improvement trends

14 hot higher ed trends for 2017

Educators and tech leaders look back on 2016; predict where higher ed trends in teaching and learning will head this new year.

With every new year comes new ideas. To get a glimpse into what the next 12 months will hold for everything from micro-credentialing to energy savings, and the rise of nontraditional students to focusing more on outcomes, 14 higher ed luminaries looked back on 2016 higher ed trends to help predict what’s in store for 2017.

Here’s what they said:

stephen_downes2016 was The Year of Video

By Stephen Downes, National Research Council

Now there are different ways things can be a ‘trend of the year’. They can be something everybody uses; that’s how 2012 became the year of the MOOC, and why virtual reality will no doubt be widely cited as the trend of 2016. As that sort of trend video has come and gone. YouTube and Netflix are old hat; everybody’s watching video online today.

But what’s new is that in 2016 video became something that everybody is making as well. We see this in various ways. Sharing and streaming video games has become widely popular and has grown to be one of the major uses of YouTube.  So has sharing and streaming just about everything else. From FailArmy to GoPro bits it’s like the old saying: if there’s no video, it didn’t happen.

The rise of video carried over into education. MOOCs continued to increase in number and attendance. Conferences ran streaming video events. Lecture capture became mature and campus video management and hosting services began to attract attention. Duke University ran a widely read lecture capture survey. Companies like Kaltura, Panopto and Warpwire battled through the year for market share.

Video may feel like it has been here a long time. And it has. But it surged in big way in 2016, below the radar, but touching lives like never before.

Stephen Downes works in the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. He is one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, writes about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.

lisa-malat-0613-largeThe Rise of Non-traditional Students

By Lisa Malat, Barnes & Noble College

Experts anticipate that in 2017 U.S. colleges and universities will see continued growth in non-traditional student enrollment. In fact, it’s projected to increase more than twice as fast as traditional student enrollment from 2012 to 2022, according to the CLASP Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. To hear directly from this important college segment, Barnes & Noble College recently conducted a national survey of more than 1,000 traditional students and nearly 800 non-traditional students. Following are three key learnings on their unique perspectives and experiences.

Non-traditional students are particularly stressed about money. Only 15 percent of non-traditional students feel financially secure – and finances represent the top reason that they’ve dropped out of previous programs. Not surprisingly, financial assistance is the top request non-traditional students make for additional support from their schools.

Non-traditional students are disengaged from their school and peers. A sense of belonging and support is essential to a student’s capacity to succeed, both in and out of the classroom. However, just 44 percent of non-traditional students feel connected to their school; only 20 percent feel socially connected. And, they’re much less likely to feel supported by their peers or that they have friends at school, compared to traditional students. Events and activities tailored to non-traditional students can help foster valuable connections.

Non-traditional students are open to digital learning. Sixty percent of non-traditional students have taken at least one online course. And, after they do, they’re twice as likely to prefer online courses as traditional students. A majority of non-traditional students also prefers OER, adaptive learning and collaborative learning materials equally to or more than print materials. These options offer flexibility and individualized support to help balance school, work, family and other responsibilities.

Lisa Malat is the vice president & chief marketing officer at Barnes & Noble College, providing strategic direction and executive oversight to 770 campus stores in the areas of consumer and corporate marketing, learning and development, and in-store and eCommerce strategies and operational efficiencies. To learn more, download Achieving Success for Non-traditional Students from Barnes & Noble College InsightsSM.

alana-dunagan-headshot_300Focusing on Outcomes

By Alana Dunagan, Clayton Christensen Institute

The biggest trend of 2016 was higher scrutiny on for-profit colleges, including the closure of several high-profile schools, ACICS loss of recognition as an accreditor, and regulation by the Department of Education on defense to repayment. To the extent that these moves prevent or ameliorate fraudulent and nefarious activity, they have been a benefit to students and the higher education industry. But 2016 has also entrenched business model–for-profit vs. nonprofit–as the unit of analysis, rather than focusing quality–and defining what quality means. This is a missed opportunity to protect students at institutions of all types, and to improve standards across the sector.

We expect 2017 to be the year where higher education focuses on outcomes. Many regional accreditors have now shifted to incorporating outcome measures in their reviews, and the data available through the College Scorecard has made outcomes easier to compare. But more pressing than either regulations or data, disruptive competitors are bursting onto the scene. These new entrants, ranging from bootcamps to competency based education programs to microcredentialers, provide alternatives to the traditional degree. The disruptors eschew traditional measures of prestige, like rankings and, in many cases, accreditation. Instead, they compete based on outcomes: jobs, salaries, promotions, and learning. As these programs gain traction with students–and even more importantly, with employers–traditional institutions are likely to mount a response by considering their own track records in these areas. The results should benefit students across higher education, as the market forces greater transparency on the outcomes that matter most to graduates.

