As we prepare for a new year, we look back on the lessons learned, both good and bad, as the door closes on 2022. Questions continued around meeting the needs of non-traditional students, offering flexible learning in different modalities, and ensuring students receive beneficial outcomes for their considerable financial investments.
Equity remained front and center, too–a permanent result of the pandemic’s spotlight on what’s preventing more students from accessing and completing higher education.
We asked edtech executives, stakeholders, and experts to share some of their thoughts and predictions about where they think edtech is headed in 2023.
Here’s what they had to say about equity, cybersecurity, diversity, analytics, and more.
The focus for organizations in 2023 will be getting ahead of security, rather than playing catch up. The major cyberattacks of the past few years (Colonial Pipeline, JBS, Kaseya, etc.) have displayed the importance of setting proactive security, rather than reactive. Beyond what’s required for insurance or funding, in 2023 we’ll see organizations place emphasis on enabling security measures like MFA to mitigate risk and protect against these threats. In efforts to tackle the continuous increase in cyber threats, we’ll see continued cyber funding in 2023, particularly in the public sector. Often, these organization’s security practices are limited, and those in charge of IT are unaware of the preventative initiatives needed to thwart attacks, like the implementation of MFA. While funding is a helpful step toward expanding proactive security measures, the public sector has a way to go before it can claim cyber maturity.
—Kim Biddings, VP of Product, BIO-key
Taking action on analytics: After many years of highlighting the critical need for higher education institutions to use data to drive decision-making, many will finally take action with dedicated strategies and investments, finding that the stakes are too high to leave it to chance or have analytics siloed in different divisions of the institution. Accreditation Prediction: As accrediting bodies move toward requiring institutions to provide more evidence of fiscal responsibility and sustainability, institutions will need to implement strategies and tools focused on scenario planning and financial transparency. Workforce Challenges Prediction: Fueled by the great resignation and the preference for remote work, institutions are faced with a longer-term talent shortage that is impacting their ability to recruit and retain their workforce. They will need to embrace or revisit new strategic partnerships in order to fill their skills gaps and remain competitive. Cost Structure Prediction: After many years of focusing on enrollment growth and other revenue-generating initiatives as the primary strategy for balancing the budget, institutions will need to broaden their approach and investigate their cost structures. Successful and sustainable institutions will need to connect investments with financial, operational and student outcomes to ensure institutional effectiveness now and in the future. Digital Transformation Prediction: Institutions will continue to refine their digital transformation efforts, including focusing on critical administrative processes to ensure continuous improvement, such as the digitization of assessment processes and enablement of a more holistic academic program review.
—Darren Catalano, CEO, HelioCampus; former VP of Analytics at the University of Maryland Global Campus
The number of threats to higher education institutions will unfortunately continue to rise in 2023, and institutions will need to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts accordingly. IT departments in this sector are often understaffed and underfunded, treated as an afterthought. However, several proactive security measures taken by higher education organizations, like installing biometric authentication methods, can help defend against increased attempts of phishing, fraud, and identity cyberattacks.
—Michael DePasquale, CEO, BIO-key
Organizations will be forced to look for new approaches to manage unstructured data growth in 2023. Many have already noticed that the pace of unstructured data growth is snowballing exponentially faster than it has in the past. This leads to increased costs, as companies have to buy more storage, and the introduction of risk, as the organization has less knowledge about the data as it ages in its network. Organizations need new solutions to minimize the financial impact and risk their business faces. Furthermore, much of this unstructured data is stored in network-attached storage (NAS). This is because many applications haven’t yet been redeveloped to leverage object storage. So, much of an organization’s unstructured data will continue to be stored on-premises in 2023. Because of this, public cloud providers will form more relationships with traditional on-premises NAS vendors. They will offer branded, cloud-based, managed file services. These services will benefit customers because they have a simple “on-ramp,” they preserve pre-existing documentation and processes, and they take care of the underlying hardware and operating environment for the customer.
—Carl D’Halluin, CTO, Datadobi
More RFPs will emphasize security and compliance with SOC-2 becoming prevalent requirement across product lines. Buyers will be looking to lock in multi-year deals to protect against inflation surprises from vendors. Registrars/Enrollment executive will position themselves as growth drivers versus administrators. Pressure will build to move CE under a main campus executive (bringing it in from the fringes). We’ll see a significant increase in interest around stackable/microcredentials, but little to no traction to implement a seamless integration with credit/degree options due to academic push-back.
