41 predictions weren’t enough, so we asked a handful of additional edtech executives to share their insight about what will happen in 2019. Here’s what they had to say.

Jim Chilton, CIO, Cengage

  • Hacking continues to get easier. Complex work with malicious intent is created by a few and used by many as attacks for income become mainstream. IT tech & security worker shortage grows worldwide, creating a fundamental shift in how people prepare for these jobs. We will see an emergence of apprenticeships and skills-specific training in technologies that companies need. Cyberattacks will begin to focus beyond businesses and target cities, grid systems, and transportation.

Chris Cummings, vice president of Learning, Cengage

  • The power of the learner as a consumer will continue to rise, forcing institutions and individual faculty to put increased focus on the quality and value of the academic experience they deliver. This will force increased partnerships between institutions and employers, solidifying very clear pathways from higher education to a job. Institutions will work with employers to build specialized certificates. Employers will agree to wipe out student loans if they show up with desired skills for the job.

Dr. Deborah Everhart, vice president design and innovation, Cengage

10 more higher-ed predictions for 2019
  • In today’s knowledge economy, good jobs and career progression require ever-higher levels of rapidly changing skills. Most people can expect numerous career transitions that will require frequent up-skilling and professional development. As job requirements evolve quickly in the new world of work, the complexities of achieving and demonstrating relevant competencies are increasing. In this context, large, monolithic credentials can be outdated by the time a graduate finishes their coursework.
    Increasingly, we will see learners, education providers, and employers need to produce and exchange evidence of competencies as a currency that is more valuable than traditional degree-level credentials. This will present challenges not only for individuals trying to navigate career progression, but also for educational institutions that are struggling to adapt their curriculum to include clearly defined competencies that are in demand by employers. More modular and transparent digital credentials, such as badges, will provide new opportunities to communicate competencies and make them searchable on the web for connections to the best jobs.

Ashish Fernando, CEO and founder, iSchoolConnect

  • Emphasis on student success: Over 95 percent of the world’s data was collected in the last three years, including powerful data that can drive analysis on student success. Teamed with the power of the cloud and AI, this data can and will help institutions map key drivers of student success to the lowest level of each student. It is not humanly possible to predict the exact distance from the school and public transport access that lead to a student getting frustrated with school life. But with data and machine learning tools, it will now be possible to pinpoint how institutions can drive up satisfaction scores and drive down dropout rates.
  • Reduced time-to-information: The time required for a prospective/current student or staff member to get to the information they need will reduce dramatically. The faster a student finds information on a school, more the chances of them applying to that school. The faster a professor gets to a student’s academic performance, the more students they can analyze and help succeed. Technologies like Robotic Process Automation and AI will aid this process along with superior cloud technologies that help perform tasks better, faster, and cheaper.
  • Human-machine symbiosis: 2019 will bring a lot of clarity into how AI blends with our human approach to getting work done. AI today is facing the same skepticism from institutions that the ATM faced when it promised to reduce the burden of banking. Institutions will begin to realize that AI, when harnessed in the right way, not only improves and retains jobs but also exponentially grows the institution’s ability to attract, enroll, engage, retain, and regain students.

Richard Garrett, Eduventures chief research officer, ACT/NRCCUA

  • Access. At least five more R1 universities will launch a low-priced online master’s degree.
    In a strange twist of fate, the nation’s flagship universities are the new trailblazers of online learning. Queasy at the prospect of accommodating the delivery mode, leading schools have made online work for them. Low-priced programs beyond data science, cybersecurity, and MBAs—perhaps accounting or healthcare management—will feature in this new class.
    For less prestigious institutions, low price may be mistaken for low quality or desperation. A new breed of online master’s reimagines the brand. Same admission standards, same rigor, same faculty, but mass enrollment at a low price. I also predict that at least one of the five will be private—all pioneers have been public so far.
  • Cost. A group of colleges or universities will announce an innovative course co-development and licensing model.
    It is not hard to find evidence that higher education is getting ever more expensive. Just in the last few weeks:
    Outpacing inflation. The Higher Education Price Index, calculated by The Commonfund Institute (2018 report now available), has outpaced the Consumer Price Index since 1983, making higher education 33 percent more expensive today than the CPI benchmark. Widespread state disinvestment is of course a major factor.
    Unmet need has grown. The Center for Law and Social Policy released a report showing that average undergraduate student “unmet need” (the difference between price paid and grants) grew 23 percent between 2012 and 2016 alone.
    Weighed down by debt. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put out a statement noting that the federal government holds $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans, a threefold increase from 2007 and a $500 billion increase from 2013. Forty-three percent of student loans are considered “in distress” by the federal government, and student debt now accounts for 10 percent of the national debt.
    The standard “solution” to these trends is to manage price rather than cost; to increase grants, improve loan terms, and write-off debt. The rise of common general education curricula, transfer guarantees, online course templates, and OER have laid the groundwork. I predict that in 2019 a state system or other grouping will reach the point where more hand wringing on cost won’t cut it. Instead state policymakers and institutional leaders will come up with a new course creation and licensing model.
    Is there a better way? Starting with high enrollment, lower division courses in state systems, the flagship institution, or a statewide representative panel of faculty could design and build—with the support of instructional designers and the like—top-notch courses and license them across the system. If public institutions are the focus, the state could provide central funding and incentivize institutions to sign up. Cost savings might then be split between institutions and students.
  • Outcomes. The groundbreaking CLIMB initiative will change the higher education conversation.
    My final prediction is less specific but perhaps most important. Collegiate Leaders in Increasing Mobility (CLIMB) launched in 2017 as an alliance between researchers and universities to address some fundamental questions:
    • Is higher education still an engine of social mobility?
    • Which colleges and universities do the best job on social mobility?
    • If so, what explains this outperformance?
    These questions lie at the heart of contemporary student, parent, government, and employer anxiety about higher education. CLIMB cuts through the noise on college costs, student experience and graduate employment. Conventional metrics and rankings too often do no more than recognize the richest and most selective institutions or judge outcomes with little understanding of inputs such as student backgrounds. The student experience, which transforms inputs into outputs, is least understood of all.
    My prediction is that in 2019 CLIMB will publish groundbreaking insights into how specific schools break the mold by both admitting and graduating above-average numbers of low-income students who go on to become high earners.
    CLIMB is a bold, ambitious initiative poised to bring much-needed clarity to the higher education debate. The road is long, but expect new insights in 2019.

Todd Markson, chief strategy officer, Cengage

  • There will be a continued push for more affordable digital content and course solutions as well as more pressure on enrollments as alternative education paths such as boot camps and certifications become more viable. Education players beyond the traditional publishers, such as channel partners, LMS providers, Google, and others will increasingly try to secure a piece of the value chain as it evolves. This will continue to blur the lines of competition. Staying customer-focused, having in-depth clarity on the value chain, being nimble, securing the right partnerships, and having the analytical capabilities to determine the best risk-weighted options will be key in this “new-normal.”

About the Author:

Ellen Ullman is editorial director for eSchool Media.


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