41 edtech predictions for higher ed in 2019

What innovations can your university look forward to this year?

We asked 20 edtech executives to look into their crystal balls and share their thoughts about what will happen in 2019. In addition to the usual suspects—artificial intelligence (AI), active learning, and microcredentials—people predicted more nuanced uses of data (to handle campus security, for instance), chatbots to help with studying, and blockchain-enabled digital student IDs to improve security. Read on to see what’s in store for 2019…

Eran Ben-Ari, chief product officer, Top Hat

• Faculty-centric student success with be prioritized. Faculty are the most important components of an effective university-wide student success program. Students report higher levels of engagement and learning when their professors use active and collaborative learning techniques in the classroom. As this trend grows, students will be provided better learner outcomes and administrators will gain ways to identify cases where a student may be falling behind or need additional resources and intervene as necessary.

• Classroom engagement boosted through tech use. The best edtech platforms allows professors to move into engaging, action-filled, active learning pedagogies before, during, and after class. With the wealth of data collection (through the use of technology), it is possible for professors to act on the data in real time.

• Making edtech choices based on faculty needs. With the steady increase of the average number of students per class, there is a growing need for technology solutions that allow professors to engage students wherever they may be on their learning journey regardless of class size. Student success will increasingly depend upon these choices.

Chris Coleman, president, Woz U

• A growing number of individuals are going to focus on taking an accelerated learning path in 2019. The expectations of the next generation of learners place an acute focus on employer-valued skills to enter their desired profession. The notion of a ‘well-rounded education’ is no longer going to be synonymous with taking marginally useful college courses.

• 2019 will see the employer sentiment shifting towards more interest in ‘learners’ than ‘experience’ when hiring employees, as demonstration continues to offer more value to organizations than memorization. Next year, I expect to see more employers less interested in credentials and more interested in demonstrable competencies when adding staff to their workforce.

• I foresee systems evolving next year towards a self-directed format, where data-driven platforms provide students with recommendations for learning units that are in line with in-demand careers. As skillsets are identified by employers for future openings, students will be educated with the proficiency in sought-after areas for a pathway towards a thriving profession.

Breck DeWitt, education strategist, Dell EMC

• Higher ed is already making serious investments in Internet of Things (IoT) and supporting projects from smart energy, security, transportation, navigation, and wayfinding services, to improving the selling of concessions on college game days as part of their digital campus initiatives. By 2025, we expect one in three universities to make a significant investment in IoT research or student/professor projects to fuel initiatives that simplify life and challenges.

Alan Ewing, executive director, CBRS Alliance

• While colleges and universities pay millions of dollars for wi-fi and LTE services to keep up with student and staff expectations for fast, free, ubiquitous connectivity across school facilities, demand for high-volume data applications is growing quickly. Cisco estimated that by 2021, 78 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic would be video. This increasing demand, as well as the need for connectivity outdoors in common spaces, means more campuses improve connectivity while capping overall expenditures. Using LTE technology based on shared spectrum, campuses will be able to take advance of expanded connectivity and the ability to widely deploy connectivity solutions across their facilities, indoors and outside. Deploying private LTE networks on shared spectrum, such as the Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), will also allow campuses to prepare themselves for upcoming 5G deployments at a lower cost than what is traditionally associated with LTE services.

• There’s an increasing demand for privacy across industries, including higher ed. Students and staff expect that their personal data and identifying information is secure and being handled responsibly. This requires that campuses have their own local wireless networks to ensure secure access to potentially sensitive data. In 2019, we expect to see more campuses investigating private LTE options for their wireless networking needs, and the ability to deploy on shared or unlicensed spectrum is a key differentiator for these solutions.

Susan Grajek, vice president, communities and research, EDUCAUSE

• Short-term: Growing focus on measuring learning. As societal and economic factors redefine the skills needed 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.

• Mid-term: Proliferation of OER. Adoption of OER has been driven largely by efforts to reduce the costs associated with higher ed, though perhaps the most powerful potential outcome of OER is the opportunity for institutions to develop a broader set of investments in course development and infrastructure.

• Long-term: Cross-institution and cross-sector collaboration. Today’s global environment, which is increasingly connected via technology, allows institutions to unite across international borders and work toward common goals concerning teaching and learning, research, and shared values. Increasingly, institutions are joining forces to combine their intellectual capital or to align themselves strategically with innovative efforts in the field. Cross-sector collaborations and partnerships are also becoming more common, with industry looking to institutions for research and development to solve pressing challenges and institutions looking to business to prepare students for the digitally focused workforce, aligning programs and degree pathways with industry needs.

Philip Hauserman, vice president, The Castle Group

• There’s no excuse for not being prepared, especially in a world where news of an incident on campus can spread like lightning in a matter of hours, if not minutes. An increasing number of institutions are revisiting existing plans and developing new plans for what to do when an incident occurs. That trend will continue in 2019. There are just too many issues—Title IX, sexual assault, discrimination, data breach, violence, among others—that could do significant damage to the institution and the individuals involved if communications are not handled in a timely or appropriate manner.

Mike Huseby, chairman and CEO, Barnes & Noble Education

• We will see AI being used more and more, as higher-ed institutions continue their digital transformation journeys and look to appeal to students’ preferences for adaptive, engaging learning experiences. Particularly when it comes to Gen Z students, who now make up the bulk of those enrolled in higher ed institutions today, faculty members and administrators need to meet students where they live: online. By using resources with AI components—such as AI teaching assistants—online and traditional, in-person courses will start to be used more frequently across campuses over the next year and beyond.

• Content and learning management systems will become even more advanced and robust, thanks to the advancement of AI technology. We will see more AI-enabled study tools that generate not just an answer, but an explanation of how to get to that answer, when students ask a question. Along with enhancing learning both inside and outside of the classroom for all types of students, these tools also increase students’ efficiency, as they’re available whenever and wherever students need them.

• The writing center is a staple on any college campus, but it’s no secret that the traditional student is rapidly evolving. This means that more students need writing assistance early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends—all times when the traditional, on-campus writing center is closed. To address this gap, institutions have begun offering additional writing support, such as live online writing assistance and other digital writing tools. Because of the growing number of older, “nontraditional” students—and the fact that the digital native Gen Z students demand digital study assistance and tools—I expect we will a major shift in the traditional writing center model, as institutions adopt more online writing assistance tools to meet students’ evolving needs.

Brandon Lee, CEO, Terra Dotta

• The number of new international higher ed students has been trending down due to tough talk on immigration, a tenuous national climate, rigid visa processing, and more competition abroad. However, we expect those numbers to start to rebound in 2019 as more higher ed institutions use technology to make the application, acceptance, compliance, and onboarding processes smoother and quicker. The faster an institution can issue an international student an offer of admission and streamline the process of issuing student visa documentation (I-20 for F-1 visas, DS-2019 for J-1 visas), the faster prospective international students can respond and expedite their decisions and commitments as well as their visa-processing requirements. Application, compliance, and onboarding technology also frees up time for international offices to do more recruiting and programming.

Shannon Leininger, vice president of U.S. public sector state, local and education (SLED) east, Cisco

• As universities work to create a safer campus that protects students and faculty’s data and devices across the network, they will also be turning to technology to improve physical security. From 24/7 security cameras on campus to automated locks, universities will look to get back to basics to ensure their campus is as safe as possible. Since the biggest issues on campuses tend to be the smallest acts, such as crossing the street on campus, campuses need to be prepared.

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