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14 Predictions for Higher Education in 2022

IT leaders, faculty and a student offer a variety of perspectives on the future for their campuses in the new year.

road with 2022 painted

Ask people working in higher education what they expect will happen in the new year, and the outlook is filled with visions that build on what we've been experiencing on college and university campuses for the last two years: a major focus on learning formats; continued exploitation of new technology; and the use of new digital models that move users "beyond Zoom." Here we present the collective predictions of 14 IT leaders, instructional folks and a student about what they anticipate seeing in 2022. As one put it, "Let's go, 2022! We have work to do!"

Do you have your own thoughts about what's coming this year? Add your own prediction for 2022 in the comments below.

Forget Hyflex

My prediction for 2022 is that the buzz around "high-flexibility" technology will turn out to be a bust. Many colleges across the country have rushed to spend federal dollars on equipping classrooms with hyflex technology without taking into consideration the ongoing support costs such as technical support, instructional design support and faculty professional development. Ultimately, I believe our faculty will discover that effectively teaching in a hyflex environment without adequate support is extremely difficult and truly exhausting. Subsequently, most of the hyflex tech in which we have invested will get pushed aside and eventually removed.

—Joseph Moreau is the vice chancellor of technology and chief technology officer for Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California.

Adapt Hyflex — and Be Ready for Anything

First, hyflex classrooms will continue to be used; however, instructors will need to adapt the technology to a face-to-face modality. For example, all technology is integrated with Zoom, so why not record the lecture and student discussion during class time for future viewing? This can also be adapted nicely for a hybrid modality. Lecture capture systems such as Yuja can be used to "chunk" the content for easier viewing. While the true meaning of hyflex is to allow for students to make the decision as to whether they want to attend classes in a face-to-face environment, I don't believe we are there yet. Instructors still want to have some control (and I totally understand that). If we can make the learning environment as flexible as possible, the technology will definitely make a difference.

My second prediction is about security. Network breaches and phishing will become more commonplace. Universities need to have strict controls and policies in place in order to mitigate any intrusions and stop the bad guys. Zero trust is key. Colleges need to enable multifunction authorization (MFA), network scanning and spam filtering, among other security measures, to prevent network intrusions or data breaches from occurring.

My final prediction is that we need to be ready for the unknown. At the drop of a hat, we may be asked to return to a fully remote environment. Universities will need to be able to accommodate this. In this regard, VPN and virtual labs need to be in place for IT to flip the switch when needed.

—Patricia Kahn is the CIO and assistant vice president for Information Technology Services at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.

Look for the Advantages

With most education being done remotely for at least part of the past two years, instructional technology has played a significant role in many institutions. 2022's key will be to improve upon and better utilize these technologies to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Many institutions were forced to move to all-online instruction in a rushed or hurried fashion, which was not ideal. The challenge is, how do we improve those systems and take advantage of new technologies for online, hybrid/hyflex and in-person education? Were virtual office hours via Zoom more convenient for both the students and faculty members, allowing for improved collaboration? Did pre-recording a lecture and having the traditional lecture time freed up for a deeper discussion of the topic enhance the learning opportunity and broaden the knowledge of the subject? These are the exciting things that will lay ahead for 2022. It is both a challenge and an excellent opportunity for us in higher ed leadership.

—Thomas Hoover is the chief information officer for Louisiana Tech University.

Move Beyond Zoom into the Metaverse

The post-pandemic educational environment continues to evolve as new technology tools are being introduced. With changes in the technosphere, such as the newfound interests in concepts like the metaverse, it is likely that these developments are incorporated into educational settings in the coming year. Using virtual reality in education is not a new concept. However, the virtual ecosystem is expanding, moving beyond the confines of a computer to interact with the physical world through augmented reality and combine with real-world smart objects, such as smart whiteboards, and smart assistants that provide real-time feedback. There is a critical need for moving beyond the Zoom format of online education. These immersive, intelligent educational environments most likely will offer a better alternative, not only allowing learners to understand abstract educational concepts more easily but also providing a medium to express their learning outcomes more efficiently, removing barriers in education — thus creating a truly equitable learning experience.

—Tilanka Chandrasekera is an associate professor in the Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising and runs the Mixed Reality Laboratory within the College of Education and Human Sciences at Oklahoma State University.

