IT Forecast | Feature

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends To Watch in 2011

Three higher ed tech experts discuss technology trends for the year ahead, citing increased mobile and wireless access and cloud computing among them. But are campuses also in for a little bit of a return to the "basics" in the coming year?

Technology that was unimaginable a decade or so ago is commonplace on today's campuses. In 2010 American colleges and universities responded to the ever-advancing IT requirements of their students and faculty with mobile pilot programs, investments in online learning, massive network overhauls, and initiatives designed to offset some of the increases in energy use brought on by all these new technologies, among other novel programs.

What will 2011 bring? Campus Technology spoke with a handful of higher education technology experts to get their take. We've compiled their top 5 responses here.

1. The Cloud Computing Movement Will Continue.

Investing in purchase-and-install software is falling by the wayside as institutions catch onto the value of using "cloud" applications that are housed (and accessed) online. Not only are these options more affordable and easier to implement, but they also include vast storage capacity that can be used for, say, portfolio assessments. "Using cloud computing, schools can create large collections of loosely-sorted data (such as school records, written documents and even video recordings)," said Bob Spielvogel, CTO at EDC, a Newton, MA-based nonprofit that creates programs to address educational challenges, "and then utilize that information to track project activity and conduct portfolio assessments across the student's entire college career." With these and other uses gaining ground in the higher education space, expect cloud computing's popularity to grow in 2011.

2. More Work Will Be Done Without Wires.

Being tethered to an outlet or Ethernet connection is so passé for college students, teachers, and administrators. With more and more of these individuals using mobile devices to connect to the Internet, the wireless wave is sure to grow in 2011.

"We're seeing a continued migration towards tablets and other mobile computers beyond just the Ipad," said Spielvogel. "As more technology vendors introduce lower-cost devices, and as these types of computers become more economically feasible, we'll see even more WiFi introduced to support their use."

3. Mobile Technologies Will Continue to Proliferate in the Classroom.

There's no doubt that students have become more mobile in terms of the technology they're using, and colleges seem determined to keep up with that trend. David Stoloff, a professor in Eastern Connecticut State University's education department, said the Willimantic, CT school has embraced the notion of "laptops and mobile devices in class" to the point where it's implemented interactive portfolio assessment technology to help maximize the trend.

"We're not quite at the point of every student using a laptop in class, but we're definitely getting there," said Stoloff, who added he expects the mobile trend to take an even stronger hold on higher education in 2011. "It provides a great way to supplement classroom instruction in a productive manner."

4. Online Education will even Further Displace Seat Time.

Stoloff, who attended the most recent Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning, said 2011 will find more colleges integrating online learning into their curriculums as core offerings, and not just adjuncts to classroom learning.

"New high school graduates have less and less patience for sitting and listening to long lectures in college," Stoloff said. "They want to be more active, and that means getting their hands on computers."

Looking out even further, Stoloff painted a future picture where colleges are less focused on "seat time" and more on validating learning regardless of where it takes place (be it overseas, in the community, or in a traditional classroom). "Engagement will become the central issue for education in the future," said Stoloff, "and learning won't necessarily be defined by how much 'seat time' a student has put in."

5. A Retreat from Technology Overload is Imminent.

As the Master of Arts in Teaching and Technology program director for the Marlboro College Graduate School in Marlboro, VT, Caleb Clark uses blended learning, e-portfolios, WordPress, and other Web media tools in the classroom. And while he doesn't dispute the value of these and the multitude of other technology innovations being used in higher education right now, he does expect a slight pullback on the technology hype in 2011 as people get back to basic communications and human interactions (outside of Facebook and Twitter).

"We're in an over-adoption stage right now," said Clark. "To get through it, we're going to need to get students to close their laptops and get back in touch with the other side of their desks--the one that doesn't face their computers."

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