Higher Education Technology Trends

Higher Education Technology Trends

As the higher-education industry seeks to remain competitive by delivering value to current and future students, while managing their own costs in the face of declining enrollment and the adoption of online platforms for education, educational technology has moved to the forefront of the evolution of the higher education business model. Three educational technology trends include technology-supported remote exam proctoring, AI-enabled academic video content, and technology that ensures data privacy in the face of an increasingly data-driven industry. Additional insights surrounding perceptions and concerns about higher education, and considerations for the longer-term business model of higher education institutions, follow.

HIGHER EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY TRENDS

1. Technology-Supported Remote Proctoring

DESCRIPTION

  • Remote proctoring, or online proctoring, uses technology to digitally supervise an online exam taken in a remote location.
  • As online enrollment increases at higher education institutions, the need to provide solutions to monitor testing remotely will increase.
  • There are a number of variations in remote proctoring, including live proctoring (real-time video monitoring), review proctoring (technology-enabled video review after the exam), artificial intelligence-based monitoring to detect testing issues, and hybrid-live monitoring, a combination AI-enabled and live monitoring.
  • This trend is driven by the increase in elearning and growth in enrollment for online higher education, and the consequent need to manage testing remotely to ensure integrity in the testing process.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Technologies supporting remote proctoring include facial recognition, which matches facial features with the picture on an ID card, and biometric keystroke technology.
  • Examity, a remote proctoring provider for higher education, uses the online computer camera to detect unexpected movements of the test-taker. They employ 500 remote proctors in India, who monitor the remote testing.
  • ProctorTrack by Verificient highlights the benefits of their remote proctoring services, including integration with commonly-used higher-ed learning platforms and their usage of machine learning and automated biometric systems to provide automated and ongoing exam proctoring.

BENEFITS

  • Remote proctoring technology provides multiple benefits to a higher ed institution, including the ability to monitor multiple test takers and supporting the validity and integrity of the remote testing process. Legitimacy in the testing process boosts the credibility of the institution and their online learning processes, and potentially benefits enrollment.
  • Ensuring the legitimacy of remote exams benefits both the instructors (whose teaching is verified through exam performance and demonstrated learning) and institutions, who invest significant amounts of money in their teaching staff, and want to ensure they are performing as expected.
  • The primary benefit for students associated with high-quality remote proctoring is the fairness in the testing process.
  • For both the institution and student, remote proctoring offers cost-savings over in-person proctoring services.

2. Personalized AI-Enabled Academic Video Content

DESCRIPTION

  • Academic videos are delivered as live-stream or on-demand content and can potentially be used to boost personalization in learning.
  • Universities found that students would prefer to learn via video than textbook. In a 2018 study conducted by Mediasite and University Business, 90% of future college and university students said they expect on-demand academic videos.
  • There is a predisposition among Gen-Z, who represent current and future college students, for “Netflix-Style” content delivery. AI-driven video delivery is considered to be a key delivery model for higher education to meet the needs of these students in the future.
  • Based on a 2018 survey around AI-enabled video content delivery, college and university leaders increasingly view AI-enabled video delivery as an opportunity to strengthen teaching (59%), provide personalized learning (60%), and improve the overall student experience (64%).

TECHNOLOGY

  • Artificial intelligence used in combination with streaming video is used to help students find the academic videos most important to them, facilitating personalization through adaptation.
  • When asked their opinions of the potential of AI-enabled video to improve student outcomes, 66% of college and university leaders said benefits would include “using student data to personalize learning”, while 63% thought AI-enabled video would help increase graduation rates.
  • In the next 1-2 years, university and college leaders say they plan to use AI for adaptive learning software (22%), video capture of lectures and developing video ‘playlists’ (20%), and intelligent ‘metadata’ search (19%).

BENEFITS

  • Video delivery provides students with an immediate, engaging, learning experience.
  • Higher education institutions benefit by delivering learning in a format that meets the needs of the current and future generation of college and university students.

3. Data Privacy Initiatives Supporting Technology-Driven University Programs

DESCRIPTION

  • Data privacy has moved from regulatory compliance to ensuring the ethical use of data.
  • Technology continues to increase in use across the higher-education industry, given the need to optimize productivity and operations and deliver strong educational offerings in a highly-competitive higher-ed landscape.
  • The need to balance technology-driven personalization, online content delivery options, and AI-driven data mining, brings about issues associated with data privacy and security.
  • Students expect security in their personally-identifiable information, and also expect a smooth experience with respect to their role in ensuring data privacy.
  • Educause, a non-profit that addresses challenges and identified opportunities in the higher-ed industry, noted that data privacy is the #2 IT concern for the higher-ed industry.
  • In addition to multiple experts noting data privacy as a trend in the industry, Inside Higher Ed, a digital media platform focused on higher education, highlights the prominence of the data privacy officer role in higher education, with privacy officers and teams now observed across a number of institutions. Celeste Schwartz, Chief Digital Officer at Montgomery County Community College, commented on this trend, “I think most colleges will have privacy officers in the next five to seven years.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Technology used in higher education ensures data privacy efforts address screening (how data users are screened), user authorization and access, and risk reduction to ensure the privacy of individuals whose data may be collected.
  • Cloud-based systems are being used in higher education to mitigate cybersecurity threats, as well as protect individual data (students, faculty, and other staff).
  • Blockchain technology has been used to address cybersecurity concerns across campuses as well, by protecting student records and data.
  • Ensuring data privacy and security involves coupling data-privacy technology with policies and procedures, such as deciding how long to keep data and records.
  • Third-party suppliers are also involved in ensuring data privacy. For example, Baylor University recently implemented contract provisions to ensure their suppliers meet privacy laws and regulations.

