improved instructional design and student advising,” notes the Horizon report.

(Mid-Term, 3-5 years):

  • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: As societal and economic factors redefine what skills are necessary in today’s workforce, colleges and universities must rethink how to define, measure, and demonstrate subject mastery and soft skills such as creativity and collaboration. “The proliferation of data mining software and developments in online education, mobile learning, and learning management systems are coalescing toward learning environments that leverage analytics and visualization software to portray learning data in a multidimensional and portable manner,” highlights the report.
  • Redesigning Learning Spaces:  Educational settings are increasingly designed to support project-based interactions with attention to greater mobility, flexibility and multiple device usage. To improve remote communication, institutions are also upgrading wireless bandwidth and installing large displays that allow for collaboration on digital projects. Also, universities are exploring how mixed reality technologies can blend 3D holographic content into physical spaces for simulations. “As higher education continues to move away from traditional, lecture-based lessons toward more hands-on activities, classrooms are starting to resemble real-world work and social environments that foster organic interactions and cross-disciplinary problem-solving,” says the Horizon report.

(Long-Term, 5 or more years):

  • Advancing Cultures of Innovation: The focus of this trend has shifted from understanding the value of fostering the exploration of new ideas to finding ways to replicate it across a span of diverse learning institutions. According to the report, research has been conducted over the past year to better understand how institutions can nurture the types of culture that promotes experimentation. “A significant element for progressing this movement is the call for higher education to alter its status quo to accept failure as an important part of the learning process,” notes the report.
  • Deeper Learning Approaches: To remain motivated, students need to be able to make clear connections between their coursework and the real world, and how the new knowledge and skills will impact them. Project-based learning, challenge-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and similar methods are fostering more active learning experiences. “As the enabling role of technologies for learning crystalizes, instructors are leveraging these tools to relate materials and assignments to real-life applications,” states the report.

(Next page: The 6 influential technologies on the horizon)


#3: 3 big ways today’s college students are different from just a decade ago

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on July 8th of this year, was our #3 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Gen Z, the digital generation, non-traditional students, and potentially many more descriptions have been used to label the current postsecondary body of students, but what may not be so evident is exactly how much their preferences, lifestyles and experiences have radically changed from even a decade ago.

And it’s these large changes that are critical for colleges and universities not just to take notice of now, but also to anticipate what students and their needs may look like in 2027.

1. The “Traditional” 4-Year Experience is Rare for Most

According to adaptive course solutions provider Knewton’s survey of users and clients, “college today only vaguely resembles what it looked like 20, 10, or even five years ago…serving a more diverse student population than ever before,” and the skills being taught are for jobs that never before existed.

First time college-goers are on the rise, in part, because a high school diploma no longer cuts it in today’s knowledge-based economy.

An infographic by Knewton notes that 20 million students attend American colleges each year, and of these students:

  • 1 in 5 is at least 30 years old
  • 2 in 5 attend 2-year community colleges
  • 36 percent of community college students are 1st-genetation college-goers

And with the cost of college—combined with this more economically-diverse student body—more and more students are attending part time (37 percent) so they can balance work and school.

Also, with an increase in students attending college, more are entering higher education at varied levels. According to Knewton:

  • In 1 year, over half a million families have to pay $1.5 billion and borrow over $380 million for remedial coursework
  • The dropout risk for 4-year-degree-seeking students who need remediation is 74 percent worse than non-remedial students
  • Only 60 percent of student who start a 4-year college graduate within 6 years
  • 2/3 of adults who return to college after a year away don’t graduate
  • 2 in 3 students have loan defaults that are for $10K or less

(Next page: New challenges; new ways college students are learning)


#4: Debunked: 8 online learning myths that need to disappear

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 17th of this year, was our #4 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

As online learning continues to grow as an increasingly viable option for postsecondary and continuing education (at least 5.8 million US students are enrolled in at least one online course), especially as non-traditional students are becoming the norm, there still exists a universal unfamiliarity with online learning that has led to the proliferation of several myths or misconceptions about this popular mode of learning.

