Think about what today’s college classroom looks like — laptops throughout, multiple presentation screens, smart devices open to various apps. It’s a far cry from the transparency projectors and notebooks that were once common. That picture will continue to change going forward, because technology is constantly evolving.
Though no one can say exactly what types of advances will appear in classrooms years from now, it’s clear that there will be significant changes. Students and instructors are eager to seek education technology (EdTech) solutions that can help foster a better learning environment. But the future of EdTech is even broader than that.
3 changes to expect going into the future of EdTech
There will undoubtedly be more advances in the EdTech space, but here’s a taste of some that are particularly relevant to higher education.
1. Education will become more customized than ever
One obvious strength of technology is that it makes education more accessible, providing opportunities to learn far beyond the reaches of a physical classroom. Research from the Department of Education has found online learning is an effective means of absorbing material for undergraduate students, graduate students and professionals. But EdTech also enables a more customized approach to learning.
Students don’t need to watch a lecture and take notes as they once did. Hands-on learners, for example, can benefit from virtual reality capabilities that allow them to engage in real-life scenarios.
Many EdTech solutions also make it possible for earlier interventions when needed. Consider a review of more than 100 studies on education technology. One of the findings is computer-assisted learning has been especially effective in helping students learn math. The reason for this is twofold: These technologies can adapt to students’ needs and also provide timely feedback to instructors.
With real-time feedback, it’s not necessary to wait until an end-of-term exam to determine whether students are absorbing the material. And if a student is falling behind, teachers can make additional resources available to them before it’s too late.
2. The gap between K-12 and higher education will start to close
It’s not news that the most noticeable changes in the EdTech space occur in K-12. It also makes sense. Those classrooms aren’t burdened with pressures like scalability that colleges and universities face. But the chasm between K-12 and higher education classrooms is already starting to close.
Think about how the typical college student’s experience has changed over the last decade or so. Schools have started to provide online lecture streaming, website experiences designed with the user in mind, clickers that offer real-time performance information during class and even voice-enabled smart devices in living spaces. The days of attending a traditional lecture and scribbling notes on paper are long gone.
That said, there’s room for improvement. The Office of Educational Technology calls on higher education institutions to improve their technology capabilities in order to meet students’ needs. This can accommodate more students who may be nontraditional, but it’s also essential to keep pace with the job market. Given how rapidly technology is changing the working world, colleges simply can’t afford to drag their feet.
3. Colleges will start to think about EdTech beyond the classroom
You may have noticed that some technologies mentioned above aren’t directly related to learning. They’re used to provide a better overall experience, which is incredibly valuable. We already see examples of this playing out in health care. For example, hospitals are using artificial intelligence to give patients more autonomy and help reduce potentially fatal falls. Colleges can take the same approach to technology, leveraging it to ensure students’ time in the program is positive.
Providing a good student experience can even begin long before a prospect sets foot on campus. If colleges are smart, they’ll realize how important that is. By creating a streamlined journey for students from the time they express interest in your school all the way through graduation, you can improve their experience while supporting your institution’s goals. Say, for example, a school is trying to reach a new high school market.
That institution could create thousands of brochures, purchase lists of prospective students from organizations like the College Board, mail the documents to those individuals, then wait for some students to read them and visit the listed URL to take next steps. Even for students who make it that far, they then have to navigate the website to find the information that can help illustrate why a particular program would be a good fit for them.
That’s inefficient and costly. Wouldn’t it be better to leverage existing data to reach a specific audience of interested students and take them directly to a webpage featuring information they find most useful? Certainly. Also, consider you could do this for any number of different audiences and degree programs.
The key is making sure all these systems work together. Many colleges have data stored away in different, incompatible systems across different departments. This results in a lot of untapped potential. It takes integrated technology, solutions and services that can seamlessly communicate with one another and aggregate everything into one ecosystem, to make use of all that information. Ideally, you would also have a good support team so you don’t have to navigate the process on your own.
The future of EdTech isn’t the next greatest app or a smart-device-enabled lecture hall. It’s fully realizing how technology can be leveraged to help both your students and your institution. If, for example, you’re interested in finding a better way support your enrollment goals, a new approach to EdTech could be your greatest asset.