—Peter DeVries, CEO, Modern Campus
Learning loss from the pandemic is real and likely to have a rolling impact on higher education as these students move through the system. Student needs, preferences and challenges continue to shift at a rapid pace, and institutions are under immense pressure to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding them. As a result, academic intervention services may finally get some bite and some resources. Mental health will continue to be a top concern for institutions as the nihilistic malaise continues across younger generations of society. Institutions—many of which are already stretched financially—will be challenged with finding the resources to deliver crucial mental health support and intervention services, without necessarily hiring more staff. Technology will likely play a key role here as many institutions will look to implement telehealth solutions to supplement their existing health and wellness offerings. With the economy potentially on the cusp of recession, the focus on alternative credentials may dial down as corporations are no longer as pressed to recruit talent. The stand-by of a college degree from specific types of colleges will likely be the fallback position. Lifelong learning/continuing education/non-traditional programs will continue to be an area of interest for colleges, not necessarily because the job market is looking for badges but because the enrollment gap will continue to be a problem.
–Nicole Engelbert, Vice President, Higher Education Development, Oracle
Biggest challenges for higher-ed institutions: Coming out of the pandemic institutions are redetermining their value proposition and asking questions like: What is the ROI for students and how can universities help close the skills gap? How can they diversify their offerings and in what way can learning technology help institutions meet these challenges? Humanizing the digital learning experience: Institutions and faculty want to make the digital learning experience feel more human and connected. After rapidly transitioning to online learning, faculty and students can see the benefits but still struggle through certain challenges. How can institutions humanize the experience to show the value to students? In the new year, two of the top areas where higher education will emphasize their focus are data and accessibility. Data: Higher education is doing itself a disservice by not elevating their data capabilities and data tracking flows. Data driven decision making, the focus on equity and inclusion, and improvement around data flows will be a priority in 2023. Accessibility: The thoughtfulness around accessibility within an LMS platform is extremely important and will remain a priority next year, especially as educators try to humanize the digital learning experience.
—Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of Academic Affairs, D2L
The Covid-19 pandemic provided many lessons for higher education leaders. Regarding digital teaching and learning, there is no turning back now. Learners around the world tell us they want more online and digital options – the flexibility and convenience make these options very favorable. However, these learners also want higher quality online learning than what they experienced during the pandemic. Unfortunately, some academic leaders are not sure if their institutions are prepared strategically and/or technologically to meet learner demands. I believe 2023 will be a year of coming together for leadership activities and student expectations, and those institutions who approach digital learning thoughtfully, strategically, and systematically will be the most successful in enrollments, retention, and satisfaction going forward.
–Darcy Hardy, PhD, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Anthology
Universities are pivoting to serve more working professionals through workforce development initiatives amid declining enrollment and larger market trends: While economic downturns typically lead to increased enrollment, universities will need to explore new areas for growth in 2023 to compensate for factors such as declining birth rates and fewer high school graduates enrolling in college. Look for these institutions to position themselves as facilitators of lifelong learning to attract more working professionals. Skills that are relevant today could become obsolete in only a few years. Employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of workforce development initiatives to provide employees with new pathways for career advancement, particularly following the Great Resignation. The market is ripe for colleges to enroll these employees (including their own alumni) in shorter-term programs with hard and soft skills training, where learners earn industry certifications and microcredentials that unlock an immediate value in the workplace. University-corporate partnerships should grow as a result to address specific gaps in the market as well as within individual organizations.
–Matt Leavy, Executive Vice President, Wiley
In the same way that more students are turning to online education to achieve their professional goals, STEM and career-focused programs are seeing strong growth and demand that’s only likely to grow amid a cooling economy. From 2012 to 2021, colleges saw big increases in graduates in STEM and career-focused fields, according to IPEDS data. Graduates in health-related fields increased by 64% for bachelor’s programs and 69% for master’s programs while computer and information science-related graduates more than doubled. On the other side, liberal arts and humanities programs saw steady declines in graduates for bachelor’s and master’s programs. As the economy and labor market slow, expect career-connected programs to continue to gain momentum. Institutions will also increasingly evaluate academic programs by outcomes as more students seek a return on their tuition investment.
–Matt Leavy, Executive Vice President, Wiley
Flexibility will remain a top priority for students at all levels next year, as undergraduate students, in particular, will expect that institutions can service them in any manner they see fit, even if only for personal preference. However, adult and professional education will be more focused on online schooling compared to undergraduate programs due to the needs of the professional. Recognition of alternative credentials will also supplement waning bachelor’s degree requirements in 2023. As more employers drop the requirement of a bachelor’s degree to get a job, the popularity of alternative modalities like credential and certification courses will rise. Specifically, credentials that tie to a certification will be more widely accepted due to the concrete nature of the learning that occurred and was verified in the course. Even though bachelor’s degrees will remain the gold standard on job applications, it’s exciting to see alternative credentials be recognized in the workforce. Next year, demand for tuition reimbursement and other education-focused benefits will surge. Employees are caring more and more about the benefits offered by their employers. Retention isn’t solely based on salary anymore. As the emphasis on soft benefits continues, employers will seek alternative solutions like tuition reimbursement to attract and retain top talent.