Alana Dunagan is a researcher on higher education for the Christensen Institute.

(Next page: Higher ed trends on AI, energy, and micro-credentialing)

thumbnail_jamiEnterprise Apps like will be Infused with AI Capabilities

By Jami Morshed, Unit4

We’re starting to see the emergence of Intelligent apps where enterprise applications are infused with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. New virtual personal assistants have the potential to transform the higher education workspace. From applying to college, to arriving on campus, declaring a major, signing up courses and eventually graduation, there are a multitude of ways bots can help to streamline the process. Through a Natural Language Interface (NLI), or a more streamlined approach where a bot works behind the scenes delivering information through the students preferred NLI, such as Siri, Cortana, or Alexa, these personal assistants will begin to simplify university administration for students. The applications of this technology do not stop at the student either. Imagine staff at Universities having the ability to leverage personal digital assistants to automate much of their manual tasks so they can free up time for more high value tasks such as helping students success and helping their institution achieve their strategic goals.

Jami Morshed is the vice president of global higher education at Unit4. His responsibilities include the Unit4 Global Center of Excellence, which helps institutions prepare for the future through scalable and comprehensive software solutions that streamline and modernize core business processes while eliminating the burden of managing ever-changing technology.

mmoschetto_highresheadshotUsing Technology for Energy Savings

By Marc Moschetto, Chief marketing officer of Dude Solutions

In 2016, mobile device adoption continued to increase in colleges and universities and with it the growing need for effective mobile device management. Laptops, tablets and smartphones have the benefit of allowing both faculty and students to have a host of useful information at their fingertips, but this accessibility can also come with some challenges–namely the bandwidth and infrastructure needed to keep up with those devices. This trend impacts IT and facilities departments, as buildings must have the proper infrastructure to support increased technology.

Looking ahead, a renewed focus on energy will take place in 2017. Energy usage and costs are rising substantially in higher education (it’s the 2nd largest operations budget line-item after labor). Utility costs are also climbing, especially HVAC and cooling usage in facilities. However, institutions are beginning to use technology to achieve energy efficiencies and savings. Additionally, one of the most prominent trends we’re seeing is the need to provide increasingly granular analysis and reporting. By leveraging data, public institutions can demonstrate they’re being good stewards of taxpayer funds and both public and private colleges and universities can justify staffing and capital planning levels. Individuals from operations and maintenance management are using data in a more insightful and actionable way, which includes benchmarking their own performance against that of their peers.

A proven, technology marketing executive with 20+ years of experience and deep Cloud/software-as-a-service domain expertise, Marc Moschetto serves as Dude Solutions Chief Marketing Officer. Marc is responsible for increasing Dude Solutions’ brand visibility and driving demand generation via a strategic and comprehensive integrated marketing program. Previously, Marc served as vice president of global marketing for WorkForce Software where his strategic and tactical leadership helped to significantly increase the company’s revenue and valuation. 

liz_dietz_workday_headshotBridging the Gap from Education to Occupation

By Liz Dietz, Workday

As business needs shift, so do the requirements for workforce skills. This shift, in turn, is impacting higher education learning models and how institutions equip graduates with the skills they need—beyond the traditional classroom—to succeed in the workplace. In 2017, we’ll continue to see colleges and universities adapt to new learning models–such as competency-based education–and adopt modern administrative systems that not only support competencies, credentials, and extended transcripts, but systems that provide comprehensive data and insights around student progress and success.

Liz Dietz is vice president, Student Strategy and Product Management at Workday.

geoffirvineheadshotMicro-Credentials and Badging–More Wet Feet, More Innovation and Proof of Concept

By Geoff Irvine, CEO, Chalk & Wire

2017 will be the year that more institutions dip their toes in the alternative credentialing and badging lake. IMS Global’s involvement in open badges adds obvious heft to the acceleration and the adoption of the Open Badges Standard. This will in turn drive developers in the field to standardize, enhance, and automate highly portable, integrated, micro-credentialing solutions as 2017 unfolds.

Some schools, pressed by low enrollments and/or poor retention, and a desire to leap frog their competition will pick up the tools to motivate millennial students, hungry for more frequent, slickly packaged, success-hits than the macro-credential degree is offering.

Others will be working to re-package their courses into clusters and to offer them up to a large number of non-traditional, older students as professional development solutions. Aside from the obvious time and financial saving to the learners, this approach maintains the status quo at the faculty and course level. This is the more likely trend than the tear-downs and reconstructions required by those who are very serious about competency-based education.

