#3: 41 edtech predictions for higher ed in 2019

What innovations can your university look forward to this year?

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on January 1st of this year, was our #3 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2019 countdown!]

We asked 20 edtech executives to look into their crystal balls and share their thoughts about what will happen in 2019. In addition to the usual suspects—artificial intelligence (AI), active learning, and microcredentials—people predicted more nuanced uses of data (to handle campus security, for instance), chatbots to help with studying, and blockchain-enabled digital student IDs to improve security. Read on to see what’s in store for 2019…

Eran Ben-Ari, chief product officer, Top Hat

• Faculty-centric student success with be prioritized. Faculty are the most important components of an effective university-wide student success program. Students report higher levels of engagement and learning when their professors use active and collaborative learning techniques in the classroom. As this trend grows, students will be provided better learner outcomes and administrators will gain ways to identify cases where a student may be falling behind or need additional resources and intervene as necessary.

• Classroom engagement boosted through tech use. The best edtech platforms allows professors to move into engaging, action-filled, active learning pedagogies before, during, and after class. With the wealth of data collection (through the use of technology), it is possible for professors to act on the data in real time.

• Making edtech choices based on faculty needs. With the steady increase of the average number of students per class, there is a growing need for technology solutions that allow professors to engage students wherever they may be on their learning journey regardless of class size. Student success will increasingly depend upon these choices.

Chris Coleman, president, Woz U

• A growing number of individuals are going to focus on taking an accelerated learning path in 2019. The expectations of the next generation of learners place an acute focus on employer-valued skills to enter their desired profession. The notion of a ‘well-rounded education’ is no longer going to be synonymous with taking marginally useful college courses.

• 2019 will see the employer sentiment shifting towards more interest in ‘learners’ than ‘experience’ when hiring employees, as demonstration continues to offer more value to organizations than memorization. Next year, I expect to see more employers less interested in credentials and more interested in demonstrable competencies when adding staff to their workforce.

• I foresee systems evolving next year towards a self-directed format, where data-driven platforms provide students with recommendations for learning units that are in line with in-demand careers. As skillsets are identified by employers for future openings, students will be educated with the proficiency in sought-after areas for a pathway towards a thriving profession.

Breck DeWitt, education strategist, Dell EMC

• Higher ed is already making serious investments in Internet of Things (IoT) and supporting projects from smart energy, security, transportation, navigation, and wayfinding services, to improving the selling of concessions on college game days as part of their digital campus initiatives. By 2025, we expect one in three universities to make a significant investment in IoT research or student/professor projects to fuel initiatives that simplify life and challenges.

Alan Ewing, executive director, CBRS Alliance

• While colleges and universities pay millions of dollars for wi-fi and LTE services to keep up with student and staff expectations for fast, free, ubiquitous connectivity across school facilities, demand for high-volume data applications is growing quickly. Cisco estimated that by 2021, 78 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic would be video. This increasing demand, as well as the need for connectivity outdoors in common spaces, means more campuses improve connectivity while capping overall expenditures. Using LTE technology based on shared spectrum, campuses will be able to take advance of expanded connectivity and the ability to widely deploy connectivity solutions across their facilities, indoors and outside. Deploying private LTE networks on shared spectrum, such as the Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), will also allow campuses to prepare themselves for upcoming 5G deployments at a lower cost than what is traditionally associated with LTE services.

• There’s an increasing demand for privacy across industries, including higher ed. Students and staff expect that their personal data and identifying information is secure and being handled responsibly. This requires that campuses have their own local wireless networks to ensure secure access to potentially sensitive data. In 2019, we expect to see more campuses investigating private LTE options for their wireless networking needs, and the ability to deploy on shared or unlicensed spectrum is a key differentiator for these solutions.

