Jan 12 2017

Data Analytics, Cybersecurity Top 2017 Higher Ed Tech Trends

The trends for this year push forward on innovations that began in 2016.

Courses that educators can adapt any time based on student learning data. Hackers empowered by artificial intelligence. Augmented reality used in conjunction with campus maps.

All of these technologies are on the horizon in 2017.

This past year, higher education saw a boost in the use of technologies like predictive analytics, cloud, and augmented and virtual reality — and research indicates that these trends will only continue to rise.

About 41 percent of higher ed IT leaders said their organizations will increase spending on tech in 2017, reports University Business in their trends and predictions report, “Outlook 2017.”

The top three areas of spending include general classroom tech — such as lecture capture and audiovisual equipment, network and data security, and cloud computing and storage. The latter is no surprise as a 2016 MeriTalk survey also found 81 percent of higher ed IT leaders said they will spend more on cloud in the coming year.

In addition to cloud and security, universities will explore data and other innovations in 2017.

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Data Will Continue to Play a Part in Business Decisions

Data analytics as a higher education decision-driver rose to the forefront last year with universities using predictive analytics to support student success.

Schools like Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Kentucky have used data to boost retention and identify students who might be at risk of dropping out, and University of Maryland University College has used automation driven by data to save money.

For 2017, EDUCAUSE named data-informed decision-making and data management to its top 10 IT issues list, and many experts agree that data will continue to be a focal point in higher ed — for both student success and cost-effective decision-making.

“Count on an increased focus on the use of predictive analytics to improve student success metrics such as student retention and time to graduation,” Melissa Woo, vice president of IT and CIO at Stony Brook University, told Education Dive. “Although this has been the case for some time, as funding continues to be more challenging, campuses will seek greater efficiencies through automation to decrease operational/administrative expenses.”

The next step in predictive analytics seems to be the development of adaptive learning programs that use data to personalize courses in order to increase graduation rates. After several pilot programs, Campus Technology reports that these schools have decided to make 15 to 20 percent of general education courses adaptive learning programs by fall 2019.

Oregon State University told Campus Technology that they are focusing their initial efforts on heavy-enrollment courses like college algebra, psychology and chemistry because they have high attrition rates.

“A faculty member can come into the classroom with 200 students and know that a majority struggled with three particular problems and decided to focus on those with their class time. That is the value of analytics,” says Julie Greenwood, associate dean for undergraduate studies at Oregon State.

The Growing Importance of Security

For the past 10 years, higher education institutions have been the victim of 539 breaches, University Business reports.

Most notable were the hacks of personal information of 63,000 students and staff at the University of Central Florida, and a breach that compromised the financial data of 80,000 faculty, students and alumni at the University of California, Berkeley.

The University Business survey also found that the number of respondents who said their institutions were victims of a cyberattack rose from 12 percent to 29 percent in a year.

More than a quarter of respondents said their universities would pay “special attention” to cybersecurity in 2017.

At higher ed institutions, a new kind of scam is on the rise. Tuition fraud by hackers targeting foreign students occurred on at least two campuses last year, eCampus News reports.

In a scam on a popular Chinese social media app, approximately 90 Chinese students from the University of Washington were told they could save 5 percent of their summer tuition and were swindled out of up to $1 million, The Seattle Times reports.

It is likely that hackers will continue to get craftier in all realms. TIME predicts that hackers will grow smarter in 2017 and use innovations like artificial intelligence to make attacks even easier to execute.

In terms of physical security, a whopping 81 percent of University Business respondents said they will use tech to boost safety, as tools like biometric access, smart cards and IP-enabled security cameras have become more affordable.

New Tech Innovations on the Horizon

Last year, augmented reality was brought into the spotlight by the quick success of Pokémon Go. TIME predicts AR, rather than VR, will flourish outside of the video game market, beginning this year.

In a Q&A, Nuno Couto, founder of eCampus News, told the site he believed AR and VR use by universities would increase in the next year as a way to “differentiate themselves from other universities.”

AR has been identified as a great tool for guided tours and wayfinding — or knowing where you are, where you are going and how to get there — and could be implemented at colleges, USA Today reports. A research paper published in the Journal of Special Education Technology reported that AR “can improve wayfinding skills of students with intellectual disabilities (ID) in an easy and convenient way.”

Though only 100,000 AR devices were sold in 2016, International Data Corp estimates sales of AR devices will skyrocket to 15 million by 2020.

Jacob Ammentorp Lund/Thinkstock

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