The Top 3 Higher Ed Trends of 2017


Another year has begun, bringing about new and exciting changes to the Higher Ed industry. We’ve put together a list of trends and predictions for 2017, so you know just what to expect from the year ahead! As traditional learning methods further disintegrate, more and more innovative technologies are becoming available, giving Higher Ed institutions the ability to do a lot more, using fewer resources.

Personalized Learning

Something that has gained a lot of momentum over the last couple of years is personalized learning. Personalized learning focuses on individual students and their particular abilities. It enables teachers to address the unique needs of their students, dismantling the classic one-size-fits-all teaching approach which has been used for so long.

Individualizing students’ learning experiences means adjusting instruction based on both their strengths and weaknesses. Students want to learn in a way that suits their needs and utilizes their unique learning styles.

“I like having a choice of what I get to do”

“I like when it’s challenging, but not to the point where I would want to give up”

“I like staying at my own pace and being able to go ahead, or stay a little behind”

These opinions were expressed by a group of students who were asked about what they feel is required in order for them to succeed in their studies. What do these statements say about learning? It’s all about getting personal. To date, students and teachers were somewhat disconnected, with teachers often delivering learning material in a passive way. However, the implementation of education technology as part of a personalized learning strategy is said to increase student achievement and improve assessment scores by an average of 30%.

In a traditional learning environment, those who were presented with learning exercises that went beyond their capabilities typically lost interest quite quickly, often becoming disruptive in the classroom. On the other side of the scale, the high academic achievers also quickly lost interest in the classroom, as the lessons no longer presented a challenge to them. With personalized learning, this issue is overcome with a student-focused learning model; learning experiences are customized by determining the needs, interests, abilities and aspirations of individual students.

Personalized learning typically merges a variety of learning approaches and instructional methods. Blended learning, authentic learning, and project-based learning are just a few of the alternative instructional methods that are now frequently used. Numerous learning approaches give students the flexibility to learn subject content in a way that best suits their personal requirements. This learning trend is set to grow even further in popularity in the Higher Ed sector this year, with its benefits becoming more acknowledged throughout educational institutions.

Next Generation Assessments

Educational technologies are transforming assessments completely. From the way in which educational assessments are created to the level and depth of what they can assess, and even the ways in which they are analyzed; new-age digital assessments have never been so advanced.

Assessment authoring tools are becoming more user-friendly, giving even teachers the ability to create advanced, engaging assessments in a timely manner. New technology-enhanced items are being created by ed tech companies. These advanced question types go beyond the typical multiple-choice/selected response question format that has been used to date. Technology-enhanced items have the ability to assess deeper thinking skills, examining a student’s thought process throughout the assessment and even demonstrate how he or she got to a particular response. The use of technology-enhanced items in assessments means that students are much more engaged with the content. Instead of learning off answers prior to an exam, students must engage with the learning content. A level of understanding of the material is required to succeed in an assessment.

Advanced assessments also bring about the opportunity for high-quality analytics. Teachers can now analyze how their individual students are doing on a particular subject, comparing them to the entire class, or even the district or state. Traditional pen-and-pencil assessments are marked on a one-by-one basis, providing educators with a limited understanding of the bigger picture. With new age assessments, educators have the ability to easily visualize the data, providing them with valuable insights which can be transformed into constructive feedback.

Big Data, Better Learning

In 2016, 41% of universities took advantage of data and analytics, using it to forecast and predict student success and fail rates. This percentage is set to grow even further this year, as more and more educators are recognizing the benefits of big data for better learning. Not only does data help in understanding student learning, it goes that extra mile and helps improve student learning. Data and analytics can contribute to an increased student retention rate. For example, a university in Norfolk State improved the retention of their at-risk students by measuring their academic aspirations and needs, then, using the gathered information to create and provide a customized first-year experience. More than 8% of undergraduates drop out of university in their first year, costing the university around £33,000 per student. Gathering data on higher ed students can lead to insights around their engagement. Activity around their library use, card swipes into university buildings, VLE use, and, of course, their submission of assessments and coursework can help formulate key identifiers. A combination of this data can reveal whether a student is set to succeed or dropout.

Data is everywhere and can be used to provide rich insights into numerous areas. Teaching and learning can be improved on so many different levels when data-informed decisions are enabled. Educators are given the ability to provide students with the highest quality feedback possible, ultimately enhancing learning experiences by providing students with in-depth ways in which to improve. Educators also have the ability to see the bigger picture. Student success can be measured on an individual level, but also on a larger scale, helping identify important trends.

Higher Ed institutions are putting a much heavier focus on utilizing data in 2017, with hopes to explore the entire student lifecycle in depth using the data. To date, data hasn’t been used to its maximum potential. It’s an exciting time to be in the education sector as the powerful capabilities of data become more recognized.

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