Edtech Reports Recap: Pandemic Priorities, Campus Survival and Tech Gaps

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Edtech Reports Recap: Pandemic Priorities, Campus Survival and Tech Gaps

By Frank Catalano (Columnist)     Nov 18, 2020

Edtech Reports Recap: Pandemic Priorities, Campus Survival and Tech Gaps

The pandemic as an opportunity in higher education—and as a measure of continuing gaps for K-12 students. Plus, your fourth grader will exceed you. All in this Edtech Reports Recap.

What is ERR? It’s a new EdSurge column with brief looks at interesting surveys, research and analyses (usually of the non-academic variety) that help put the day-to-day efforts of education professionals and industry players in context. It’s all in the service of helping everyone err on the side of perspective, insight and occasionally puns.

Restore, Evolve or Transform

EDUCAUSE, the nonprofit association that focuses on higher education information technology, has released a 2021 “Top IT Issues” report with a twist: the focus of the annual list is now the role technology could play in helping institutions recover from the pandemic.

In this case, “recover” has varying meanings depending on the current shape of the institution. EDUCAUSE’s expert panel and membership break it down into three scenarios based on the likely impact of technology use for pandemic recovery: Restore (survival), Evolve (adapt by incorporating pandemic lessons) and Transform (accelerating change).

For example, as a twisty infographic illustrates, tech could help shaky “Restore” institutions with cost management and strengthening online education. “Evolve” campuses, which are already handling primary risks to their survival, might focus on student success and partnering for new technology funding sources. EDUCAUSE expects a lot of institutions will see themselves in more than one of these scenarios.

“Transform,” though, is a wholly different animal. It assumes some institutions will use the pandemic as an (and it doesn’t overuse this word) opportunity to either start or accelerate a transformational tech-enabled agenda, from institutional culture to enrollment and recruitment.

EDUCAUSE 2021 “Top IT Issues” report
Source: EDUCAUSE 2021 “Top IT Issues” report

There are five IT issues in each scenario. The report implies they’re appropriate to consider now because “2020 has been a year requiring a decade’s worth of effort and change.”

The pandemic’s biggest change to the report’s issues may be one of relative importance and perspective. As the conclusion notes, “It only took a pandemic to dislodge Information Security from its lock on the #1 spot in the Top 10 IT Issues lists for the past five years.”

What About the College Students?

While higher education institutions deal with survival, undergraduates weigh in on their use of tech in the 2020 EDUCAUSE Student Technology Report, an exhaustive survey of more than 16,000 students from 71 U.S. institutions.

2020 EDUCAUSE Student Technology Report
Source: 2020 EDUCAUSE Student Technology Report

Among the noteworthy nuggets:

  • Nudge me, please. Ninety-two percent of undergraduates who got academic alerts and nudges found them at least moderately useful. The other 8 percent? They said they were already aware and didn’t want a reminder—or a lack of institutional support made the prompts useless.
  • WiFi wins. By far and away, access to WiFi was the most important tech feature when it came to studying, at 96 percent. In second? Access to power outlets, at 69 percent. Access to devices was lower.
  • Opaque privacy. A large proportion of students—49 percent—disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, “I understand how my institution uses my personal data.” Just 22 percent agree or strongly agree.

Both the report and the infographic may not fully reflect the impact of the pandemic, though, since data collection for the October release ended on June 1, 2020.

K-12 Pandemic Gaps Persist

LearnPlatform, which tracks online use of more than 8,000 edtech products, is out with a new analysis that doesn’t bode well for those hoping technology gaps between have and have-not districts would even out over time as the pandemic continued.

The company’s latest analysis—based on what it calls a representative sample of 2.5 million students in more than 250 districts across 17 states—confirms “significant gaps” in usage continue between more affluent districts and higher-poverty districts. LearnPlatform defines more affluent districts as those with fewer than 25 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch; higher-poverty districts are everyone else.

LearnPlatform: Edtech Engagement, Access, and Equity during the Pandemic
Source: LearnPlatform

The company has been running this comparison since February, through the COVID-19 spurred school closures, and into September. The one positive sign is overall “engagement”—apparently defined simply as overall usage—is up from spring to fall 2020. But the “double-digit” usage gaps between more affluent and higher-poverty districts that began in the spring continue.

Hey, Get Off My LAN!

Got a toddler? Get ready to lose your nerd cred when they turn 10.

A recent survey of 2,000 parents from VTech conducted by OnePoll finds that, on average, parents of 3-12 year old children say their kids “will surpass their own tech skills” by the time they’re in the fourth grade. Not surprisingly, the report from the tech toy maker is filled with happy graphics and positive findings about the potential of kids and technology, from “Tech can help children find creative outlets” (50 percent agree) to “Tech will help children in a variety of career paths” (47 percent nod yes).

VTech: kids and technology survey
Source: VTech

A bit less fun is the survey’s finding about when kids were introduced to personal technology: children now ages 3-5 first got their hands on tech at age 2. That’s a full year earlier than children now ages 6-12.

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