Higher education trends are showing shifts towards improved personalization and greater flexibility--along with better student services.

5 of the biggest trends in higher education

Higher education is shifting towards improved personalization and greater flexibility

Key points:

Higher education has transformed over the past several years, leading to several emerging trends. Many of the changes occurring in the higher education landscape are indicative of the diverse opportunities that students are searching for in their post-secondary educational pursuits.

As the industries students will enter postgrad continue to grow and transform, the certificate and degree programs that prepare students for these jobs must adapt. In order to meet the changing needs of students and staff, institutions are putting a greater focus on implementing new technology, enhancing social spaces, and improving student support services.

In 2024, the trends shaping higher education reflect ongoing development to higher education programs and spaces.

Here are five key trends defining higher education right now:

1. Hybrid learning models
Hybrid learning is emerging as a prominent trend in higher education, seamlessly blending in-person instruction with the flexibility of online learning. Through hybrid learning models, learners have the freedom to choose their ideal learning environment based on their individual needs. As educational institutions improve and expand their hybrid learning opportunities, we expect student enrollment at these institutions to continue to grow, rebounding from lower enrollments during the pandemic.

2. AI for personalization and enhanced learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing education by enhancing personalization and expanding learning opportunities. Advanced algorithms and AI tools are being employed to build individualized learning experiences, tailoring instruction to students’ individual needs and preferences. Predictive analytics are also being utilized to identify students at risk, enabling universities to improve academic advisement, retain students, and help students complete their degree programs successfully.

3. SEL to improve soft skills
Beyond academic instruction, there is a growing emphasis on nurturing soft skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, emotional intelligence, leadership, and communication. The social-emotional learning (SEL) lessons that students encountered throughout their K-12 education are being expanded upon in higher education, as universities have begun to recognize the importance of equipping students with the skills to navigate and thrive in dynamic professional environments. These skills are being integrated into the curriculum to prepare students for an evolving workplace.

4. Immersive learning through AR, VR, and simulations
Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and simulations are transforming the educational experience by providing immersive learning opportunities and enabling students to receive educational experiences that may not have otherwise been accessible. For instance, in STEM disciplines, virtual labs and models offer hands-on experiences in virtual environments, helping students visualize real-world problems that they will experience in professional environments. Not only are these forms of virtual learning more accessible, but they are also more cost-effective and can be a powerful way to offer advanced learning opportunities to students in small programs.

5. Continuous learning and microcredentials
Lifelong learning opportunities in higher education have been on the rise for several years, and technology and virtual learning have only made these opportunities more accessible. In 2024, there will be an increase in learners who are seeking to acquire specific skills through microcredentialing and continuous learning. These approaches allow learners to upgrade their skills and knowledge without committing to full-length courses, complementing the traditional four-year degree model and promoting lifelong learning. Continuous learning has become integral to professional development, acknowledging the need for agility and adaptability in today’s rapidly evolving job market.

For the remainder of this year, we anticipate the higher education landscape to shift towards improved personalization, greater flexibility, and enhanced technology approaches. We are looking forward to watching these emerging trends unfold throughout the year.

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