Reap the Rewards of 2 Years of Strategic Decision-Making

2022 will be a transformative year for colleges and universities that were able to lean on the value of leadership and decision-making during the last two years and can now enjoy the payoff. These decisions include strategies on recruitment, enrollment and retention as well as integrated technologies that develop a campuswide ecosystem for students. The campus leaders who have intentionally put students at the center of organization and system design will reap a great reward. Oral Roberts University was early in many of these key decisions and enjoyed a record 10.3% enrollment growth on its 13th consecutive year of enrollment growth. We believe that building a "smart campus" experience is identical to designing a campus metaverse that interacts with a digital world.

—Michael Mathews is the vice president of Technology and Innovation at Oral Roberts University.

Expect More Disruption and More Innovation

For 2022, we should expect further disruption, much of it driven by new COVID variants, educational institutions grappling with continued disruption and evolution of learning modalities, and a more permanently remote education workforce than some may have expected. The need to leverage continuing innovation in learning technologies to support increasingly hybrid learning models will remain front and center.

In 2022, look for movement in the augmented and virtual reality space. In particular, two factors may drive this trend. First, conducting lab-based courses online — while possible in many instances — remains less than ideal. Environments that allow for "virtual hands-on" demonstration aid in development and offering of more online lab and/or skill-based courses. The second factor driving this trend will likely be a focus on use of AR/VR driven by well-funded workforce initiatives as they seek to bring more of this technology into programs focused on skill building and demonstration.

—Jory Hadsell is the executive director of the California Virtual Campus, part of California Community Colleges.

Online Ed Becomes the Norm

In 2022, online education will become the norm rather than the step-sister of "traditional" education, offering students unprecedented opportunities. The buzz will be around the expansion of the California Virtual Campus' (CVC) Course Exchange, which will take the lead to become the "online college." No lone-wolf private college or costly for-profit will be able to compete with the portfolio of courses available on the Course Exchange, which can leverage the entire online portfolios of the state's 116 community colleges into a single platform. More students than ever will be freed up from the walls of their local colleges to find the classes they need, transfer on time, pay minimal tuition and have a quality, consistent experience all around.

—Marina Aminy is dean for the Division of Online Education & Learning Resources at Saddleback College in California.

Build Off the Threads that Are Here to Stay

It will be important that we start shifting our thinking about how the last 18-plus months have changed us, our institutions and the IT climate we all occupy. In the coming year we will need to begin adjusting to what are now becoming new norms across our communities and work environments.

It will be increasingly less productive to frame this point in time as just that, a point in time. We are seeing entirely new services and institutional responsibilities being created across higher education in near-real time as a result of the pandemic, which is requiring us to think differently about the service models we provide to faculty, staff and students.

We are better served pulling out the threads that we believe are here to stay and building our teams, roadmaps and cultures accordingly.

—Brian Fodrey is the senior director for Business Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University.

Alternatives Will Continue Gaining Ground

Integrating a bit of what could happen as well as what should happen within institutions of traditional higher education (if they want to keep their doors open), here are some brief reflections:

  • The prices of obtaining degrees within higher education need to be cut in half (or more).
  • Higher education needs to become much more responsive to the needs of the workplace (adjunct faculty members and practitioners are nicely positioned here).
  • Our learning ecosystems throughout pre-K-12, higher education, corporate L&D departments and vocational training must morph to deliver "cradle-to-grave" offerings.

The cultures within institutions may prevent these significant changes from occurring. If that occurs, alternatives will continue to build momentum.

As but one relevant thought experiment here: If the vision of Web 3.0 comes to fruition, how might these developments impact the future of lifelong learning? Here's one possibility: Each person would have a learner profile/account that could seamlessly log into multiple providers' platforms and services. The results of that learning could be stored in one's cloud-based learner profile. This type of next-generation learning platform would still need subject-matter experts and other team members. But the focus would be on building in-demand skills. This continuously updated list of skills could then link to the learning-related experiences and resources that people could choose from in order to develop those skills.

—Daniel Christian, newly retired, was the director of Instructional Services at the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Currently, he produces the Learning Ecosystems blog.

Emphasize Choice and Support

In 2022 current, former and future students will be looking for flexible learning experiences that promote well-being and offer robust resources for student support. Rising students will want options for designing their college experience and technology tools to holistically support it in all aspects. Alumni will be looking for upskilling opportunities via microcredentials, to navigate growth and career change during the "Great Resignation." Recent high school grads will expect a variety of online, hybrid and in-person courses to choose from, many bringing with them years of experience with virtual learning.