Others will have different, less curricular motives, and will center their efforts at both ends of their institutional lifecycle: admissions, working to get a better holistic picture of applicants. At the other end, student services/life departments may see value for the technology and its underlying concept of tracking skills in context. They may hand the badging power tool over to their career services people who have been striving hard with little budget.

These early-adopter institutions will be wagering on differentiation points by innovating to attract and keep students, while their more conservative peers look on with interest.

Geoff Irvine is the CEO of Chalk & Wire, an assessment platform and ePortfolio provider.

anewman%5b1%5dGreater Innovation at Scale

By Adam Newman, Tyton Partners

In 2016 there was a good deal of buzz concerning the reimagining of higher education. We saw keen interest in alternative programs and models —nano-degrees, bootcamps, workforce-oriented education models, competency-based education that sought to substitute for traditional programs. However, predictions that these alternatives would provide viable alternatives with traditional degree pathways proved premature, particularly across the diversity of the student landscape. All these models willI continue to see growth and expansion in 2017, but scale and level of access will remain moderate at best. But the real value of these new models shouldn’t necessarily be measured by market penetration, anyway; rather how can they serve to catalyze and spur institutions to rethink their own roles and opportunities, and adapt and innovate more quickly to meet the needs of today’s student.

In 2017, we are likely to see this same incubation model—where small, pilot programs provide the data and insight that allow for greater innovation at scale—in the arena of accreditation reform. The EQUIP program signaled that the federal government sees value in this approach, and they are staking money currently on eight pilot programs that will begin to test new accreditation and evaluation options for the higher education community. Several of the pilots are highly focused on workforce alignment and outcomes, which will also continue to be hot topic this coming year.  Those institutions who can define their target market and target student along defined industries, geographies or career pathways will have the greatest success moving forward.

Adam is a founding partner of Tyton Partners, a strategy consulting and investment banking platform serving the global knowledge sector. Adam guides companies, non-profits, and investors through critical organizational inflection points to enable them to achieve their objectives. He has extensive experience working across all segments of the PreK-12, postsecondary, and enterprise and professional education markets. Prior to founding Tyton Partners, Adam was a director at Berkery Noyes, where he originated the firm’s strategic advisory practice in education and launched the Venture Capital in Education Summit, an annual event convening the most dynamic and innovative early-stage companies and entrepreneurs. Previously, Adam served as managing vice president at Eduventures, leading the firm’s Industry Solutions division. Adam launched his career as a 6-12th grade English teacher and coach.

(Next page: Higher ed trends on data, learner choice, and transparency)

schnittman-photoEmbrace the Relationship between Data and Human Intelligence

By Matthew Schnittman, Helix Education

In 2016, institutions continued to discuss the tension between their missional foundations and their economic realities. The 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business officers revealed that “84 percent of CBOs say the enrollment level in a program is an extremely or very important factor in determining its future, making it nearly as important a factor as institutional mission and academic quality.” 2016 proved that when institutions seek innovative ways to both grow enrollments and maintain missional integrity, they’re more poised to provide the economic and social benefits of a higher education.

In 2017, institutions will embrace the relationship between data and human intelligence. As higher education looks to incorporate more data into the decision making process, data must be used to augment human intelligence, not replace it. The key to striking a balance between data and human intelligence is to act on data with high-touch, on-the-ground strategies. This is the step that transforms data insights into actionable intelligence.

Matthew Schnittman is President and CEO at Helix Education. He has an extensive background in education technology where he has worked with some of the most forward-thinking college and university leaders to develop and implement game changing solutions, including large online learning programs and student data management systems.

corporate-picture-jim-miltonThe Business of Education will continue to Reinvent Higher Ed

By Jim Milton, Campus Management

In 2016, Campus Management noticed a major change and shift in the business of higher education. As the sector continued to respond to the ever-evolving needs of learners who sought to achieve education goals on their own terms, institutions had to adapt to this environment simultaneously through the deployment of new and innovative learning modalities, including accelerated online learning, competency-based education and workforce development. As a result, the business of education has transformed the needs of institutions, driving them to respond by creating new ways to sustain and grow their share of the market.

As we look toward 2017 trends in higher education, we believe that technology will continue to enable much of the change that we have already seen in 2016, and which will shape the industry in the years to come. The cloud is an obvious enabler of that transformation, as we have experienced great strides since its implementation across higher education. As institutions look to find more effective ways of adapting and growing, new and innovative technology will help to drive better performance and operational efficiency, creating overall improved student success – the new bottom line for institutions.

