Latest Tech Trends in Higher Education


Posted on June 14, 2012

The year 2012 is being repeatedly hailed as the year of technology-driven revolution in almost all industries. Experts predict that the most impacted verticals will be traditional industries, such as manufacturing and education that have been comparatively slow in adopting technology in their business. Let’s take a look at what experts think lies ahead in 2012 for both students and higher education institutions”.

Increasing Challenges
There’s no doubt that competition has always been high in the higher ed industry, especially in the US. Few if any sectors in recent decades have experienced price and cost increases as massive as those in higher ed. In fact, tuition and fees at US public and private colleges rose by an average of 439% in a span of 15 years. Three decades of annual price increases of 6-7% have put college education beyond the means of most families without resorting to huge student loans. To make things more complicated, the US higher ed industry now faces tough competition from emerging and increasingly popular colleges and universities in newer geographies such as Australia and Europe, which offer quality education at significantly lower costs. Add to this new regulations on grants and restrictions on overseas marketing.
Focus on Student Retention

This year will see institutions striving hard to retain their student base by improving the overall learning experience through personalized learning environments, and adopting digital resources and new technology such as cloud computing. The focus will be on introducing unique online learning experiences as well as mobile technology for a larger share of tuition dollars through differentiation and better delivered value. Dynamic and agile technology will replace legacy learning systems and tablet PCs will surge as a means of e-learning media. Learning analytics will emerge as an important science to understand the learning environment and better cater to student requirements.

Emergence of the Digital Learning Environment
Fuelled by the need for innovation, 2012 will also be an important year for the introduction of digital textbooks in colleges and universities. Several manufacturers and retailers, such as Amazon, are getting into the e-textbook game and have begun offering e-books that can be downloaded onto PCs, Kindles, tablets and several Android-based devices. Moreover, digital textbooks are also available for on-demand rental and allow students to save their notes and highlights even after the rental expires. The new digital textbooks will be more evolved than the traditional e-books and will also include videos, simulations, visualizations and maybe even online testing environments.

Open Educational Resources
Though not totally a new concept, open resources will gain more impetus in 2012 in the higher ed arena. In the US, the California State Senate is considering a bill that would encourage colleges and universities to use open education resources in the form of free online textbooks instead of printed text books. An online library – the California Digital Open Source Library – will be created and will house most commonly used books used for specific courses. Students and teachers will have access to free digital versions of the books, lowering cost of books for both the students and institutions. The State of Washington and MIT are also planning online texts for the most popular courses.

Teaching Goes Online
In 2012, more than ever, online teaching will gain impetus. This will be driven by the fact that in large universities, courses are divided into multiple sections, making it easier to deliver a combination of classroom sessions, recorded sessions and live online videos. Experts believe that this will make education more flexible, while support from designers and online experts will lessen the burden on professors.

Mobile Computing
There’s no doubt that with the splurge of smartphones and tablets, everything from shopping to browsing and even banking is on the go. And that’s how the consumer prefers it. Colleges and universities will ride the mobile computing trend both as a differentiator for attracting new enrollments and for retaining students through better engaging. Campus alerts, podcasts , online student forums, online purchasing of course material and anything else that can be incorporated into the classroom experience will become popular. Experts say that social media coupled with mobile devices will create greater collaboration and a connected learning environment.

Moving to the Cloud
That’s right! It’s not just hi-tech companies that want to move to the cloud to save IT infrastructure costs. An increasingly digital learning environment and its demand for improved IT capabilities, more and more colleges and universities would consider cloud computing this year. The key driver will be keeping up with technology and improving content without increase in IT costs.