However, the online learning myths you may be thinking of are not typically the ones in existence today. For example, unlike the myth just a few short years ago that online learning means poor quality, the new myth today is that when a well-regarded institution offers a course online the quality will be good.

The myths listed, compiled by Cypher Learning, are based on research and trends noted in Forbes, the Online Learning Consortium, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and Medium.

8 Online Learning Myths

1. Online does not mean high quality

Though most reputed colleges and universities rigorously try to maintain parity between on-campus and online programs with respect to quality of teaching standards, many institutions are still in their online program infancy and may need to improve this relatively newer mode of education delivery. Also, some institutions may not have rigorous standards for their online learning programs, as developing universal baseline standards for distance education is also in its infancy. It all boils down to the robustness of the infrastructure required for providing online instructions, the experience of the teachers, and their level of competence in handling web-based tools for education via the internet.

2. Earning an online degree is easy

Though students may have the flexibility of studying at theirr own pace, they’ll also have to take into account that there’ll be nobody to remind them about a particular project or assignment with a deadline. Typically, students who are most successful with online programs are self-motivated and dedicate more time to completing a web-oriented course whose syllabus or curriculum may be the same as the brick-and-mortar program.

3. Online courses are unaccredited or unaffiliated

The validity of an online program depends upon the accreditation standing of the academic institution offering the course, just like a traditional study program. Students and educators can login at the website of CHEA, which regularly publishes and updates a list of approved authorities or bodies that offer affiliations to higher education establishments.

4. Online credits are non-transferable

Unfortunately, transferring credits of an on-campus course might be just as harrowing as reassigning credits for an online program. But more often than not, the college or university receiving the application may not be in a position to determine whether the unaccredited program was pursued in a campus or completed online.

(Next page: 4 more online learning myths; infographic)


#5: 6 growing trends taking over academic libraries

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on March 24th of this year, was our #5 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Spreading digital fluency is now a core responsibility of academic libraries, and Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to amplify the utility and reach of library services like never before. These are just two of the revelations part of the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB), ETH Library, and the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Annual Horizon Report: 2017 Library Edition.

The report, which decides the trends and technologies that will have a dramatic influence on academic libraries in the next 5 years—thanks to a panel of 75 experts composed of library leaders, librarians, technologists, industry leaders, and other key stakeholders from 14 countries—aims to help leaders seeking inspiration, models, and tactical insight around strategy and technology deployment for academic libaries.

Watch the Video Summary:

“We are invigorated that the partnerships behind our library report have grown even stronger over three editions,” said Eden Dahlstrom, executive director of the NMC, in a statement. “Academic and research libraries are not just a vital part of scholarship, but also advancing knowledge and society as a whole. They play an important role as curators and purveyors of high-quality research, supported by innovative infrastructure.”

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

According to the report, the trends that will affect technology use and adoption in academic libraries are:

(Short-Term, 1-2 years):

  • Research Data Management: The growing availability of research reports through online library databases is making it easier for students, faculty, and researchers to access and build upon existing ideas and work. “Archiving the observations that lead to new ideas has become a critical part of disseminating reports,” says the report.
  • Valuing the User Experience: Librarians are now favoring more user-centric approaches, leveraging data on patron touchpoints to identify needs and develop high-quality engaging experiences.

(Mid-Term, 3-5 years):

  • Patrons as Creators: Students, faculty, and researchers across disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than by simply consuming content. Creativity, as illustrated by the growth of user-generated videos, maker communities, and crowdfunded projects in the past few years, is increasingly the means for active, hands-on learning. People now look to libraries to assist them and provide tools for skill-building and making.
  • Rethinking Library Spaces: At a time when discovery can happen anywhere, students are relying less on libraries as the sole source for accessing information and more for finding a place to be productive. As a result, institutional leaders are starting to reflect on how the design of library spaces can better facilitate the face-to-face interactions.

(Long-Term, 5 or more years):

  • Cross-Institution Collaboration: Within the current climate of shrinking budgets and increased focus on digital collections, collaborations enable libraries to improve access to scholarly materials and engage in mission-driven cooperative projects.
  • Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record: Once limited to print-based journals and monographic series, scholarly communications now reside in networked environments and can be accessed through an expansive array of publishing platforms. “As different kinds of scholarly communication are becoming more prevalent on the web, librarians are expected to discern the legitimacy of these innovative approaches and their impact in the greater research community through emerging altmetrics tools,” notes the report.