Across all students, the inequities magnified during the pandemic will continue to have impact. Those without access to technology or strong digital skills will have struggled, may have questioned their potential for success, and will need a university committed to building them up toward a bright future.

Let's go, 2022! We have work to do!

—Jessica Phillips serves as interim director of Learning Programs and Digital Flagship in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning at Ohio State University. Additionally, Jessica teaches online at University of Arizona Global Campus and Ohio State.

Students Need Faster Routes to Completion

According to Forbes, the pandemic crammed a "decade's worth of tech adoption and digital transformation into a single whirlwind year." This increase in adoption has accelerated the shortage of IT workers. Technology adoption will continue to advance quickly, and colleges and universities must find ways to help bridge the gap in skills needed both for their own work and for the communities they serve. The more technology used, the greater the resources technology teams like mine need and the faster we need to respond to issues. While automation has helped us to keep up, staff versatility is also important.

The traditional education path can take two to four years to prepare students for the workforce, where they will start in entry-level positions. These types of programs are difficult for non-traditional students as they need to reduce work hours to complete these degrees.

This is my prediction: To keep up with the demands of technology adoption, schools will find ways to help students complete their education more quickly, receive hands-on training and become productive in the workforce faster.

—Michelle Rakoczy is the associate director of Infrastructure & Operations with the North Dakota University System Core Technology Services, providing leadership for network services, system administration and endpoint services.

Climate Change Ed Gets Embedded

My hopes for the future of education are centered around the climate crisis, which begin with prioritizing frontline communities. Despite the fact that young people, specifically those in low-income Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in both the United States and the global south, are most heavily impacted by natural disasters and climate upheaval, they are given the least amount of say in how this emergency is dealt with. In essence, the inherent inequalities of climate change should be at the forefront of environmental policy and mitigation.

I think the sooner we are able to educate students on the realities of climate change, the better. For the sake of our collective future, we need to pour our resources into giving students a voice for the world in which they're growing up. Every child deserves the opportunity to plan for their dream school or job, and the more students are empowered to speak up for climate justice, the greater the chance they'll have to live it. In practice, the K-12 climate change curriculum created by Portland Public Schools with support from Portland General Electric (including the climate justice elective I participated in as a high school student during the 2020-2021 school year) is a great example of the potential that climate change education has to impact students.

Because students will always have a lot of stress on their plates, a climate change elective can sound like another source of unneeded anxiety. However, it is of paramount importance to not only educate but to give hope to and engage with students of every interest and grade level, which the PPS climate curriculum has been built to acknowledge and prioritize.

—Rae Blackbird is currently a student at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in political science with a focus on environmental public policy. She has recently worked with the University of Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority to study the impact of climate change on the mental health of youth activists around the state.

Hybrid Learning Tech Will Step Up

In 2022 I expect universities and colleges around the globe to keep evolving their blended and hybrid learning environments, which many of them had to rapidly transform, upgrade or even create from scratch during the pandemic. I anticipate that the main focus will be on refining the way [learning environments are] used and precisely on closing a gap between remote and in-class students' experiences as well as making both cohorts feel comfortable working with each other and be actively engaged. But I also believe most attention will be drawn to the technologies for improving video and audio quality during sessions, as well as face- and movement-tracking features, allowing a better connection and interaction between all parties. From this perspective, many lecture theaters might come to look like professional TV studios, to meet growing quality and usability expectations. Also, technologies will likely be expected to make classrooms environments more "peer-learning friendly" and inclusive, where all parties feel comfortable and fairly treated, have equal opportunities to collaborate and co-create.

—Gennadii Miroshnikov is a technology manager at London Business School, working on digital innovation, enhancement and quality assurance projects.

Blockchain Will Gain Ed Pickup

In 2021 we saw Bitcoin, Ethereum and many other cryptocurrencies emerge and grow in market size, but how will these impact higher education? Arizona State University's trusted learner record is leveraging blockchain technology, the building block of Bitcoin, to track students' achievements. The university announced that in 2022 it would release Pocket, a digital wallet for students as a comprehensive learner record. We need to continue to monitor progress on this project, as it could be a very valuable addition to higher ed to give a lifelong learner record for students. Other institutions such as Temple University are already doing things with comprehensive learner records to improve students' success.

—Ernie Perez serves as the director of Educational Technology for Digital Learning & Innovation at Boston University, where he plays a leading role in the visioning, management, selection and deployment of enterprise-level educational technology services.

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