EDUCAUSE Highlights Most Significant Ed Tech of the Past 20 Years

For its 20th anniversary, EDUCAUSE asks members and industry experts to weigh in on the most important innovations in recent ed tech history.

In July 1998, a merger of CAUSE and Educom created EDUCAUSE, an organization that tasked itself with the mission of advancing higher education “by promoting the intelligent use of information technology,” according to the EDUCAUSE anniversary page. 

To celebrate 20 years of empowering university administrators and IT teams to improve institutions’ use of technology, EDUCAUSE asked the higher education IT community to reflect on the most significant moments of the past, the most promising trends of the future and everything in between. 

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How Education Technology Has Evolved

Innovation in digital solutions for education has come a long way over the past two decades. While there has been an almost limitless number of new ideas and experiments in regard to learning, EDUCAUSE members highlighted a few key additions that seem to have especially influenced ed tech:

Data Analytics: While some may disagree about how best to use data analytics, the rise of Big Data collection and analysis has become integral to everything from measuring student success to helping higher ed institutions fundraise.
  Cloud Computing: “Cloud services represent a major shift impacting pace of innovation, staffing, policies, and overall capabilities of the higher education industry,” says Jeff Bohrer, technical program manager for IMS Global Consulting. Cloud computing services have helped open the doors for higher ed institutions to complete projects such as integrating virtual reality.
  Strategic IT: While the tools are important, the shift in leadership among IT teams has allowed higher education institutions to realize the tech and resources they have at their disposal. “Institutions of all types have recognized IT as a strategic resource, and CIOs have increasingly become part of institutional leadership at the highest levels,” says David Smallen, vice principal for libraries and IT at Hamilton College. 

The Future of Ed Tech Is Bright, But Unclear

Asked about the future of education technology, many experts are certain growth will continue. The question is what will that growth look like?

Experts like Sharon Pitt, vice president of IT and CIO at University of Delaware, says mobility will be a huge player in shaping how institutions use education. 

“The capacity of information services to reach anywhere, allowing all to pick and choose where they work and live, will have a huge impact to how communities are defined,” Pitt tells EDUCAUSE.

This has already become apparent through the boom of online courses and bootcamps available through universities. Institutions are hard at work trying to improve their distance learning initiatives to fit the new demands for convenient higher learning.

Other experts, such as consultant Brian Voss, see institutions using technology to recreate programs and give students the tools they need to succeed in a technically savvy workplace. 

“Higher education must adapt to changing student needs, new technology tools, competitors, funding pressures from competition, and government withdrawal from supporting it,” Voss tells EDUCAUSE. “In the 2020s, those universities that don't find ways to adapt, improvise, and overcome the challenges will, like the snows of yesteryear, be gone from this earth.”

However, a majority agree that while the future of education technology is sure to hold many exciting tools, most of them will be a mystery until they are here, and it will be up to IT leaders to know how best to implement the tools of the future. 

“The high-level impact of technological change will continue to be unpredictable and relentless,” says Smallen. “Building high-performing teams and organizations that can effectively deal with technological change will be more important than the approach taken to IoT, ERP, LMS, or the latest technology.”