(Next page: The 6 influential technologies on the academic library horizon)


#6: Report: Millions of students reveal surprising online learning trends

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 23rd of this year, was our #6 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

In perfect timing with Digital Learning Day, international social learning platform GoConqr surveyed over 2.5 million students and teachers currently using the platform from over 160 countries last year (2016) to better understand their online learning habits and how learning is changing in general.

According to the report, which surveyed students and teachers ranging from secondary to postgraduate levels, the biggest online learning trends encompassed behaviors in collaborative learning, mobile learning, types of subjects studied, active learning patterns, and differences in learning and teaching styles.

Some of the key findings of the report reveal that students and teachers are using online platforms as an additional source to help with subjects either not taught under general education curriculum, or are subjects considered difficult to learn and therefore require more time to learn at a personalized pace.

Also, despite the prevalence of social networking, online study tends to be a solitary activity, with 79 percent of those surveyed choosing not to study collaboratively when they are online. However, this percentage is decreasing over time as traditional learning methods are being replaced with online and blended teaching styles.

According to Dualta Moore, GoConqr’s CEO, the increasing application of technology—not only in the classroom, but in the whole process of learning, study and revision—raises the question of whether, in the coming years, “after school study will continue to be a largely solitary task” or, on the other hand, “the increasing popularity of online educational resources and study groups will increase collaborative learning “.

GoConqr’s poll of millions of students and teachers across the globe revealed interesting findings across a number of areas, including:


  • The U.S. has the most variety in eLearning tools
  • The U.K. has the strongest focus on science-based subjects
  • Germany has the top viewers of peer content: 72 percent of German users view other peoples’ resources
  • Columbia has the top creators of content: 93 percent of Columbians create their own resources
  • Brazil has study groups with the largest number of people: +30 percent are members of a group
  • The U.A.E. has the highest percentage of mobile users: 77 percent
  • Australia has the most active study groups: 22 percent of those in study groups contribute regularly

(Next page: Fascinating online learning trends from the report)


#7: U.S. News ranks best online learning programs for 2017

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on January 10th of this year, was our #7 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University—Worldwide is ranked as the best online bachelor’s program for the second year in a row by U.S. News & World Report‘s 2017 Best Online Program rankings.

Pennsylvania’s Temple University and the University of Oklahoma took the No. 2 and No. 3 spot on the list of best online bachelor’s programs. Temple University ranks as the best online MBA program for the third consecutive year.

California schools top the list of the best online schools for students interested in STEM. The University of California—Los Angeles and the University of Southern California tied for No. 1 in engineering.

The University of Southern California once again ranks No. 1 for computer information technology. Illinois’ St. Xavier University tops the list for nursing, and the University of Florida is the best online education program for the second consecutive year.

“Online learning is relatively new but growing in popularity because of the flexibility it offers,” said Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News. “We developed the Best Online Programs rankings to provide students with the tools to identify programs that offer top faculty, positive student engagement and generous support services – all of which are key to productive online learning.”

(Next page: Characteristics of a great online learning program)


Is higher ed facing an IT house of cards?

Twenty years ago, a connected college experience might involve cable television, rudimentary internet capability and the latest in flip phone technology. Fast forward to today, and students expect uninterrupted, lightning-fast connectivity from the device of their choice to support both their academic and community experience.

Is this quest for connectivity built on a virtual house of cards?

Technology proliferation has placed enormous pressure on the underlying IT infrastructure that keeps Wi-Fi operating, servers humming, videos streaming and data percolating. Within many institutions, one vital aspect of those operations–the storage foundation–is crumbling under the weight of growing demands. With budgets stagnant and resources limited, universities are stuck in a difficult position and finding it increasingly difficult to respond to student and faculty pleas for the latest and greatest apps.