–Jim Lummus, SVP of Partnership Development, AllCampus
Diversity will continue to be a thread woven into all higher-ed conversations and decisions–whether it be about accessibility, technology, enrollment, travel and more. It is a pressing topic every time I talk to college and university leaders. As such, schools are prioritizing diversity when it comes to expanding their global education programs, which is something we’ll continue to see well into 2023 and beyond. Now more than ever, students are seeking opportunities to become more culturally diverse through study abroad and learning alongside international students on their home campuses. In today’s strained political and cultural climate, becoming a responsible, collaborative, and productive global citizen is critical. And as institutions enhance diversity efforts, they are discovering ways to be more inclusive and equitable. Schools must ensure daily operations and student-facing processes are designed to include the diverse needs of each student. DEI is essential as higher-ed leaders work to elevate student engagement and cement student success.
–Anthony Rotoli, CEO, Terra Dotta
In the coming year we will see colleges and universities experimenting with creative uses of AV technology for projects that create excitement on campus, and provide new opportunities for teaching and learning. This includes everything from lighting up buildings with projection mapping, creating immersive art exhibits, and utilizing projection to create digital backdrops for theater productions. IT decision-makers will seek technology that is both versatile, and simple to set up. Beyond displays for traditional classroom instruction, they will look for solutions that are cost-effective and that can be moved and adjusted to use in the theater, the gymnasium, lecture halls or outside to create art on campus buildings–all while being reliable, and easy for staff members to operate.
–Ramzi Shakra, Senior Product Manager, Epson America
Financial aid support for non-traditional education avenues will be encouraged. As the nontraditional learner becomes more prevalent, given an increase in alternative options to higher education, trade and certificate-based learning programs will make the case for federal financial aid support. With the pursuit of four-year higher education degrees leaving millions of individuals in debt, legislators will realize the time is now to support these increasingly common education alternatives. The industry can expect to see bills such as the Higher Education Innovation Act gain a significant following moving into 2023.
—Joshua Sine, VP of Higher Education Strategy, Qualtrics
Universities and colleges will continue to pivot their thinking and actions towards non-traditional as the new traditional. Budgets will require increased justification as universities and colleges react to macro-economic, enrollment and funding uncertainties. Outcomes, including career pathways to jobs, will continue to grow in importance. International Student enrollments will rise, having bottomed out under unfriendly Trump era policies and pandemic impacts. Students will continue to be more demanding consumers, with Universities and Colleges remaining slow to react, but those who do will benefit.
—Mark Triest, Chief Business Officer, Modern Campus
Digital Government / Shared Services: In 2023, we expect institutions to place a heightened focus on modernization and development priorities, including emphasizing digital government, upgrading legacy systems, continuing broadband adoption, and expanding remote work and collaboration platforms. To help build a foundation to enhance and improve digital services for students, it will be critical for institutions to tap shared services. After all, shared digital services, products, infrastructure, and channels are core to enabling institutions to create streamlined, consistent customer experiences across education programs while enabling them to benefit from economies of scale. Containers/Kubernetes: In 2023, institutions will seek to streamline and accelerate technologies to support their cloud, hybrid, and multi-cloud architectures. Many institutions are looking to modernize with Kubernetes, containers, and microservices, as they are an effective way to gain speed, scale, and agility. At the IT level, containerization offers a way forward – providing an efficient and portable means to speed up the delivery of new applications, along with building improved security into the development pipeline. A data management platform utilizing containerized applications can empower IT teams to modernization efforts while simultaneously delivering a unified data protection architecture in support of enhanced cybersecurity defenses.
–Mike Wiseman, Vice President, Public Sector, Pure Storage
In 2023, I believe we will see higher education institutions focused on identifying better ways to create and demonstrate value for their students–or risk losing enrollment. It is clear that higher education institutions can no longer only equip students with content knowledge. Employers are looking for essential skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication and have trouble finding them in recent graduates. However, institutions rarely explicitly teach these skills. Rather, they seem to assume that students will gain these skills from their general studies. According to CAE research, 47% of graduating higher education students, from a sample of over 120,000, are not proficient in these essential skills, indicating a need for further improvement. Our research also shows that students recognize the importance of these skills for academic and career success and expect to develop them during their academic journey. Institutions need to help students develop the essential skills that students and employers highly value. By regularly assessing these skills and providing deliberate instruction to further improve these skills, institutions can increase the value students receive from their education. The goal of higher education is to help students develop the skills they need for future career and life success. The essential skills of critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication will serve the students well no matter what path they take.
–Bob Yayac, President and CEO, CAE