Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on Nov 21, 2017
Educational institutions continuously work to achieve excellence and stay current and relevant. In a context of restricted resources and countless demands, they have to do more with less and make smart investment decisions. Here are some of the trends higher education institutions should invest in to become student-focused and ensure sustainability.
1. Student-centered Marketing and Services
How is your institution communicating with students? How well do you know your target audience? Are you effectively explaining to students the return on investment of their program of choice? And when students need help, how quickly can they get an answer or a solution from the institution? Making sure communications and services are tailored to different student personas and profiles will help increase enrollments and improve retention. This can be done through specialized outsourcing, allowing institutions to better understand the students they are serving beyond demographics, but in terms of their needs and preferences. When that load is taken off institutions, it is easier for them to focus on their field of expertise: academics, teaching, and learning.
2. Learning Analytics and Cognitive Solutions
Using data to improve learning and the student experience is currently one of the strongest trends in education. Meeting student needs in a timely manner can sometimes be challenging, however, that’s where learning analytics and cognitive computing can certainly help. Imagine if, based on the information available, you could predict students’ difficulties or anticipate answers to their questions. It’s a powerful resource meant to be an ally to those who support students.
3. Mobile Technologies
Smartphone usage is rising, and most people spend several hours a day looking at their small screens.1 Media experts say that we now live in an “attention economy,” an approach that treats human attention as a scarce commodity or a valuable currency. If people are spending most of their free time on their smartphones, mobile is a convenient way to deliver education to students and is also a critical way to raise engagement levels through real-time communication. All activities in apps designed for students and instructors, such as video-conference sessions, tend to be optimized for smartphones and tablets, hence why communication doesn’t have to be so concentrated in the classroom.
4. Smart Investment Decisions
It can be very challenging for an institution to make big investment decisions, and technology is certainly an important factor here. Investing in technology fads may be frustrating when you find out that students have quickly moved on to something new. Although it can be hard to tell how education and technological resources may shift in the future, technology should be chosen considering long term availability and scalability.
5. Shorter Credentials
Affordability is a big deal for most students. In fact, it’s the number one concern for all student generations, as shown by recent studies.2 Another important issue is time. Many students do not want (or need) a bachelor’s or graduate degree. What do they want? Short-term credentials, workshops, and seminars. That is, education that takes less time and money, and allows them to learn a competency or skill more quickly. In particular, short-term credentials allow students to continuously learn while maintaining an ongoing relationship with the institution, and many universities are already investing in this approach with great success.
6. Experiential Learning
Learning through experience is not a new concept, but many institutions still fail to make experiential opportunities such as travel, internships or immersions accessible. Such experiences are proven to accelerate learning, promote mindset changes and increase engagement. They also deliver an extraordinary return on investment, which is something that students need to consider when choosing a program or credential. Even when activities like these are available, they are not always featured. Many institutions are starting to use experiential learning as a way to differentiate themselves and add value to their programs. Beyond that, they want students to see the benefits of combining inside and outside classroom work.
7. Career Outcomes
If your institution is not thinking seriously about how to be more involved with employers, think again. Reducing the gap between university and employers is a big opportunity to offer your students the career outcomes they are hoping for. How to do that? Interacting with employers, understanding the skills and competencies they are looking for, and even going as far as customizing the curriculum and/or programs based on their needs. Some universities have already been working on this for a long time, while others are just starting to explore it, but it’s definitely a big trend to watch out for now and in the coming future.
1Perez, S. (2017, March 03). U.S. consumers now spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices. Retrieved October 19, 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/u-s-consumers-now-spend-5-hours-per-day-on-mobile-devices.
2Blackboard/UPCEA. (2017, June). Navigating Generational Shifts: Understanding Today’s Student Demographics, Preferences and Expectations. Retrieved September 12, 2017, from http://www.blackboard.com/resources/pdf/bbupceawhitepaperpresssinglepages%5B1%5D.pdf.