Jim Milton is the CEO of Campus Management, responsible for leading the team toward delivering superior student information systems and CRM solutions to more than 2,000 campuses in 19 countries. He brings more than 30 years of experience at a range of innovative technology companies, where he has successfully led product expansions, mergers, acquisitions and sales strategies.  

catalano-profile%5b1%5dMore Transparency in Analytics

By Darren Catalano, HelioCampus

This year higher education experienced a surge in conversations around data privacy and ethical use of student data, driving a push for standards in this area. Access to data has become more pervasive, between the rising popularity of learner analytics and a growth in use and adoption. As a result, the higher ed community wants to ensure they have proper policies around use of student data and are looking to other industries as examples (e.g., health care).

As analytics becomes more pervasive in 2017, we will likely see an increased push back against or rejection of proprietary algorithms and black box solutions. Institutions need visibility into the variables and techniques used to develop these models and the opportunity to apply appropriate vetting and peer review. As the stakes continue to raise in higher education, institutions will require more transparent and extensible analytics solutions.

Darren Catalano is the Chief Executive Officer of HelioCampus, an analytics and data science company that spun out of the University System of Maryland.  Prior to launching HelioCampus, Darren was the Vice President of Analytics at UMUC. 

grajek-profile-412Information Security is King

By Susan Grajek and Joanna Grama, EDUCAUSE

In higher education, the influence of an IT trend can profoundly impact on how colleges and universities educate students, conduct research, and connect globally. For 17 years, EDUCAUSE has tracked the top issues in higher education IT. In 2016, amid constant threats and wide-ranging, fast-changing user expectations, information security rose to the #1 spot on the list. It occupies the #1 spot again in 2017. Information security is not a binary state: it is a persistent trend in higher education—today and tomorrow.

In 2016 the focus was on reinvesting in information security—ensuring that institutions reinvested in developing policies and creating secure networks. Agility was key: the fast-paced adoption of cloud-based services means that solutions must be architected, introduced, modified, and retired quickly—and securely. The changing nature of IT service delivery (e.g., moving enterprise applications to the cloud) and the fast pace of introduction continue to be a challenge for higher education. Institutions must reinvest in information security to address this challenge.

Although reported higher education data breaches seem to be decreasing (Kim Milford and Joanna Grama, “This Magic Moment: Reflections on Cybersecurity,” EDUCAUSE Review, September 28, 2015) institutions must not be complacent about information security practices. The 2017 information security trend focuses on a layered and constantly adapting approach to reducing risk, which requires a comprehensive program that encompasses people, process, and technologies to educate users, identify and protect sensitive data,  and find and block advanced information security threats.

In higher education, IT must be strategically influential: it must support and positively influence the various missions of colleges and universities. From educating students, to supporting research and development, to promoting campus and global community outreach, IT has an influential and enabling role to play. Understanding the most influential IT trends helps higher education meet and accomplish its missions—today and tomorrow.

Susan Grajek is the Vice President for Communities and Research and Joanna Grama is the Director of Cybersecurity and IT GRC Programs at EDUCAUSE.

david-doucetteSpecifically, Cloud Security

By David Doucette, CDW-G

Cloud was a standout IT trend in 2016 within the higher education community. In 2014, higher education IT experts delivered 39 percent of their services either totally or partially via the cloud, according to our Cloud 401 report. And since then, we have seen an increase in interest and motivation. There has been a significant uptick in cloud interest and migrations over the last 12-to-18 months, which will likely carry into next year.

Looking to 2017, security is top of mind for higher ed institutions. When we ask our customers about their primary focus, they consistently say cloud and security–the two go hand-in-hand. Security is a primary consideration when migrating to the cloud. However, many higher ed institutions have not spent much on security over the last few years, waiting instead to invest after a breach or cyberattack. The issue with that approach–aside from the compromised data–is that purchasing security post-attack can cost ten times more than if higher ed institutions purchased and implemented security solutions proactively. The per capita data breach cost within education is $259 per record containing sensitive information–one of the highest costs per sector, according to the Ponemon Institute. It’s safer and much more cost effective to invest in security before an incident occurs. As higher education institutions embark on or continue the transition to the cloud, the need for security will become a priority in the new year.

David Doucette is director of higher education for CDW-G, where he helps address institutions’ most pressing technology challenges. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 19 years, with a focus on higher education for the past seven years. Doucette holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from DePaul University (Chicago, Ill.).

jon-mottLearner Choice and Flexibility

By Jon Mott, Learning Objects

I predict that the new administration will put an emphasis on learner choice and flexibility. In higher education, this will most likely manifest itself in the form of wider options for using federally funded financial aid. This could make it easier for institutions to provide competency-based programs that aren’t tied to semesters and seat time. Students might also be able use Pell Grants, veteran’s benefits, and student loans to pay for non-credit, even non-accredited programs like coding boot camps.

Jon Mott, Ph.D., is Chief Learning Officer at Learning Objects, a Cengage company.

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