The 2013 Educause Conference in Anaheim, Calif., in October featured more than 250 exhibitors and nearly 7,500 registered attendees discussing everything from MOOCs (massive online open courses) to data security to social media. Here are some of the top trends that experts see coming in 2014:
>> MOOCS: This is a big area of contention among professional educators. Harvard, M.I.T., Caltech, and the University of Texas have together pledged tens of millions of dollars to MOOC development. Many other schools like U.C. Berkeley and Princeton, have climbed aboard over the past two years. “I expect that there will be lots of free, or nearly free, offerings available,” John L. Hennessy, the president of Stanford, has explained. “While the gold standard of small in-person classes led by great instructors will remain, online courses will be shown to be an effective learning environment, especially in comparison with large lecture-style courses.”
But there’s another side to the story. Claire Schooley of Forrester Research has said, “Employers are often hesitant about hiring graduates with an online degree. It helps that many online colleges are accredited, but HR people just feel there may not have been enough interaction with other students online. Also, companies need more experience with online education degree programs. If they get that experience and see the proficiency, they will hire.”
>> Open versus traditional learning: Don Kilburn of Pearson says that “the next wave in education is going to be open, with shared data and collaborating faculty.” But other entrants in the e-learning market fear that such an approach will create a closed loop that would allow companies like Pearson to monopolize their own markets. In summary, Fortune magazine’s John Marshall Crotty has written: “As a bellwether of what is happening generally in … educational publishing … may be less about Gutenberg and more about technology services and consulting. What is clear … is that the future of educational publishing will be digital, social, and freely accessible, right to your mobile device.”
>> Mobile devices: “Everyone was walking around with iPads, Macs, and, somewhat less frequently, Windows laptops,” noted ZDNet’s Christopher Dawson. “Not a single person asked if the software my company was demonstrating was compatible with Linux. Developers, engineers, and marketing types alike on the showroom floor were Mac-ing it up, and, among instructors and college staff, Windows 7 and OS X were the only operating systems I observed.”
>> Maturation of Web platforms: Dawson added: “The biggest overall takeaway…was the growing importance and maturity of Web platforms for education. Learning management systems, content management systems (and hybrids of the two), databases, and the like have come a very long way from the default choice of Blackboard. Even Blackboard is rapidly building out mobile platforms and introducing new features rapid fire to keep up [with] a growing cache of competitors.”
>> Creative technology: “Want to develop an app that can recommend the best courses, videos or other resources for your students, based on their specific needs and interests?” Jake New of eCampus News asks. “There’s a new grant for that. Ed-tech firm Instructure is giving $100,000 in grants to K-12 and higher-education projects that use technology in creative ways.”
>> I.T. concerns: “Updating I.T. professionals’ skills and roles to suit new technologies and evolving I.T. management and service delivery models is the number one I.T. issue facing today’s colleges and universities,” according to a recent Educause report. The report analyzed the top ten I.T. issues, as identified by a research panel of 19 member institutions from across the country. Other top trends: I.T. “consumerization” and the bring-your-own-device philosophy.
However, the top challenges facing campus technology leaders today “are no longer about I.T.,” said Casey Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project. “Technology is almost linear by comparison” to all of the other demands that campus I.T. leaders face, such as managing people, policies, priorities, and egos.
—More info: www.educause.edu/annual-conference