What edtech, online, and digital learning trends took top billing on college and university campuses in the new year?

Did higher ed forge new paths in 2022?

What edtech trends took top billing on college and university campuses in the new year?

Each year, we share our 10 most-read stories. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Top 10 focused on microcredentials, the student experience, non-traditional students, and the post-pandemic campus. This year’s 2nd most-read story focuses on predictions for higher education–now that the year is ending, were the predictions correct?

As we wrapped up 2020, we thought for sure that 2021 might bring us a reprieve from pandemic learning. Well, it did–but it also didn’t. Virtual and hybrid learning continued into the spring, but campuses gradually welcomed students back for in-person and hybrid learning.

Many silver linings emerged, and flexible online learning options became a “must have” for more and more students. Equity remained front and center, too, raising issues of inequitable technology access, along with racial and socioeconomic disparities and discrimination.

2021 brought with it renewed calls to support the nation’s educators, who have worked tirelessly (and constantly) to support students’ varied learning needs and personal and professional obligations.

And now, we head into our third year of learning during a global pandemic. We asked edtech executives, stakeholders, and experts to share some of their thoughts and predictions about where they think edtech is headed in 2022.

Here’s what they had to say:

Education will have a watershed moment in 2022. This next school year will be an exciting one for educators and students. After nearly two years of sometimes painful change and discovery, educators are re-energized and refocused on personalized and intentional outcomes for students – meaning helping students understand their personal reason for learning and connecting that to personally relevant education and career opportunities. This refocus is happening for two primary reasons: first, students are questioning the value of their education more than ever before. And second, the employment and skills gaps are widening at exponential rates, putting tremendous pressure on employers and the economy. This pressure is coming full circle back to education to help solve the problem. I believe 2022 will be a watershed moment for education as educators embrace the challenge of creating a powerful, personalized education-to-career system to fundamentally solve workforce issues, including the skills gap and workforce diversity and equity.”

Edson Barton, Founder and CEO, YouScience

Especially with what students have gone through over the last two years, institutions will continue to be student-centric and make sure every aspect of their experience and support allows learners to persist. I believe student health and wellbeing will be an increasing priority in 2022. Having wrap-around services to remove barriers for at-risk students so they can enroll and persist is the outcome institutions are looking for. Ensuring students have access to health and wellbeing services will be critical for learners to stay enrolled and be productive in all aspects of their life.

–Richa Batra, Vice President and General Manager, Student Success, Anthology

The cost of post-secondary education continues to be a major barrier for students and half of graduates say they feel unprepared for the workforce. Students are questioning the value of a college degree now more than ever, and we’ve seen the steepest enrollment declines in 50 years. However, while the great online learning experiment ushered in by COVID challenged institutions in the near term, it also presented opportunities for the long-term. The last two years have proven higher education can adjust to support new, flexible learning models and deliver education in a more affordable way. Technology is an important enabler of these new models, but only if it is user-friendly for students and teachers who are already juggling multiple platforms. Services that help faculty set up their digital courses, and ongoing support throughout the semester to ensure they and their students are realizing the full benefit of the tools are key for success. Technology provides opportunities to scale learning to more students, and easy-to-use digital tools with robust services actually multiply the impact an instructor can have on their class. As colleges and universities look to retain students and grow enrollments, technology that is affordable and easy to use can help learning flex to meet students where they are. All of us who support higher education need to remember that students expect learning to fit into their lives, not the other way around. We need to support that.

Fernando Bleichmar, Executive Vice President and General Manager of U.S. Higher Education, Cengage Group

This year, we’re going to see a need for more versatile, environmentally friendly, and multi-purpose lighting solutions. Acoustic lighting can merge seamlessly with current designs while remaining adaptable for use in noisy hybrid spaces. Modern acoustic lighting fixtures can be styled to fit within a variety of color schemes and design trends, or artfully incorporated as a decorative element in their own right. They offer a beautiful aesthetic solution for well-designed interiors and are backed by extensive research and purposeful design to maximize their sound benefits. These powerful benefits make acoustic lighting a wise investment for designers and architects—indeed for anyone who seeks to improve overall well-being, boost productivity, and optimize commercial or hospitality design.

–Jason Bird, Founder and Creative/Managing Director, Luxxbox

Over the past 20 years we have seen educational campuses take on a hospitality flair as cafeterias morphed into high end cafes and coffee houses, libraries took on lounge vibes, and dorms started feeling like premium hotels. For the next decade I think we will see more of a residential influence in education that translates into smaller spaces that feel safer, more private, and cozier. The focus on open group spaces for collaboration may give way to an emphasis on nooks meant for one or two people to concentrate and focus as students desire to feel like they are more at home.

–Michael DiTullo, Creative Director, Kirei

It’s an exciting time for AV in higher education. Theater continues to be transformed by digital laser projection and we are seeing colleges and universities moving to larger-scale laser projector displays for theater productions. Meanwhile, classroom instructors are also seeking much larger display sizes to accommodate remote learning when connecting students in off-site locations with students who are in-person.  In addition, there will be increased demand for complex audio-video integrations and the ability to create aspect ratios that aren’t a traditional rectangle. I expect we will see a rise in professional learning communities where AV and integration professionals can share best practices to meet these new needs.

–Gavin Downey, Group Product Manager – Large Venue Projection, Epson America

2022 will be the year of the student experience as institutions work hard to attract and retain students to remain solvent. Continuing enrollment declines will further increase competition, adding pressure to marketing and recruitment efforts. Calls for equitable access and outcomes will grow louder. Institutions will continue to pursue cloud technologies, and schools that are flexible and progressive about their offerings will thrive. At the same time, those holding out hope for a “return to normal” will struggle. Many students want to resume in-person; however, a growing number of learners prefer online courses for various reasons, and schools will have to scale those offerings to compete. States trying to meet degree/credential completion goals will need to get serious about re-engaging and incentivizing students with some college credit but no degree. I also expect to see more course sharing, hopefully leading to better partnerships and clearer transfer options for students.

–Alanna Fenton-Esquinas, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, CollegeSource

On coding education: Income Sharing Agreements (ISAs) will diminish because of three factors. 1) Education is moving online, when compatible, which weakens the justification for high-cost education in the first place, 2) ISAs are in a legal gray area that’s too open to interpretation, and 3) ISAs face criticism for being predatory and unfair. Lambda School being forced to rebrand and ditching their ISAs in favor of traditional student loans may be the first domino. We’ll see more companies in the US adopt the Revature model where students are placed into minimum-wage tech training programs, then upon graduating are placed in a job with a below average salary. If the graduate quits before their two-year contract expires, they could be on the hook for $36,500. The high demand for low-cost skilled labor makes these graduates who are tied up in the contract attractive hires. The number of apprenticeships being offered than there were a decade ago is significant with new government support and new investors aiming to bring apprenticeships to tech. The apprenticeship model shifts the risk of high-cost education away from the student/employee to the employer, in exchange for a below average salary and on-the-job training.

–Ludovic Fourrage, Founder & CEO, Nucamp

Laura Ascione

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