Compute and networking operations have continually exploited the performance rewards delivered by exponentially more powerful silicon chips. Now it’s time for data centers to take advantage of the same potential in their storage systems.

So, are higher education institutions ready for a storage transformation? The short answer: they have to be, and the focus must be around creating a data platform designed for the cloud era.

Legacy storage systems‒those that rely on mechanical spinning disks‒have been around since the late 1950s‒long before the prospect of video streaming, online education, and the Internet of Things (IoT). While we’ve seen improvements over the years, the basic concept has remained the same‒while everything else in the data center has changed to respond to the need for scale and speed.

Traditional storage has become the weak link in the data center. From a speed and performance perspective, disk-based storage hasn’t kept pace with compute and network performance gains. Think of it as pitting a horse and buggy against an Indie car. This performance gap puts the entire data center stack out of balance. And, it will continue to progress until IT shifts its storage technology from traditional hard disk drives to exponentially faster solid-state disk (SSD) technology, commonly known as flash memory.

What does this storage performance lag mean for students and educators? The implications range from minor annoyances, such as the inability to load a last-minute homework assignment in time to a learning management platform, to strategic consequences, such as having to limit growth of online course offerings due to the inability to listen to video lectures without constant buffering.

Designed to Succeed

Today’s higher education institutions require a data platform capable of delivering data with speed, agility and intelligence, across increasingly complex workloads and applications. It also has to help them end the costly and perpetual rip-and-replace cycle for traditional systems.

What does a data platform for the cloud generation look like?

(Next page: 7 key characteristics for data and storage requirements today)


#8: Predicting the next 20 years in higher ed reveals 5 major themes

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on October 2nd of this year, was our #8 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Higher education in the U.S. is facing unprecedented challenges. Long viewed as an engine for success, recent surveys show a partisan erosion in that faith in higher ed. This erosion of trust, coupled with significant demographic shifts and growing costs, are fueling national debates over the purpose, value, and funding of higher education.

In an effort to understand what the next 20 years will hold for higher ed, Blackboard recently released Future Forward: The Next Twenty Years of Higher Education, a series of interviews with American higher education leaders. We asked these leaders to reflect on the last 20 years of U.S. higher education and consider what the next 20 years might hold.

Across the interviews, five themes repeatedly emerged:

1. Our current system is unsustainable and ill-suited for a globally connected world that is constantly changing.

Higher ed has been forced to reckon with a drastically changing digital world. Several prognosticators have predicted widespread closures of institutions. But none of the leaders we interviewed believed the future held massive closures or the disappearance of brick-and-mortar campuses.

They did, however, highlight the inadequate nature of the current system and suggested that the nature of higher education would shift away from a degree-driven pursuit to lifelong learning associated with continuing education.

2. Colleges and universities will have to change their current business model to continue to thrive, boost revenue, and drive enrollment.

Repeatedly our interviewees pointed to demographic shifts and changing markets as threats to the traditional higher ed business model. The University of Maryland University College’s Marie Cini observed that the pace of change in higher education has accelerated to the point that concrete strategic planning has become increasingly difficult. Robert Hansen of UPCEA posited that a new higher education leadership model would need to look more like private industry.

Several interviewees suggested that institutions will be forced to rethink their business model on some fundamental levels. For some, that meant critically evaluating the role of partnerships. For others, that meant finding ways to collaborate with other institutions to share academic programs and faculty.

Another trending change was the need to shift course offerings to include credentials and degree programs more aligned with workforce needs. Texas Tech University’s Justin Louder suggested that institutions would need to find ways to embrace micro-credentialing and badging. Drexel’s Susan Aldridge suggested that workforce preparation and credentialing would fundamentally shift the mission of higher ed from a degree-driven activity to a lifelong pursuit.

However, this elevation of workforce preparation comes with dangers in terms of limiting the focus of education and creating glass ceilings. Pat Schmohl of Quinsigamond Community College discussed the danger of losing sight of the need to educate students to be citizens first and workers second. Amy Laitinen of New America expressed concern that by rushing to have students complete credentials, we risk ignoring whether they translate into a better life for students.

(Next page: 3 more themes on the future of higher ed)