Susan Grajek, vice president, communities and research, EDUCAUSE

• Short-term: Growing focus on measuring learning. As societal and economic factors redefine the skills needed in today’s workforce, colleges and universities must rethink how to define, measure, and demonstrate subject mastery and soft skills such as creativity and collaboration. The proliferation of data-mining software and developments in online education, mobile learning, and learning management systems are coalescing toward learning environments that leverage analytics and visualization software to portray learning data in a multidimensional and portable manner.

• Mid-term: Proliferation of OER. Adoption of OER has been driven largely by efforts to reduce the costs associated with higher ed, though perhaps the most powerful potential outcome of OER is the opportunity for institutions to develop a broader set of investments in course development and infrastructure.

• Long-term: Cross-institution and cross-sector collaboration. Today’s global environment, which is increasingly connected via technology, allows institutions to unite across international borders and work toward common goals concerning teaching and learning, research, and shared values. Increasingly, institutions are joining forces to combine their intellectual capital or to align themselves strategically with innovative efforts in the field. Cross-sector collaborations and partnerships are also becoming more common, with industry looking to institutions for research and development to solve pressing challenges and institutions looking to business to prepare students for the digitally focused workforce, aligning programs and degree pathways with industry needs.

Philip Hauserman, vice president, The Castle Group

• There’s no excuse for not being prepared, especially in a world where news of an incident on campus can spread like lightning in a matter of hours, if not minutes. An increasing number of institutions are revisiting existing plans and developing new plans for what to do when an incident occurs. That trend will continue in 2019. There are just too many issues—Title IX, sexual assault, discrimination, data breach, violence, among others—that could do significant damage to the institution and the individuals involved if communications are not handled in a timely or appropriate manner.

Mike Huseby, chairman and CEO, Barnes & Noble Education

• We will see AI being used more and more, as higher-ed institutions continue their digital transformation journeys and look to appeal to students’ preferences for adaptive, engaging learning experiences. Particularly when it comes to Gen Z students, who now make up the bulk of those enrolled in higher ed institutions today, faculty members and administrators need to meet students where they live: online. By using resources with AI components—such as AI teaching assistants—online and traditional, in-person courses will start to be used more frequently across campuses over the next year and beyond.

• Content and learning management systems will become even more advanced and robust, thanks to the advancement of AI technology. We will see more AI-enabled study tools that generate not just an answer, but an explanation of how to get to that answer, when students ask a question. Along with enhancing learning both inside and outside of the classroom for all types of students, these tools also increase students’ efficiency, as they’re available whenever and wherever students need them.

• The writing center is a staple on any college campus, but it’s no secret that the traditional student is rapidly evolving. This means that more students need writing assistance early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends—all times when the traditional, on-campus writing center is closed. To address this gap, institutions have begun offering additional writing support, such as live online writing assistance and other digital writing tools. Because of the growing number of older, “nontraditional” students—and the fact that the digital native Gen Z students demand digital study assistance and tools—I expect we will a major shift in the traditional writing center model, as institutions adopt more online writing assistance tools to meet students’ evolving needs.

Brandon Lee, CEO, Terra Dotta

• The number of new international higher ed students has been trending down due to tough talk on immigration, a tenuous national climate, rigid visa processing, and more competition abroad. However, we expect those numbers to start to rebound in 2019 as more higher ed institutions use technology to make the application, acceptance, compliance, and onboarding processes smoother and quicker. The faster an institution can issue an international student an offer of admission and streamline the process of issuing student visa documentation (I-20 for F-1 visas, DS-2019 for J-1 visas), the faster prospective international students can respond and expedite their decisions and commitments as well as their visa-processing requirements. Application, compliance, and onboarding technology also frees up time for international offices to do more recruiting and programming.

Shannon Leininger, vice president of U.S. public sector state, local and education (SLED) east, Cisco

• As universities work to create a safer campus that protects students and faculty’s data and devices across the network, they will also be turning to technology to improve physical security. From 24/7 security cameras on campus to automated locks, universities will look to get back to basics to ensure their campus is as safe as possible. Since the biggest issues on campuses tend to be the smallest acts, such as crossing the street on campus, campuses need to be prepared.

