4 predictions about how colleges will leverage technology to support students
If the pandemic has taught the ed-tech market anything in the past 18 months, it’s that educational technology must be able to adapt its programs, platforms, and processes in nearly real time as things change. Administrators are looking to invest in software and digital platforms that foster different learning modalities and that engage students, all while ensuring accessibility and equity. Students need to feel connected to their courses and campuses regardless of how they are attending school.
While it dominated models during the pandemic, hybrid and online learning will continue to find a home in higher education even as we try to manage COVID and emerge from pandemic lockdowns. Ed-tech tools can fill in the gap by providing engaging online experiences that make curricula more relevant and that also advance students’ sense of community.
We’re continually talking with experts at universities and colleges about the needs and expectations of their campus populations and have some insights to share about student engagement for 2022 and beyond.
1. There is a need for centralized access to information.
Students expect to have instant access to information, so schools strive to provide constant communication regarding campus directions, counseling services, dining menus, registration, class and shuttle schedules, and more. However, this information may live in many different places, which can make it difficult to access.
In 2022, institutions will continue moving towards consolidating this information into an integrated application, so learners don’t have to log into various systems to search for answers to their questions. For Steve Sedlock, digital marketing and communications manager at The University of Akron, a streamlined and simplified mobile experience is one his institution’s 2022 goals “to make sure all of [their] app users have the same great experience.”
Schools are also expanding app communication processes so students can access information anywhere, anytime, through text, portal messaging, and chatbots for the entire campus or targeted groups—with options to opt-in or out of specific features, improving student control over the communication they receive. Ryan Seilhamer, assistant director of mobile strategy and innovation at the University of Central Florida states, “Creating better access to data, making it easier to discover relevant campus experiences, and offering open and transparent communication is something we have to continue to grow in 2022.”
2. Next-level personalization will refine and integrate.
As Sedlock aptly states, “The trend will continue to be personalization, but in 2022 it will be refined.” This personalization will come in the form of dashboards that integrate across campus data systems to provide students with the information that is relevant to their schedules, preferences, and overall success. For example, Sedlock imagines that students might “get a notification of today’s vegan lunch menu because [they’ve] let them know [their] meal preferences…We’ll see less requiring students to regularly log into various systems to see personalized info, and now we’ll simply deliver it.”
And not only will information be personalized, but there will also be clear avenues to capture immediate student feedback so that the experiences can be constantly iterated and improved. Through larger surveys and micro-feedback such as Quick Polls, schools will shine a spotlight on the significance of student voices, and the technology schools use will need to be adaptable to a college population’s needs. Aaron Rester, assistant vice president of web development at Roosevelt University in Chicago, has already witnessed the beginnings of this trend. “I’m seeing more schools trying to capture feedback from their students in realtime, which is very encouraging.”
3. We’ll see more deliberate use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
Seilhamer anticipates that these technologies, which are already at our fingertips via ubiquitous smartphones, will be used more deliberately in the coming year: “I think the unrealized potential is simply taking advantage of the immense technology in a modern smartphone which includes enhancing the location-based experience, adding better integration with digital ID cards, and exploring augmented reality.”
Sedlock agrees: “As new technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence enter the app space, we’ll see even more dynamic engagement opportunities for students.”
Additionally, human-assisted artificial intelligence has increased automated grading and teaching assistant programs, reducing time-consuming tasks and improving accuracy and consistency. As a result, educators using AI can lessen redundant responsibilities and facilitate their focus back to their students.
4. Mobile tech will improve personal student-to-student connections and build campus culture.
Finally, in 2022 technology will be used to foster connections and make the college experience easier to navigate. Rester states, “I think the next great frontier is being able to use our mobile technology to better connect students with each other.”
Sedlock similarly affirms, “We hope to make campus less daunting and offer a reliable and dependable personal interaction.” In the coming year, expect to see educational technology play an integral role in building campus culture—enriching engagement through safe socialization, sending notifications for campus events, and providing more ways for students to connect and support each other both in-person and online.
Matt Willmore is the senior director of product marketing at Modo Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts.