Key Trends Boosting Technology Adoption In Higher Education Sector

The “Horizon Report > 2015 Higher Education Edition” report by New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative studies key developments in education technology pertaining to the higher education sector. The report predicts emerging edtech trends that will shape and impact higher learning for the next five years.

For this report, an expert panel of 56 technology experts across 17 countries explored trends, policies, technologies as well as challenges in the near, mid and long term in the higher ed landscape. From these discussions, six trends and six technologies were identified as being the most likely to impact technology-planning and decision-making for varsities over the next five years.

Trends Boosting the Adoption of Technology in Higher Education

Futuristic learning spaces


Short term: 1 – 2 years
Rising Use of Blended Learning
Blended learning – where students learning through content and material delivered via digital and online media – has given rise to non-traditional schools and students the freedom to learn in alternative ways. The focus on data collection allows in-depth understanding of students and customization of instruction with more flexibility and ease to deliver course materials and support. Online learning will continue to mature leading to more stability and recognized acceptance thereby driving growth in this area.

Redesigned Learning Spaces
Spaces for teaching and learning are also evolving, by re-thinking environments to facilitate more active learning. Learning settings are being transformed to be student-centered and encourage interactions and collaborations focusing on mobility, flexibility and multiple device usage. Classrooms are also moving away from traditional lecture-based learning to hands-on settings to mirror real-world work and social environments.

MOOC modern learning


Mid term: 3 – 5 years
Increasing Focus on Measuring Learning

Learning and assessment fueled by data is rising. Learning analytics – using big data to create and track students learning and build better tools for teaching – continues to provide key insights into student interaction with materials delivered online and overall student progress. Such data-driven learning will continue to leverage from these efforts to better manage learning and education for the digital age.

Proliferation of Open Educational Resources
Wikipedia describes open educational resources or OER as “freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. As such, instructional materials are available for free and also free to use, which is great for universities.



Long term: 5 years or more
Growing Cross-Institution Collaborations
An increasing number of institutions are coming together by combining resources, research and technology in order to increase accessibility, offering, affordability and overall quality, examples of which include Unizin, Open Cloud Consortium, BCNET and The World University Consortium. The growing trend towards technology-driven learning has given rise to open communities and consortium of universities as a sustainable means to support tech upgrades.

Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation
Education is looking into agile startup models to spur innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. Programs based on entrepreneurial methods are being worked on by educators and thought leaders to with the goal of having a more cost-effective system that better impact communities. Taking cue from business that use technology as a catalyst to promote innovative thinking, educators want to enhance creativity, entrepreneurship and flexibility.


Key Developments in EdTech for Higher Education

BYOD bring your own device


Time to adoption: 1 year or less
BYOD – Bring Your Own Device
BYOD, sometimes referred to as BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) is whereby students bring their own smart device – laptops, tablet, cell, etc – into the learning environment. It was a natural progression as most students already do this; thereby, institutions have responded by making it mandatory. Despite foreseeable challenges in IT security, tech gap issues and platform compatibility, many models are being explored to ensure BYOD becomes mainstream in higher education.

Flipped classroom
Flipped classrooms explore the model of re-looking how time is balanced between in and out of classrooms, with the goal of empowering students to take ownership of learning. Students come more prepared for lessons by exploring material at home with e-tools like podcasts, videos or digital books, which in turn save teacher valuable time too!

google glass gglass glass


Time to adoption: Two to three years
In line with trends to re-arrange the learning space, makerspaces infuses technology like 3D printers, robotics, laser cutting and textiles to make for an active work environment fueled by creativity. Students can have actual hands-on experience to engineer products thereby resulting in a more wholesome and tangible learning experience.

Wearable Tech
Much of today’s demand for wearable tech like Google Glass, smart watches and fitness tracker come from college students. Advances in VR (virtual reality) now allow virtual campus tours and even first person view of medical procedures for med students. Educators are continuing to explore how wearables can be further integrated into higher learning.

internet of things


Time to adoption: Four to fiver years
Adaptive Learning Technologies
Leveraging on big data and machine learning technologies, adaptive learning offer a personalized learning approach that adapt to a student’s learning style and gives feedback, all in real-time. Educators believe that such adaptive platforms will fill the gap on offering personalized instruction at a large scale.

The Internet of Things
This refers to a network of things – everyday items – that are connected to the web. In higher education, it is hoped the IoT is used with a potential “hypersituation” – ability to intensify knowledge based on user location. Here, learners gather crowdsourced data or personalized materials and assessment from the online community. With this, students then self-learn and collect real-time information and feedback to further study.