June 7, 2023

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Here’s what 2023 has in store for higher education

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you it’s been a challenging year for both students and faculty in both higher education and K-12. But like any obstacle, it’s been overcome with perseverance and innovation, ultimately carrying us to the other side with hopes of a brighter tomorrow.

As for 2023, there’s a lot to look forward to. Here’s why.

Reflecting on 2022

“This has been a particularly challenging year for educators as they returned for their first full year post the pandemic,” says Trenton Goble, VP of K12 strategy at education technology company Instructure. “Educators exerted a lot of time and emotional energy over the previous two years working to ensure students’ needs were being met. The impact of students being out of school for an extended time has created challenges for teachers as they work to welcome students back to the rigors of a face-to-face learning environment while maintaining support for hybrid and remote learning opportunities.”

This process, he adds, has been both taxing on students and teachers alike.

On the higher education side of things, colleges and universities have had to implement more creative strategies to appeal to students, according to Christi Ford, vice president of academic affairs at D2L, an online learning and teaching software company.

“This year, institutions have had to reevaluate their value proposition,” she says. “As enrollments have fallen in recent years, institutions have needed to find ways to appeal to students—in many cases that’s included embracing technology in new ways as well as implementing more career-based curricula.”

“But with every challenge comes opportunity, and this year we’ve seen a deepening discussion about using optimized online learning. By that, I mean not only developing best practices beyond what was deemed necessary to get through the pandemic but also now using them to solve new challenges, like how to close the gap between employability and what institutions are offering. For everyone, 2022 has refocused the conversation on return on investment.”

Predicting trends for 2023

Without a doubt, education technology will continue to be at the forefront of learning. The task now, Goble says, is to evaluate your district’s use of it and determine what works and what doesn’t.

“I think districts will continue to evaluate the efficacy of the technology-purchasing decisions that were made during the pandemic,” he says. “Districts will look to streamline and optimize the usage of those purchasing decisions and focus on products that clearly demonstrate positive outcomes for users.”

What’s expected for K-12 in 2023, he says, is increased integration and accessibility.

“We have heard from our customers that what they value most is the ability to integrate the tools they are using in a way that provides easy access for students and high-quality, actionable information for teachers that will allow them to better support their students.”

From a higher education perspective, colleges and universities will continue to set their sights on career readiness and student outcomes, both academically and emotionally.

“In our annual State of Student Success in Higher Education survey, now in its third year, career readiness remains the number-one priority for students,” says Ryan Lufkin, VP of product marketing at Instructure. “Preparing students for life after graduation, whether they are traditional students, part-time students, or mid-career, is still the number-one concern for students. faculty and administrators. This has led to an increase in education and career partnerships, with universities working hand-in-hand with companies to roll our programs preparing students for the career skills they need most.”

“Whether it’s Arizona State University and their partnerships with Starbucks and Uber, or the University of Memphis working with FedEx and Nike, students want to know there is a well-paying job waiting for them at the end of their academic journey, and colleges and universities are responding.”

Similarly, Mark Triest, chief business officer of Modern Campus, an engagement and solutions company, said higher education institutions will “pivot their thinking and actions towards non-traditional as the new traditional.” He believes that outcomes, including career pathways to jobs, will continue to grow in importance.

In the meantime, higher education institutions have done a tremendous job implementing technologies to redefine their definitions of student success to ensure positive student outcomes. That trend will likely continue.

“Colleges and universities have evolved their definition of student success beyond year-over-year retention to address factors like student mental health and overall wellbeing,” he says. “Technology supports that by surfacing access to resources in the same technology they’re using for their course work. Simple improvements like linking access to tutoring resources directly within a course can have a measurable impact on student success.”

As a result of the pandemic, Lufkin believes we will see continued growth in remote access to instruction for college students.

“I think we’ll continue to see mobile access to courses and course content continue to grow, with the need to develop more engaging and interactive courseware to keep students engaged wherever they are,” he says. “I think we’ll also see a blurring of the lines between high school, college and re-skilling and upskilling programs into a more lifelong learning approach, where students can showcase their learning achievements to prospective employers and continue to build on that beyond a traditional degree path.”

Now more than ever, students will become even more demanding of their college institutions, according to Vice President of Product and Engagement at Modern Campus Charles Parsons, especially as they battle inflation.

“Students are going to be more critical of how higher ed institutions invest in them relative to the cost of attendance,” he said. “It will take form not just of a degree cost-benefit analysis but also how the institution invests and supports students like them and whether the broader institution reflects their personal values. This will be more pronounced for traditionally underserved populations.”