Tom Livne, CEO, Verbit

• Throughout 2019, we can expect to see a move towards incorporating voice assistants into the classroom as a tool for education. Conversational AI has become a staple of everyday life, with widespread adoption of programs like Google Assistant and Alexa infiltrating homes. Millions of people use digital assistants to complete simple tasks, which sets an expectation for this same level of digitization and ease in all facets of life—including education. In that context, these devices have revolutionized the role of speech technology in schools. They enable tremendous opportunities for educators and students by providing access to a wealth of information on any topic, simply by speaking a few words. Though some argue that this may prove to be a source of distraction or interruption, it would also serve to drive curiosity and encourage learning for younger grades that are not yet able to simply search for the many questions they have. The educational potential is enormous, and we are just on the edge of leveraging its full capabilities.

• As universities strive to reach ADA compliance, we’re starting to see an increased effort across campuses for increased accessibility. Universities are taking heed and ensuring that they have the tools in place to provide equal access education for all students, which includes the integration of accessible technology like speech recognition capabilities and transcription for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captioning in the classroom not only aids students with disabilities, but it also fosters student learning and creates a searchable record of lectures that students can refer back to after class.

• As university customer service representatives get bogged down with calls, institutions are starting to turn to automated chatbots on school websites to help handle some of the simpler requests that students have. These chatbots have a much faster turnaround time than traditional email support, which can often take a week or more for simple questions to get answered. Outside of the convenience that chatbots offer, they also serve to be an ADA-compliant solution that users can turn to if they are unable to chat on the phone, as websites must be made completely accessible to all individuals.

Michael London, CEO, Examity

• Momentum will continue to build for learning validation, reflecting the growing demand for secure online assessment from universities, corporate HR departments, and certification and standardized test providers.

• Increasing attention to the population of students with some college but no degree, as employers look to tap into new talent pools and the landscape of just-in-time, job-aligned training continues to expand.

• Edtech companies will continue to advance the application of AI and machine learning in ways that are more responsive to the needs of students and education providers.

Drew Magliozzi, CEO, AdmitHub

• AI will continue to permeate higher ed—and while bots may not replace instructors, advisors, or university presidents anytime soon, they will augment (and in some cases automate) day-to-day tasks that enhance the delivery and impact of core university functions such as admissions, enrollment, and student support.

• To make good on the promise of AI, we expect that universities will need new positions to train and monitor their artificially intelligent machines. Don’t be surprised if in the coming year we see the emergence of university positions such as Lead Bot Nurturer or AI Personality Architect.

Jim Milton, CEO, Campus Management

• Blockchain, AI, and machine learning have been transforming industries across the globe over the past few years. Like other industries, higher ed has been adapting these new technologies and finding innovative ways to service students and enhance their education experience. Over the next year, we expect institutions to expand the use of these technologies and further integrate them into their enterprise systems. Using AI, like bots, to answer common student questions is one way the next generation of CRM systems will integrate with these technologies. As technology continues to mature, so will institutional innovation to increase student engagement.

• We anticipate greater interest and willingness to rely upon prescriptive analytics. Institutions will begin using technology to assist in improving student engagement and thus retention through sentiment analysis and individualized interactions personalized to the student. Identifying when students need degree information and career counseling gives faculty the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation using data and analysis-rich platforms.

Keith Rajecki, vice president of public sector, education and research industry solutions group, Oracle Higher Education

• In 2019, we will see AI continue to transform higher ed, whether through operation management or improving the traditional classroom experience. However, universities must consider the ethical implications of AI, especially unconscious bias. If biases were applied to the process or data beforehand, it’s possible that AI applications will replicate those biases as it automates processes.

• Blockchain has the ability to transform higher ed, especially in credentialing and identification in the near future. Universities will provide digital student IDs, which will make campuses much more secure, verify students’ identity, and provide access to records including administrative, academic, and medical.

