Education and technology analysts say these tech-enabled trends will take off this year.

trends-2015-technologyThink it’s just about online learning? Think again; more like wearable tech and spending on campus IT security.

These are just two major trends technology analysts from IEEE Computer Society, and education analysts from Eduventures, say will shape higher education in 2015.

Looking at technology from a general consumer angle, IEEE’s Computer Society developed specific predictions on the underlying technology issues all IT professionals will need to tackle as a direct result of those consumer-driven trends.

“Researchers have been working to address these issues for a number of years,” explained incoming IEEE Computer Society President Thomas Conte, an electrical and computer science professor at Georgia Tech. “However, 2015 should see real progress in these areas. We are reaching an inflection point for 3D printing, which will revolutionize manufacturing, and the exponential growth in devices connected to the internet makes interoperability and standards critical.”

On the strictly education side, Eduventures’ president and CEO, Tony Friscia, said that while 2014 was a challenging year for higher-ed thanks to continually dropping enrollments, declines in funding for public institutions, rises in operating costs, and an increase in federal oversight, it’s not all doom-and-gloom for 2015.

“In the coming year, the rhetoric will become the reality of 2015 with the proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the continued emergence of new and innovative learning models, the further expansion of the technology sector, and the ongoing need to clearly demonstrate outcomes,” he emphasized.

The 15 predicted trends in technology and higher education for 2015:

[Listed in alphabetical order]:

  1. 3D printing (IEEE): In 2015, a 3D car will be printed, just one of the many uses for 3D printing, which will revolutionize manufacturing by lowering costs; therefore affecting the skills needed in tech operation for those in the STEM fields. Sales of 3D printers are also expected to take off, both in the consumer market and across higher-ed campuses for course and lab experimentation.
  2. Augmented reality apps (IEEE): Mobile apps using augmented reality are already helping the colorblind see colors, travelers explore the unfamiliar, shoppers imagine what they look like in different outfits, and drivers locate parked cars, says IEEE. Apply this technology to campus virtual tours, inexpensive graphics cards and sensors, “and the popularity of applications in such areas as gaming and virtual worlds,” and augmented reality can truly go mainstream, said the Society.

(Next page: Software design; competency-based assessment; much more)

  1. Building security into software design (IEEE): As the volume of data “explodes, along with the means to collect and analyze that information, building security into software design and balancing security and privacy are becoming top priorities,” noted IEEE.
  2. Cloud security into software design (IEEE): From the celebrity photo hacking scandal to consistent student information breaches across universities, cloud security is at the forefront for 2015. “To avoid system fragility and defend against vulnerabilities exploration from cyber attackers, various cybersecurity techniques and toold are being developed for cloud systems,” explained the Society.
  3. Competency-based direct assessment (Eduventures): More “conventional approaches to competency-based education will rule the day,” said Eduventures. This year, there will be a steady adoption of over 100 new competency-based programs; and 25 of these programs will be designed around the principles and practices of direct assessment. “In all likelihood, however, direct assessment will not become the market norm,” said the company. “The contrasting credit-hour equivalency model pioneered by Western Governors University will find far more acceptance.” Also, while most of these programs will also be offered wholly or mostly online and primarily for working adults, a number of competency-based models designed for traditional-age students will also gain traction.
  4. Debt will bubble over (Eduventures): Federal debt is currently $18 trillion, state debt is $4.7 trillion in unfunded liabilities, institutional debt exceeds $300 billion, and student debt is at $1.1 trillion, stated the company. With interest rates at an all-time low, colleges are borrowing more money and betting that projected revenue (tuition, endowment, etc.) will cover their increasing debt service, which is up 88 percent since 2001. “Rating agencies, however, are not being fooled. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of credit rating downgrades at colleges rated by Moody’s Investment Services outpaced upgrades by nearly five to one. We are at a tipping point when it comes to college debt and may see some notable defaults within academia.”
  5. Embedded computing security will get more scrutiny (IEEE): This security level, often in systems that perform sensitive tasks, are prone to more serious attacks, which call for revisiting traditional security mechanisms not only because of the new threats, but also due to resource limitations of these often-battery-powered and extremely constrained computing systems.
  6. Higher-ed spending on IT will exceed $45 billion (Eduventures): The number of technology vendors entering the higher-ed fray has exploded in recent years, noted the company, attracting billions in equity investments. This market is expected to pick up speed in 2015, even in schools with limited resources, in order to remain competitive. However, with this boom in spending, there will be notable failed investments in technology that offer little to no return on investment.
  7. Internet of Anything (IEEE): “The reality that up to 26 billion things will be connected on the internet by 2020 is sinking in,” said the Society. “The Internet of Things and Internet of Everything in 2015 will morph into the Internet of Anything. IoA envisions a common software ‘ecosystem’ capable of accommodating any and all sensor inputs, system states, operating conditions, and data contexts—and overarching ‘Internet Operating System.’”
  8. Online learning will grow modestly (Eduventures): The company predicts that enrollment in wholly online degree programs will be modest this year, with only 2 percent growth due mostly to uncertainty and indecision among adult learners. At the same time, the percentage of colleges entering the online market will grow very little, if at all. “Growth will be stunted due to increased regulatory concerns such as state authorization, competition from large adult-serving providers, and enrollment strategies incapable of keeping pace with the savvyness of today’s adult learners,” it stated. “Institutions will back away from online programming to focus on blended learning and improving quality and access for traditional age students.”
  9. Outcomes will dominate (Eduventures): Eduventures research shows that in 2013, “career preparation” surpassed “academic strength” as the top priority for both students and parents in selecting a school. Adding to parent and student concerns, the government has increased its focus on this issue, including the possibility of Title IV funding consequences. “Look for schools to become more aggressive in differentiating themselves in reporting outcomes data in 2015,” said the company.
  10. Predictive analytics for outcomes (IEEE): Institutions will increasingly grow less concerned about past performance and more concerned with predicting the future.
  11. Reliance on non-alumni philanthropic support will grow (Eduventures): In 2007 and 2008, alumni giving comprised about 70 percent of total giving to universities from gifts of $1 million or more, while non-alumni support made up 29 percent. In 2012 and in 2013, it was 60 percent alumni and 40 percent non-alumni. Cultivating non-alumni donors has become more important than ever for philanthropic sustainability, said Eduventures.
  12. Software-defined Anything (SDx) interoperability and standards (IEEE): “Software-defined networking’s programmability will turn various network appliances into a warehouse of apps,” noted the Society. Several standards groups, such as the ONF, IETF, ETSI, and ITU are working on interoperability issues.
  13. Wearable devices (IEEE): These devices can tell time, send and receive email and messages, make calls, and track routines—making campus emergency push notifications instantaneous and potential student tracking a hot-button issue in 2015.

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