Furthermore, he adds that our current economic climate will require many students to delay or even reconsider their choice of schools, and administrators should prepare.

“Schools will need to invest in strategies that ensure financial and economic help is both available and easily accessible to students,” said Parsons.

According to Ford, we can also expect to hear more about micro-credentialing, “specifically its usage and applicability,” in higher education.

“The skills gap remains an industry-wide challenge, but I think we’ll see more discussion around whether micro-credentialing is the only answer to it,” she says. “Alternative solutions are possible with online learning technology, and so we may see a reduced focus on micro-credentials as a means to an end. Otherwise, we’ll continue to see conversations around how to increase accessibility in learning and push more data-driven decision-making.”

Many colleges since the pandemic have faced enrollment issues, which have been even further exacerbated by inflation as it forces students to reconsider their choice of colleges. However, Ford says the problem can be mitigated.

“This past fall, we started to see enrollment increase in those first-year students and freshman students coming back,” she says. “However, there is a softening in the market for enrollment. Schools can mitigate these challenges by being strategic and intentional around their enrollment management strategy. For instance, students are now looking to continue their education or participate in workplace training and development to continue growing beyond school. To meet this need, institutions need to help students co-create their learning in these learning spaces and diversify their portfolio.”

Reliance on instructional technologies

As colleges and school districts tread onward through the first year of “normalcy” since the pandemic, will we continue to rely so heavily on instructional technologies as we did during the pandemic? Absolutely.

“I think the pandemic accelerated the adoption and use of technology that districts were moving toward prior to Covid,” says Goble regarding K-12. “The adoption of devices and high-quality digital tools and content will remain a critical part of the classroom moving forward. Because the adoption of technology was broad and quick, I think districts will spend time determining which tools remain efficacious in a more traditional classroom environment while culling or reducing access to those that may not be as relevant.

“The skills that teachers developed during remote learning will also create new opportunities for schools to provide hybrid or remote options for students looking for alternatives to the traditional classroom. It will also enable districts to expand course offerings, especially in smaller districts, that may only make financial sense in a hybrid or remote setting.”

For college students, we’re seeing a shift to focusing on providing them with options regarding how they receive instruction, according to Lufkin.

“In higher education, hybrid and remote learning are most definitely here to stay,” he says. “Our research shows that students are now focused on choice. It’s a relatively new but major shift towards having more of a say in everything from how they attend a course, how, when and where they consume information and the methods for grading and measuring mastery of the information being taught. All of this requires technology to create an environment educators can deliver content to support in-person or online, synchronous or asynchronous learning.”

Additionally, Goble and Lufkin say this is an “interesting time” for education technology. Many barriers to access to technology have essentially been removed for both students and teachers.

“The opportunity for schools to innovate around that technology will be an ongoing challenge for educators, but it will also present opportunities for edtech providers as well,” says Goble. “I think the biggest trends will come from places that put an emphasis on students learning, engagement, well-being, and information that helps educators better meet the needs of their students.”

According to Lufkin, “Continuing to build an ecosystem of solutions that allows for seamless integration with emerging solutions and enables innovation is key.”

Instructional technologies and increased access to them are also beneficial to all learners, especially those with disabilities, according to Ford.

“In 2023, technology will be a gateway to access and opportunity if used correctly,” she says. And regarding hybrid/remote learning, she believes colleges will be shifting their focus slightly.

“Hybrid and remote learning won’t be the focus in 2023,” she says. “Rather, online/asynchronous learning will increase as they give opportunities and better support for all learners. This will help institutions make learning more consumable and force a discussion for faculty and educators regarding end goals—what they want their students to learn and what they’re trying to accomplish in the learning and design space.”

Advice for administrators and educators

“Focus on impact,” Goble says to those on the frontlines of education. “While we know the last year has been particularly challenging for educators, many of our students are behind and need additional support. Technology can be one of those tools to help teachers address students in need… but it has to work. The adoption of technology should improve outcomes for teachers and students.”

It’s crucial to understand the importance of supporting the development of staff as they implement new technologies, he adds, which is “critical to any successful adoption.”

Now that the bar has been raised and students are comfortable with digital learning, according to Lufkin, students don’t want to give it up.

“We always say that good learning technology should disappear into the background and put educators on center stage,” he says. “So finding new and innovative ways to engage students on their learning journey is the surest path to success, and institutions that provide instructional design and support innovative approaches will see the impact on student engagement and success.”


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