Higher education is in the political spotlight as elections loom. With a declining position of public support, institutions need to be smarter, more agile, and more effective in order to survive – let alone thrive – in this new decade.

Technology is a critical component to helping these institutions provide more effective services that deliver improved outcomes at a lower cost, but decision makers are becoming more discerning when it comes to choosing solutions. This will lead to some interesting changes in 2020 and beyond.

Related content: 20 edtech predictions for higher education

Technology deployments get sophisticated

Last year, industry analysts predicted heavy traffic and steady growth in terms of higher education institutions purchasing new student information systems. The outlook for 2020, however, is more muted.

In looking to meet the needs of students in complex cross-campus and digital environments, institutions are becoming more sophisticated and they are going to become more cautious in selecting technology solutions and ensuring that deployments will succeed. It’s no longer about ticking boxes on this feature or that feature; constrained budgets and high-profile implementation challenges have led to institutions becoming highly sensitive to assessing whether vendors deliver on their product roadmaps in a predictable and consistent way.

Data safety will be paramount, but institutions will continue to move slowly

No other industry has the richness and value in its data as higher education, but finding the balance between protecting student data and leveraging it to personalize the student experience will continue to be difficult. What is okay and not okay has yet to be culturally or legislatively defined in a way that addresses modern circumstances. The next decade will likely iron out these details, but in the interim, it will be tricky business for institutions.

The good news is that institutions are now recognizing that cloud doesn’t mean less security, it means more security when in the hands of the right vendor. Institutions will likely become more sophisticated in their assessment criteria when purchasing new SaaS, PaaS, and infrastructure services over the next decade. As more institutions migrate from on-premises to the cloud, they can and will use this as an opportunity to prepare their data for the future.

Policy changing the landscape

New policies spell major changes on the horizon. These discussions are going in bold new directions, which may open policy doors over the next decade that had been firmly shut…with a deadbolt. This type of uncertainty – or opportunity, depending on whether you view the glass as half-full or half-empty – will increase the focus on the flexibility of technology solutions.

The question will be: Can a solution support new business, academic, and organizational models without costly customizations and work-arounds? And again, institutions will want to ensure that the solutions they invest in will be agile enough to protect their data and comply with new policies.

Chatbot and virtual assistant deployments will ramp quickly

2020 is the Year of the Rat, and from a technology perspective, it just might be the year of the virtual assistant. Devices and apps will make their way into dormitories and onto mobile phones, changing the way that students and other campus stakeholders consume institutional services. These can range from submitting expenses and registering for courses to checking office hours and selecting dining hall dinner.

The speed will be driven in large part by the huge return on investment – the technologies are relatively inexpensive compared to customer relationship management (CRM) or student relationship system (SIS) – and deployment timelines are measured in weeks, not years. Institutions are able to deliver new, innovative capabilities that students and stakeholders love, quickly and cheaply. Who doesn’t LOVE that?

Though there are some questions that won’t be answered until the elections have taken place and new regulations are laid out, higher education institutions can and should be preparing for change. Luckily, there are current and emerging technologies that can aid on this journey and provide institutions with the tools they need to set their students up for success.

About the Author:

Nicole Engelbert is VP of higher education development for Oracle.


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