How Embracing Ed Tech Will Help Universities Stay Ahead of the Curve

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Here at Quantified, we talk and write a lot about how organizations that embrace the latest online, adaptive, and AI-driven learning technologies give themselves an important competitive advantage in today’s job market. And the same is true in the higher education world, as the institutions that embrace technology as a way to enhance recruitment, retention, and student success have begun to set themselves apart. Soon, those that hold out will fall behind.

As education technology (ed tech) pervades campuses across the country, institutions are finding more and more ways to harness big data for the good of the students, and they’re even warming to the idea of artificial, augmented, and virtual reality in the classrooms. Educause’s 2018 NMC Horizon Report, which charts the five-year impact of innovation and tech in higher education, identified six tech-supported movements that are transforming higher education:

  1. Expanding Access and Equity: While this begins with the notion of a connected campus, where students and faculty can access course material from any device at any time, it goes deeper than that, too, aiming to ensure every aspect of the learning environment is accessible for every student and teacher.
  2. Fostering Authentic Learning: As instruction shifts from rote learning to hands-on learning, students crave immersive experiences in order to build new skills in practical, creative ways.
  3. Leveraging Data: Just like in the corporate world, our newfound power to capture unfathomable amounts of data is only as good as our ability to analyze that data in a way that can inform decision-making, policies, and procedures in order to improve outcomes for students and for the universities.
  4. Spurring Innovation: The graduates of our higher-ed institutions go on to become leaders in our workforce and our society, and the more their universities can equip them with innovative, entrepreneurial mind-sets, the more powerful their impact will be after graduation.
  5. Improving the Teaching Profession: The education report notes that, “With students inventing, iterating, and collaborating regularly, instructors have been transplanted from their position as ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side.’” As such, institutions and programs need to focus on teaching rather than just research.
  6. Spreading Digital Fluency: Finally, by integrating technology and digital tools into learning in meaningful ways, institutions can not only enhance the student experience, but they can better prepare students for success and leadership in the digital-first world they’ll enter upon graduation.

As these movements, which are already well underway, continue to gain ground, top students and educators will begin to look for institutions that have the innovative mind-set and tech-driven cultures that allow them to fully encapsulate these six ideals.

One Education Dive analysis of the Educause report goes so far as to say that, for many institutions, the tech that empowers these movements will be critical for their continued operation:

While higher ed has embraced data and computing technologies, it continues to be slow to adapt more advanced technologies like AI, augmented and virtual realities and adoptive learning that are more complicated to understand and integrate. However, colleges and universities need to find ways to adapt to the constant change that technology brings in order to attract students and top-notch instructors, streamline operations and cut costs. For some institutions, implementing or expanding the use of certain technologies could help them prevent the shut down of degree programs and departments — and even the closure of their doors forever.

–       Jean Dimeo, Education Dive

Ed tech, which began as an optional (and controversial) addition to the classroom, will become a critical competitive differentiator among universities. How does your institution stack up?