41 edtech predictions for higher ed in 2019

What innovations can your university look forward to this year?

Tom Livne, CEO, Verbit

• Throughout 2019, we can expect to see a move towards incorporating voice assistants into the classroom as a tool for education. Conversational AI has become a staple of everyday life, with widespread adoption of programs like Google Assistant and Alexa infiltrating homes. Millions of people use digital assistants to complete simple tasks, which sets an expectation for this same level of digitization and ease in all facets of life—including education. In that context, these devices have revolutionized the role of speech technology in schools. They enable tremendous opportunities for educators and students by providing access to a wealth of information on any topic, simply by speaking a few words. Though some argue that this may prove to be a source of distraction or interruption, it would also serve to drive curiosity and encourage learning for younger grades that are not yet able to simply search for the many questions they have. The educational potential is enormous, and we are just on the edge of leveraging its full capabilities.

• As universities strive to reach ADA compliance, we’re starting to see an increased effort across campuses for increased accessibility. Universities are taking heed and ensuring that they have the tools in place to provide equal access education for all students, which includes the integration of accessible technology like speech recognition capabilities and transcription for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captioning in the classroom not only aids students with disabilities, but it also fosters student learning and creates a searchable record of lectures that students can refer back to after class.

• As university customer service representatives get bogged down with calls, institutions are starting to turn to automated chatbots on school websites to help handle some of the simpler requests that students have. These chatbots have a much faster turnaround time than traditional email support, which can often take a week or more for simple questions to get answered. Outside of the convenience that chatbots offer, they also serve to be an ADA-compliant solution that users can turn to if they are unable to chat on the phone, as websites must be made completely accessible to all individuals.

Michael London, CEO, Examity

• Momentum will continue to build for learning validation, reflecting the growing demand for secure online assessment from universities, corporate HR departments, and certification and standardized test providers.

• Increasing attention to the population of students with some college but no degree, as employers look to tap into new talent pools and the landscape of just-in-time, job-aligned training continues to expand.

• Edtech companies will continue to advance the application of AI and machine learning in ways that are more responsive to the needs of students and education providers.

Drew Magliozzi, CEO, AdmitHub

• AI will continue to permeate higher ed—and while bots may not replace instructors, advisors, or university presidents anytime soon, they will augment (and in some cases automate) day-to-day tasks that enhance the delivery and impact of core university functions such as admissions, enrollment, and student support.

• To make good on the promise of AI, we expect that universities will need new positions to train and monitor their artificially intelligent machines. Don’t be surprised if in the coming year we see the emergence of university positions such as Lead Bot Nurturer or AI Personality Architect.

Jim Milton, CEO, Campus Management

• Blockchain, AI, and machine learning have been transforming industries across the globe over the past few years. Like other industries, higher ed has been adapting these new technologies and finding innovative ways to service students and enhance their education experience. Over the next year, we expect institutions to expand the use of these technologies and further integrate them into their enterprise systems. Using AI, like bots, to answer common student questions is one way the next generation of CRM systems will integrate with these technologies. As technology continues to mature, so will institutional innovation to increase student engagement.

• We anticipate greater interest and willingness to rely upon prescriptive analytics. Institutions will begin using technology to assist in improving student engagement and thus retention through sentiment analysis and individualized interactions personalized to the student. Identifying when students need degree information and career counseling gives faculty the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation using data and analysis-rich platforms.

Keith Rajecki, vice president of public sector, education and research industry solutions group, Oracle Higher Education

• In 2019, we will see AI continue to transform higher ed, whether through operation management or improving the traditional classroom experience. However, universities must consider the ethical implications of AI, especially unconscious bias. If biases were applied to the process or data beforehand, it’s possible that AI applications will replicate those biases as it automates processes.

• Blockchain has the ability to transform higher ed, especially in credentialing and identification in the near future. Universities will provide digital student IDs, which will make campuses much more secure, verify students’ identity, and provide access to records including administrative, academic, and medical.