BENEFITS

  • Data privacy and security technologies allow colleges and universities to remain competitive and continue to offer technology-based initiatives that offer personalized learning, optimize productivity, and drive cost-savings through remote programs. Nearly half (49%) of universities in a 2018 Ovum white paper said they had programs based on data analytics, underscoring the importance of data privacy in protecting the users providing this data.
  • Benefits for students include meeting their expectation for private and secure data, while benefiting from the data-driven programs that support their education.

HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE WAKE OF COVID-19

1. College Affordability Concerns May Impact College Decisions

HIGHER ED PERCEPTIONS AMONG STUDENTS AND FAMILIES

  • According to a survey of 486 prospective college students, conducted by Art & Science, a higher education consulting firm, 17% of those who planned to attend a 4-year college or university prior to COVID-19, have now changed their plans.
  • Cost concerns are driving the change in plans, with 21% of respondents in the Art & Science survey saying they did not believe they could afford their first choice college. Thirty-two percent of prospective students said they were considering a “less expensive institution”.
  • Another recent survey of 4,448 high school seniors in the CollegeXPress database reinforces these cost concerns, with confidence in the ability to afford college declining from 32% before COVID-19 to 23% following COVID-19. This trend was especially notable among under-represented minority and low-socioeconomic groups.
  • Concerns surrounding debt associated with college remains the same, while parents are now concerned about removing money from their 529 plans given economic and stock market turmoil. Nearly 29% of families recently surveyed by Quatromoney and TuitionFit are concerned about losing tuition money, and claim college plans may change for that reason.

LONGER TERM CONSIDERATIONS FOR HIGHER ED INSTITUTIONS

  • Carnegie Dartlet, a higher education marketing company, notes that concerns about college cost and affordability are common following a crisis or recession. Their recommendations to higher ed institutions, based on learning from the 2008 economic crisis, include designing creative plans to address financial need, avoiding reliance on student loans to address funding issues, and ensuring a continued and strong value proposition.

2. Prospective Students Value Communication and Virtual Visits

HIGHER ED PERCEPTIONS AMONG STUDENTS AND FAMILIES

  • Prospective college students are seeking a higher level of communication from colleges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Carnegie Dartlet survey.
  • Typically, about half of prospective students want to hear from colleges and universities once a week or more. Since COVID-19, two-thirds of prospective students want to hear from institutions once a week or more, driven largely by uncertainty with the current state of the world.
  • Email, text, social media, and virtual tours are their preferred way of connecting with prospective institutions. The vast majority (80%) would like to hear from the admission counselor.
  • Prospective students are open to choosing schools without an in-person visit, but they strongly feel that a remote virtual visit option must be offered prior to selecting a school.
  • Many higher-ed institutions are working toward connecting with their prospective students. Harvard is offering “virtual vistas“, which are online events and videos. They also moved their admitted school-day online.
  • Princeton sought to reassure applicants with a tweet, “Please note: The coronavirus outbreak and its effects have no impact on how we evaluate applicants to the University. Every application will receive our full consideration.”

LONGER-TERM CONSIDERATIONS FOR HIGHER ED INSTITUTIONS

  • Some industry experts are highlighting the move to virtual visitation as a result of COVID-19 as an opportunity to modify the long-held practice of requiring visitation to colleges, which benefits higher-income students who can afford to travel.
  • Jenny Rickard, Executive Director of Common App, reflects on the ability of virtual visits to meet the needs of underserved groups over the longer-term, citing, “…the impact of COVID-19 is driving new, creative thinking for providing virtual and other alternatives to the tried and true campus visit to market their institutions to prospective students”.
  • Dean of Admission at TCU, Heath Einstein, notes that, “COVID-19 forces us to creatively consider how to turn the in-person events into virtual programs, applying a multi-channel approach. Since not everyone has resources to visit campus, these virtual options can have an equalizing effect.”

3. Safety Concerns Having Some Impact On College Decisions

HIGHER ED PERCEPTIONS AMONG STUDENTS AND FAMILIES

  • Safety concerns during COVID-19 emerge as a factor influencing decisions to change school choices, though to a lesser extent than affordability.
  • Roughly 22% of families of prospective college students in the Quatromoney/TuitionFit survey cited being ‘afraid of getting the coronavirus’ as a reason to reconsider their college choice. Roughly one-third of respondents are more strongly considering schools closer to home, and 10% are thinking about a ‘safer area’ for college.

LONGER-TERM CONSIDERATIONS FOR HIGHER ED

  • Safety protocols, specifically related to Covid-19, have been initiated at college campuses based on recommendations from the CDC.
  • CDC guidance offers the opportunity for higher education institutions to build out their safety plans to ensure they are in place for the longer-term.
  • Developing comprehensive student health planning and response protocols to respond effectively to a health emergency, reviewing and updating emergency response plans, working closely with health agencies to determine whether to suspend events and classes, and developing contingency plans for students studying abroad are some ways higher education institutions can prepare themselves for future crises, as well as reassure incoming students about their safety.

Research Strategy

We identified trends in higher educational technology by reviewing information surrounding future trends in the usage and adoption of educational technology to deliver benefits to students, teachers, and the institutions themselves. The trends selected were informed by multiple expert publications, surveys among college and university leaders, and by higher-education industry experts. We also leveraged insights from top educational technology providers to provide additional detail.


Insights surrounding how students and families are thinking about higher education in the wake of COVID-19 were derived from multiple surveys, conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also leveraged expert publications (Forbes, in particular) and higher education industry expert perspectives (such as Inside Higher Ed) to provide additional insights into how the higher education industry may be able to evolve their approaches and business models longer-term to provide a better and more equitable student experience and improve their own operations, in the wake of issues raised in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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