Jan 30 2017

Department of Education’s Higher Ed Tech Plan Puts Focus on Data Analytics and Online Education

The 2017 report outlines how technology can be reimagined at universities.

Technology can empower higher education students to boost their grades or attend classes despite other responsibilities — or locations. The Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology hopes that all universities will take advantage of the possibilities technology can create for students.

In “Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education,” the 2017 addendum to the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, the OET outlines how leaders in higher ed should use tech to create “everywhere, all-the-time learning and ensure greater equity and accessibility to learning opportunities over the course of a learner’s lifetime.”

Enrollment in higher education has increased for many years, and the report indicates that technology has the ability to spread access, boost retention and prepare students for the future. To help do this, the OET has provided design principles in its report that can make institutions more student-centered.

Data Analytics Can Help Pave the Way for Success

It is hardly news that universities are now using predictive analytics to streamline the advising process and more easily recognize struggling students, two principles the OET report outlines.

However, some schools are training students to work with data themselves.

A Fortune article indicates that 25 million new jobs related to technology — like cloud computing, Big Data and the Internet of Things — will be created in the next 15 years. In its report, the OET stipulates that a big component of a student-centered education is to prepare students for postsecondary work.

At Northeastern University, students who participate in Level, a two-month data analytics “boot camp,” work with employers on real analytics problems and leave the program prepared to work with data in some capacity, a news article on the university’s website reports.

Beyond its use in dashboards for academic advisers, data can also help students pave a path to graduation, both in and outside of class.

At Austin Peay State University, students use an analytics-powered course recommendation system called Degree Compass. The tool, highlighted as a success story in OET’s report, is designed to help students choose “the courses that best fit their talents and program of study for upcoming semesters.”

Adaptive courses that use analytics to provide real-time feedback to educators have started to trend in higher education. OET’s report indicates that a student-centered institution can provide timely and targeted assistance to students. Data-empowered courses can certainly help with this.

At the University of California, Santa Cruz, students who are placed into math courses based on assessment are also put into an adaptive program to help them move on more quickly to an advanced course, Inside Higher Ed reports.

“We often in the past put students into classes where they only needed some of the materials,” says Jaye Padgett, the interim vice provost for student success, in the article. “It can be really disheartening, very dispiriting to the students. And that undermines their success.”

Online Education and Collaboration Tools Open Access to Education for All Types of Students

About 73 percent of students pursuing higher education have at least one nontraditional characteristic that often makes it difficult for them to complete their education, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.

OET indicated that a student-centered education would allow for students to adjust the timing or format of their education to meet their needs. Thanks to online learning, students can access their courses anywhere; and thanks to tools like those offered by the Online Learning Consortium, universities can make sure those courses are of the highest quality.

Using collaboration tools, students can attend classes digitally. But as Susan Aldridge, Drexel University’s vice president for online learning, told Campus Technology, robotics could help students join in classroom activities that would normally require a physical presence.

What Does a New Administration Mean for Educational Technology?

These principles from the Office of Education Technology present an authoritative view that trends in education are helpful to students. On the heels of President Obama’s administration, these tech-heavy tips for bettering education are not surprising.

Considered the most tech-savvy president, Obama’s legacy is one of merging technology into education, as evidenced by his support of broadening access to STEM education, reports AOL Tech’s Engadget.

A Forbes article points out that proposed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s stance on higher education technology (and higher ed in general) is unclear.

However, on the campaign trail, President Trump was vocal about the need to drastically scale back the Department of Education, which could mean the end of the OET, Forbes reports.

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