Dan Rivera, portfolio marketing manager for education, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

• Campus safety is not a new trend, but in 2019 higher ed will take advantage of advanced technologies such as location-based services (LBS) to enhance campus safety and security. One example of using LBS to respond to an onsite threat event: First responders can have access to 4D visualization of buildings, showing reported threat locations as well as entry and exit points, and can provide real-time communication between staff, students, and visitors to confirm which rooms have been secured and which rooms have not. This allows responders to focus on the correct areas, the ones needing the most immediate attention.

• Higher ed institutions will be focused on student success. One technology trend that will help them do that is providing a student-centered, robust mobility experience—one that allows students to have uninterrupted access to educational resources, campus services, advisors, mentors, and counselors on- and off campus. Institutions will need to implement tools to provide network assurance to ensure that positive student experience.

• The need to secure the network from cyber threats will continue to be a top priority. With an influx of IoT devices, financially motivated cyber criminals and disparate IT groups, higher ed faces a particular challenge protecting their networks and data from intrusion. Colleges must implement new tools that go beyond traditional cybersecurity measures, such as user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), which identifies patterns in typical user behavior and provides actionable intelligence when it detects an anomaly. By detecting any anomalous behavior, UEBA solutions can provide real-time protection that traditional systems miss and enable faster responses to attacks.

Andrew Rosen, CEO, Interfolio

• In 2019, as institutions adopt more integrated hiring strategies designed to promote greater inclusion and diversity, like cluster hiring (hiring cohorts of faculty whose research interests complement each other versus individual contributors), I expect more institutions will tap technology to reduce administrative work, increase transparency, and facilitate greater collaboration among hiring committees for more important considerations like diversity and faculty-institutional fit.

• Despite the indispensable role of faculty in higher ed, faculty have largely been underserved by education technology. Fortunately, some of the savviest higher-ed investors have acknowledged this underserved market. Keep an eye out in 2019 for the rise of more edtech companies that are focused on supporting faculty.

Tyson J. Smith, president and CEO, Reading Horizons

• More universities will evaluate their teacher-prep programs with an eye towards improved instruction in decoding strategies and phonics.

Nicola Soares, vice president and managing director, Kelly Education Practice

• Alternative credentialing will offer a solution to education qualifications. In 2018 we saw an increasing trend towards experimenting with new forms of an alternative education, such as microcredentials and less traditional-intensive degree programs. Outside of highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, we are beginning to see employers embrace microcredentials as an alternative to the traditional four-year degree. With this increased focus on supporting the ‘nontraditional’ student, and a decrease in enrollment for education degrees, I predict that we will see an increase in alternative credentialing options for teaching.

André Thomas, CEO, Triseum

• Edtech focus will move from platforms to content. For quite some time, educators have focused on platforms, from grading to LMS to proctoring solutions. While today’s technology has improved content engagement and accessibility, in many cases we are still dealing with stale, static resources. I believe we will see a renewed focus on high-quality content in 2019.

• Blockchain technology will become a major point of discussion in education. The technology can provide a secure means to record grades, store transcripts, and reduce cheating, and while still in its infancy for educational use, I believe we will see the first major applications take advantage of the technology in 2019.

• Interest in virtual reality (VR) will shift to AR. First, many schools, classrooms, and teachers don’t have access to the hardware to fully utilize VR experiences. Second, teachers likely don’t want to stand in front of students who are wearing headgear; if the teacher is also in the VR environment, he or she can’t see facial reactions and emotions. I believe we are longing for more interactions in person rather than through screens.

Lee Wilson, president, FreshGrade

• Grades are dead; long live grades. In the 1820s, universities began issuing records of student performance. For 200 years, report cards were the most efficient way to communicate the inherently messy and complicated process of learning. To work, learning had to be rated on a scale and reduced to paper. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best tool we had. Today, capturing text, images, video, and audio is easy. In real time we can now capture and share those deeper moments of learning that reveal what lies behind the letter grade. A new generation of tools that blend rich multimedia with grading tools are opening up the possibility of much deeper conversations about learning.

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