‘Tis the season for the coming year predictions regarding trends in higher education for 2022. Like many, Head of Education at Google Cloud Steven Butschi views the pandemic as a catalyst for institutional change and shared his observations about the opportunities they represent in a recent interview with Fierce Education.
The seismic impact of COVID on life in colleges and universities has been profound for students, faculty, and administrators. No area of life on campus has been left untouched. Overnight, instruction shifted from in-person lectures to remote open learning environments. Fear of technology was banished by necessity. A large percentage of faculty had never before used the tools that we now take for granted, such as video conferencing, learning management systems, and data analytics. Even as students return to campus in person, some of these tools will remain part of the technology ecosystem used for instruction, learning, and management.
Three Faces of Change
Even the previously technology-challenged do not want to return to the traditional, in-person lecture exclusively. Both students and faculty prefer the flexibility of hybrid and blended learning—the opportunity for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. The fear of technology and change is fading as staff has been forced to use technology to continue teaching, learning, and socializing over the last two years.
There is a lot of opportunity for the digital transformation of higher education. According to Butschi, there at least three “needs” driving the next phase of change in colleges and universities:
- Removing data silos: Data sitting in silos delivers a sliver of its true potential to institutions. By removing data silos, colleges and universities can begin to capitalize on new, value-added opportunities to engage students.
- Rethinking student success: Universities continue to hone in on how they engage their students beyond the classroom. We’ll see new AI-powered assistants and tutors, as well as personalized course selection recommendations and improved accessibility to other services.
- An evolving student population: The “typical college student” doesn’t exist, therefore there is no approach that fits all. Universities will begin to develop flexible and scalable approaches to how they engage an increasingly diverse student body.
“We will get more innovative and redefine how technology is used in higher education,” said Butschi. “Across departments, functional areas and classes, people will get better at managing/using/storing data.” Learning how to use data to improve instructional design allows more innovative uses of technology and opens opportunities for more learners. More and more students are adults who are either acquiring skills or reskilling for new work opportunities. Many don’t need a traditional degree, so institutions are designing stackable certifications that meet professional certification requirements and can also be used toward a degree.
There are three specific areas of technology improvement that are driving large-scale institutional innovation and will significantly impact campus life and mission:
- Using cloud infrastructure
- Expanding access and integrating data
- Developing digital tools to improve business processes through advanced analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Google Cloud is using design thinking in its work with colleges and universities to integrate all aspects of campus life—student, faculty, administrative— into an engaging learning ecosystem. “We have to move beyond the technology,” said Butschi. “It has to be part of a broader mission.
- How to better support the students already enrolled?
- How to use an AI platform to make content more engaging?
- How to accelerate research and development?
- How to approach and integrate emerging technology?
- How to support lifelong learning?