Edtech tools can prove invaluable--here are some taking teaching and learning to the next level on campuses across the nation

11 new tools powering the future of higher ed


Edtech tools can prove invaluable--here are some taking teaching and learning to the next level on campuses across the nation

During EDUCAUSE 2021, equity, online learning, and digital transformation were major discussion topics. Also of interest? The many edtech tools and services behind higher ed’s efforts to forge new and innovative paths to meet the needs of all learners.

Here’s a look at just a few that will support higher education’s evolution:

1. Class Technologies Inc. and Carahsoft Technology Corp. announced that Carahsoft will distribute Class software to the U.S. Public Sector. Built on the Zoom Meetings platform, Class offers K-12 and Higher Education institutions and Government agencies everything they need to facilitate instruction and improve engagement in the virtual classroom. Class replicates the best of in-person learning and enables instructors to virtually perform many of the activities that happen in a real classroom. These include the ability to track attendance and participation, deliver assignments and quizzes, automatically grade work, and enhance learner engagement through individual and group facilitation. Class reduces the friction associated with using disparate tools to teach and learn online.

2. Zoom announced some new and upcoming features designed specifically for education to help with classroom management and streamlined workflows. Educators and administrators will soon be able to:

  • Save bandwidth or take a visual break by stopping incoming video
  • Engage learners with exciting polling enhancements
  • Do more with direct learning management systems integrations
  • Create seating charts by saving Gallery View
  • Clean up account lists in a flash with bulk account deletion
  • Keep track of student attendance with individual participant search 

Zoom also recently announced Focus Mode designed to help students stay attentive during virtual class, as well as the ability to share live content into breakout rooms, which was developed at the request of educators to help improve virtual classroom management. 

3. Higher Digital launched its transformation service, (SEA)change, to support higher education institutions in their quest to make better use of technology. (SEA)change provides a change management service that rapidly aligns technology investments with an institution’s vision, strategy, operations and culture. This service has already produced demonstrative results for several beta customers that helped test and refine the approach; with this launch, (SEA)change is officially available to higher education institutions on a global basis.

4. CYPHER LEARNING, a provider of learning platforms for schools, universities, and organizations around the world, released several new features for its suite of learning management systems (LMSs). These additions are designed to make e-learning content even easier to track and consume — increasing learner engagement and retention, and optimizing the learning experience. New releases include: new graphical dashboards for administrators, teachers and students, which prominently display the most important information for each user type; dark mode, which allows all users to switch between “light” and “dark” as the main design style; and site-wide surveys, enabling administrators to create surveys for a targeted user audience and deploy them to those groups.

5. Recognizing that teamwork is an essential yet dreaded topic in higher education, Ensightful was created to address project management issues in student teams. As a relatively young start-up, Ensightful joined EDUCAUSE for the first time as a Start-up Alley participant. The platform received interest from many learning design and instructional designers, who found group projects an essential part of the curriculum yet difficult to manage.

6. ActiveClass, an early stage education technology company focused on improving student success and retention through better student engagement, has raised $1.9MM in seed money. The money will be used to build a growth engine, enhance customer support, and expedite product development. ActiveClass is an education technology company that helps schools and instructors create active learning communities that drive student engagement and improve student outcomes. Activeclass’ intuitive social tools fit seamlessly inside the LMS and enables instructors and students to easily post, discuss, and even grade any and all course related topics.

7. Modo Labs unveiled the next generation of its low-code app building platform for digital campus and workplace experiences, Modo 4. Featuring a re-designed interface for the citizen-developer and extensive integration capabilities, the new version makes it easier and faster than ever for campuses and workplaces to deliver highly personalized, deeply engaging digital experiences to their student and employee communities.

8. Video has emerged as a top engagement tool for marketers. According to recent findings, 88 percent of marketers reported a positive ROI from direct video communication. For college admission teams looking to enhance relationships with prospective students, Element451, a student engagement CRM for higher-ed institutions, announced its integration with Covideo, a video messaging platform that makes it easy for college admission teams to create and send personalized videos through the Element451 platform directly to students’ via text message or Element451’s chat feature. 

9. Transact, creator of innovative payment solutions for a connected campus, announced the launch of its new Transact International Payments offering that provides universities with a streamlined approach to accept international currencies. Through a partnership with TransferMate, a globally regulated payments infrastructure-as-a-service, Transact will support the end-to-end processing of international payments for students and universities.

10. Lenovo displayed its premium offerings, including the Lenovo X1 Fold and the Lenovo X1 Nano, ultra-portable laptop. Lenovo also hosted a conference-wide speaking session called “Designing and Implementing a Smart Campus” with Shayla Rexrode, Lenovo’s Acting Director of Global Education Solutions, and Theresa Hernandez, University of Denver’s Vice Chancellor for Campus Partnerships. The session had 40+ schools attend and was very interactive. Lenovo also held speaking sessions at its booth covering Smarter Workstations, Cyber Security, and Borderless Campus and Immersive Learning. As part of the Borderless Campus session, Brian Moynihan, Global Education Solutions Manager of Lenovo, gave his Immersive Learning presentation remotely using the Lenovo Thinksmart Core. 

a11. Verizon showcased BlueJeans by Verizon, a remote learning tool that empowers instructors to create an effective learning environment by bringing students, content, and teaching resources into a single view. The Teacher Dashboard is designed to offer a full snapshot of everything happening in the learning session, saving time from the administrative duties of online instruction and providing quick access to classroom management tools.

Laura Ascione