As a result of the pandemic, the entire higher education industry has been permanently altered. And though some of the changes that occurred during 2020 will eventually revert back to pre-pandemic days, many will not. The rise of virtual learning, for example, is here to stay. And universities and colleges that are not prepared with the right technology will fall behind.
It’s not always easy to know when a small trend is becoming a full-fledged movement, but as we look across the higher education horizon, there are a few specific ways we see this industry using technology to usher in positive change.
In this article, we’ll explore what they are and why they’re important moving forward.
Big Data and Predictive Analytics = Superior Outcomes
Big data is the lifeblood of successful organizations and corporations throughout the business world. Companies collect millions of data points and then use them to make educated decisions on how to proceed in the face of unknown challenges and opportunities.
It’s only just now that colleges and universities are embracing the shift and becoming data-centric organizations themselves.
What seemed impossible 5 or 10 years ago is now a staple in most large universities. Using big data, schools are able to answer questions like:
- Are students more likely to drop out if they struggle with a specific subject during their freshman year?
- Which students are more likely to seek out academic support? (And do they have a higher graduation rate than those who do not?)
- Does when a student chooses a major impact their chances of graduating on time?
When properly collected and analyzed, big data can provide strikingly accurate answers to questions like these. As a result, they’re better equipped to address widespread problems. This includes the fact that the national average retention rate is 61.1 percent, while the six-year graduation rate is just 59 percent. Data can also help crack the code on why only 40 percent of students will complete a bachelor’s degree in four years (which means 60 percent of all students are coming up short in one area or another).
Over time, the collection of data will give school administrators the ability to identify trends and develop strategies and initiatives that attempt to increase the likelihood of all students. Likewise, predictive analytics are being used to predict certain outcomes in advance.
Predictive analytics uses a combination of data, machine learning, and statistical algorithms to identify the likelihood of a future outcome based on what is already known about the various factors and inputs.
“Predictive analytics can raise the likelihood students will get the classes they need to graduate by identifying likely demand for certain topics based on historical course-taking patterns and suggesting a need to either add or eliminate scheduled courses,” Keith Rajecki writes for eCampusNews. “The technology can also determine which courses a student can take, based on history, to maximize their odds of doing well in their major.”
While it’s still very much in the early stages of adoption and implementation, predictive analytics has a future in higher education. In fact, it’s a top consideration for most large college and university CIOs.
Advanced and Immersive Learning Takes Center Stage
We’re seeing a significant rise in the role of immersive learning experiences, particularly in areas like healthcare, counseling, and higher education training. Thanks to significant advances in simulation technology, classroom-based learning is taking on a totally new meaning.
One of the technologies leading this charge is our very own VALT platform. This innovative software solution gives instructors the ability to create and manage their own internal video databases that are fully encrypted, secure, and searchable. But perhaps the best feature is the live support and functionality.
The VALT platform fully integrates with all Axis IP cameras to capture and stream HD content. Users can observe up to 9 rooms at a time using 2x2 or 3x3 camera layouts and pan-tilt-zoom features to get the proper angles. And with talkback features, users can speak to students during simulations and training exercises to provide real-time guidance and feedback.
Moving forward, we expect to see even more advanced and immersive learning technologies incorporated into college and university classrooms. The result is a more valuable education that prepares students for life beyond the classroom.
The Push Beyond Four-Year Campus Experiences
For decades, the four-year on-campus experience has been the gold standard of college education. And up until recently, nobody has ever questioned the framework. But 2020 forced many universities and colleges to adapt. In the process, it became evident that there are more flexible and cost-effective options. Moving forward, there will be a push beyond four-year campus experiences. Supplementary and alternative methods of learning are about to take off.
One idea being considered in large universities is outsourced instruction for commoditized parts of the curriculum. In other words, lectures that teach very basic 101-level concepts and require minimal personalization or human interaction can be recorded as presentations and watched at a student’s own pace. They can even be delivered by non-university instructors or as part of online platforms like Coursera.
“For such courses, technology platforms can deliver the content to very large audiences at low cost, without sacrificing one of the important benefits of the face-to-face (F2F) classroom, the social experience, because there is hardly any in these basic-level courses,” Harvard Business Review explains.
The benefits of this approach are mutual. For universities, it frees up resources and allows instructors to spend more time doing things like research, office hours, and mentorship. For students, it creates more flexibility, lowers costs, and leaves time to pursue faculty office hours, complete group assignments, and enjoy hobbies and extracurriculars.
With this approach – which is basically a hybrid approach – lower level classes would be outsourced and/or taught in an on-demand, DIY fashion, while the bulk of upper level classes would still rely on in-person, campus-based instruction from university professors.
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