Nontraditional but More Collaborative: Edtech Trends for 2019

Opinion | Digital Learning

Nontraditional but More Collaborative: Edtech Trends for 2019

By Eran Ben-Ari     Dec 30, 2018

Nontraditional but More Collaborative: Edtech Trends for 2019

This article is part of the collection: New Year, New Learning: Reflections on Education in 2018 and Beyond.

Eran Ben-Ari was nominated to share his thoughts by Mike Silagadze, who wrote for the project in 2017.

As we look ahead to the future in edtech, we see an industry marked by significant change and stubborn challenges. Within this framework, what significant developments might we expect to see emerge over the coming year? While it’s always risky to make predictions, I believe there were several strong trends from 2018 that suggest the shape of things to come in 2019.

2018: A Lesson Review

One frustration frequently expressed by Top Hat customers has to do with a lack of coordination among edtech solutions. Because the tools have not been designed to work together, faculty often have to juggle several platforms at once. For example, a professor might have to toggle between a learning management system ( LMS) for grading, an e-reader that delivers the textbook, a platform used to present information in class, an app that helps with student participation and a homework solution for out-of-class assignments.

One particular headache we hear often is how LMSs have been admin-centered and designed to streamline back-end operations like course scheduling, curriculum management, grading, and online discussion boards. We are now beginning to see a move toward LMSs that are more collaborative, student-focused and faculty-centered.

These challenges—and the tools and solutions the industry responds with—have real implications on student outcomes. Only 59 percent percent of students who began at a four-year institution in the fall of 2010 had received their bachelor’s degree within six years, with completion rates even lower among low-income students. Meanwhile, research has shown that faculty are the most important components of an effective university-wide student success program. Moreover, faculty interactions with students have been shown to be one of the most effective methods of ensuring student success.

Higher ed is being transformed by growing numbers of first-generation, nontraditional learners who are often working adults with multiple priorities. And, of course, students are bringing more devices to class. The convergence of these challenges is making it much harder for faculty to engage students in traditional lecture-style classes.

To adapt to these changes, professors need to be better equipped with the resources, technology or otherwise, that facilitate better interactions and useful feedback to students. The most innovative institutions are responding by proactively involving faculty and even students in the decision-making process when purchasing new technology.

2019: Reading Ahead

At education conferences, we often hear discussions about new teaching models and faculty who are engaging students in experiential learning, authentic assessment and team-based approaches. Instructors are innovating, and technology could serve to drive cross-departmentally and cross-institutional sharing of best practices, which, in turn, could fuel massive improvements in learning outcomes.

All of this is happening at a time when the ivory tower model of independent, research-focused, tenured faculty is becoming a thing of the past. Currently, 70 percent of faculty are non-tenure track, and many of them are focused on teaching first, not research. This could signal a move toward education models traditionally associated with K-12, with a greater focus on teaching techniques and collaboration on curriculum.

Carefully designed technology that focuses on better communication and classroom collaboration will be key to supporting students as higher education continues to evolve. Our faculty survey shows that faculty have more understanding for how technology can actually reduce distractions and increase student engagement before, during and outside of class. With adequate support, training and tools, instructors can provide students with better feedback as a means of supporting active learning and creating an agile classroom.

When the user experience is at the front and center, students have learning experiences, faculty can cut down on tedious tasks that technology can automate, and administrators gain ways to identify and intervene early with students who need extra support. And these are results that all members of the academic ecosystem would welcome in 2019, and beyond.

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