Dan Rivera, portfolio marketing manager for education, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

• Campus safety is not a new trend, but in 2019 higher ed will take advantage of advanced technologies such as location-based services (LBS) to enhance campus safety and security. One example of using LBS to respond to an onsite threat event: First responders can have access to 4D visualization of buildings, showing reported threat locations as well as entry and exit points, and can provide real-time communication between staff, students, and visitors to confirm which rooms have been secured and which rooms have not. This allows responders to focus on the correct areas, the ones needing the most immediate attention.

• Higher ed institutions will be focused on student success. One technology trend that will help them do that is providing a student-centered, robust mobility experience—one that allows students to have uninterrupted access to educational resources, campus services, advisors, mentors, and counselors on- and off campus. Institutions will need to implement tools to provide network assurance to ensure that positive student experience.

• The need to secure the network from cyber threats will continue to be a top priority. With an influx of IoT devices, financially motivated cyber criminals and disparate IT groups, higher ed faces a particular challenge protecting their networks and data from intrusion. Colleges must implement new tools that go beyond traditional cybersecurity measures, such as user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), which identifies patterns in typical user behavior and provides actionable intelligence when it detects an anomaly. By detecting any anomalous behavior, UEBA solutions can provide real-time protection that traditional systems miss and enable faster responses to attacks.

Andrew Rosen, CEO, Interfolio

• In 2019, as institutions adopt more integrated hiring strategies designed to promote greater inclusion and diversity, like cluster hiring (hiring cohorts of faculty whose research interests complement each other versus individual contributors), I expect more institutions will tap technology to reduce administrative work, increase transparency, and facilitate greater collaboration among hiring committees for more important considerations like diversity and faculty-institutional fit.

• Despite the indispensable role of faculty in higher ed, faculty have largely been underserved by education technology. Fortunately, some of the savviest higher-ed investors have acknowledged this underserved market. Keep an eye out in 2019 for the rise of more edtech companies that are focused on supporting faculty.

Tyson J. Smith, president and CEO, Reading Horizons

• More universities will evaluate their teacher-prep programs with an eye towards improved instruction in decoding strategies and phonics.

Nicola Soares, vice president and managing director, Kelly Education Practice

• Alternative credentialing will offer a solution to education qualifications. In 2018 we saw an increasing trend towards experimenting with new forms of an alternative education, such as microcredentials and less traditional-intensive degree programs. Outside of highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, we are beginning to see employers embrace microcredentials as an alternative to the traditional four-year degree. With this increased focus on supporting the ‘nontraditional’ student, and a decrease in enrollment for education degrees, I predict that we will see an increase in alternative credentialing options for teaching.

André Thomas, CEO, Triseum

• Edtech focus will move from platforms to content. For quite some time, educators have focused on platforms, from grading to LMS to proctoring solutions. While today’s technology has improved content engagement and accessibility, in many cases we are still dealing with stale, static resources. I believe we will see a renewed focus on high-quality content in 2019.

• Blockchain technology will become a major point of discussion in education. The technology can provide a secure means to record grades, store transcripts, and reduce cheating, and while still in its infancy for educational use, I believe we will see the first major applications take advantage of the technology in 2019.

• Interest in virtual reality (VR) will shift to AR. First, many schools, classrooms, and teachers don’t have access to the hardware to fully utilize VR experiences. Second, teachers likely don’t want to stand in front of students who are wearing headgear; if the teacher is also in the VR environment, he or she can’t see facial reactions and emotions. I believe we are longing for more interactions in person rather than through screens.

Lee Wilson, president, FreshGrade

• Grades are dead; long live grades. In the 1820s, universities began issuing records of student performance. For 200 years, report cards were the most efficient way to communicate the inherently messy and complicated process of learning. To work, learning had to be rated on a scale and reduced to paper. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best tool we had. Today, capturing text, images, video, and audio is easy. In real time we can now capture and share those deeper moments of learning that reveal what lies behind the letter grade. A new generation of tools that blend rich multimedia with grading tools are opening up the possibility of much deeper conversations about learning.

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