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Campus Technology Insider Podcast April 2022

Listen: Trends to Watch in 2022: Takeaways from the Horizon Report

Rhea Kelly: Hello and welcome to the Campus Technology Insider podcast! I'm Rhea Kelly, editor in chief of Campus Technology, and your host.

One of the takeaways from this year's Educause Horizon Report is that there's likely no such thing as a return to normal: Many of the changes that higher education has undergone over the past couple of years are here to stay. At the same time, the trends, technologies and practices impacting teaching and learning have developed more depth, more nuance. For example, while hybrid learning was addressed broadly in last year's report, this year the report drilled down into important facets such as hybrid learning spaces and professional development for hybrid teaching. To delve into the details of what's on the horizon for higher ed in 2022, I spoke with Kathe Pelletier, director of Educause's Teaching and Learning Program and co-author of the report.

And a quick note: On May 18th, Campus Technology is hosting a virtual summit on digital transformation in higher ed. We will be talking about what digital transformation means to different institutions, how to enable a digital-first campus, taking digital learning beyond the new normal, and more. The event is free to attend — just register at I hope you'll join us!

Now, here's my chat with Kathe.

Hi Kathe, welcome to the podcast.

Kathe Pelletier: Thanks, it's so nice to see you again.

Kelly: Yeah, it's great to have you back. So in the latest Educause Horizon Report, I feel like there's a sense that many of the changes that higher ed has undergone over the past couple of years are really here to stay. And the report actually explicitly says that there is likely no return to, quote unquote, normal. So I'm wondering, do you think these are changes for the better?

Pelletier: That's a great question. You know, with the forecasting that we do with the Horizon Report, we really are looking both at, you know, current day as well as the past to understand possible futures. And from there we look at, you know, what are the trend lines that we're seeing? And what are the things that we think that the higher education community really needs to pay attention to? And certainly there is a definite trend line toward a digitally transformed campus, more attention to sustainability, more attention to supporting faculty, and working both in hybrid and remote teaching. And, you know, to answer the question about do I think these are changes for the better, you know, time will tell. Certainly there are really great things that can be, you can imagine and are currently happening with these shifts, including students and faculty who are wanting more flexibility are more likely to be able to either teach or learn in the modality of their preference. At the same time, we're still grappling with issues of equity and access, pedagogy and policy. So there's a lot of unresolved things that we're still learning our way into. And even just when you think about a hybrid future, we seem to be advancing toward clearer language to describe what each campus is talking about when they are, you know, trying to put a name to the various ways that they're engaging students and faculty with technology. But we have a long way to go there, you know, there's still a lot of flexes out there, a lot of hybrid or blended, and, and so, you know, that, that has yet to fall out, and, you know, and show itself in the future. But you know, one, I'm gonna jump to the end of the report, briefly, to also answer your question about the changes for the better. You know, we really are trying to signal potential futures while we're looking at what we're seeing happening in current day. And so the scenario section is a great place to really not just look for the future that you hope might come to pass in 10 years, that's our time horizon is 10 years, but also the other possible futures that might come to pass. And really, you know, the report and the scenarios gives agency and power to individuals to, to think about, okay, so if I have this lever, in terms of where I'm investing, or the things that I'm paying attention to on my campus, or the things that I'm paying attention to in the environment around me, how can I help to create a future that is, quote unquote, better, or the future that I really want to be able to see. And so things like, you know, investing in professional development for faculty, which is a technology or practice that came out in the report this year, that's something that institutions can be investing in now, so that when you are 10 years down the road, that might lend itself to a higher quality teaching and learning experience for students, for example. So, again, I, you know, I think the changes definitely seem to be very clear. But it'll, it'll depend on what our higher education community is able to do, and certainly what the, the other environmental factors around us will, as they press on us in different ways, how that ends up looking like.

Kelly: I like what you said about developing the language to describe some of the, you know, these, these new trends and modalities, and how that's kind of a change for the better in itself. So I wanted to talk about some of the trends identified in the report. And I thought we could start with where you see are areas of most opportunity for higher ed.

Pelletier: You're gonna hear me talk a lot today about professional development for remote and hybrid teaching. If there ever was a low hanging fruit in higher education, I think that that really is a key, a key opportunity for institutions to take advantage of. And, you know, certainly, it takes investment and resources to, and expertise to develop and maintain programs of professional development for faculty. But that's the one that, according to our expert panel, looked like it would have the most impact on learning outcomes, the most impact positively on equity and inclusion, with the least risk, low end of cost, and would require very few literacies. So that, I think, you know, when you think about, students interact mostly with faculty when they're on campus, whether it's a virtual campus or a face to face campus. And so if we're arming our collective faculty with tools and resources and expertise and new pedagogies, you know, it really seems like a hugely, a great potential for positive impact for students.

Kelly: Would you say that that's something that a lot of institutions are already doing? Or is it really an untapped opportunity? Or kind of where on that spectrum do you see most institutions falling?

Pelletier: Yeah, that's a great question. I think, I, it seems like both, you know, just from my conversations with folks on campuses on a daily basis, as well as what we saw in our exemplar submissions — which are the projects that we invite institutions to send to us that reflect each of the key technologies and practices that will be highlighted in the report — it seems, it seems like there's a continuum, like, like with any change. And on one end of the continuum, institutions are kind of just waking up to, Oh, wow, you know, maybe we should develop resources, maybe they didn't do any kind of remote or hybrid teaching before the pandemic, and now we're considering the, the value and plan to continue that. And so they're at the very beginning stages of, of even, you know, figuring out what a faculty development program will look like. Or, you know, some of the, I won't, I won't name names, but one of the largest university systems in the United States just established a Center for Teaching and Learning, they did not have a centralized Center for Teaching and Learning until very recently, and in part because they, it was highly distributed, each campus or each, well, each campus and each college was responsible for the teaching and learning support for faculty. But as they are kind of dipping their toe into the water of, of more remote opportunities, they realized that having everything in one place would really benefit faculty. So, so that's kind of a next level of looking around the campus to see the programming that might already exist and turning it into, you know, essentially a better user experience for faculty that might be more personalized to the individual faculty needs. And really kind of the just in time idea of, of getting the right resources in front of the right, the faculty at the right time. And then on the far end of the spectrum, are really, really elaborate faculty development and instructional support programs that include both training for faculty but also the institution might have resources for instructional designers to work directly with faculty and considering the learning design or the technology tool selection and implementation. And then of course, you have kind of the other aspect, which bleeds a little bit into the, the hybrid learning space design of helping faculty navigate all the stuff that might be in a classroom if they're teaching both to the students in their class and to students who are coming in remotely at the same time. And so, definitely a continuum and, and I think a lot depends on, you know, with any of this a lot depends on the culture and mission of the institution, where they've come from historically in terms their position around hybrid or online education, and then how many resources they might have at their disposal to develop these kinds of programs. So there's a really big mix out there happening, but overall, there's just a lot of energy and, and really recognition of the value that the instructional support staff bring in terms of the student experience and student outcomes.

Kelly: Yeah. So if faculty development is kind of the low hanging fruit, what trends on the list do you think are the most challenging areas for institutions?

Pelletier: Yeah, I think, and, you know, I realize you're asking about trends, and I'm, I'm kind of mashing together the technologies and practices that, that we've also identified in the report. But I think some of when you, when you look at the section in the report that talks about trends, I would say, the issues related to our climate, and campus sustainability, and really the urgency around developing, you know, kind of bringing our campuses up to more climate friendly standard, costs a lot of money. And so that combined with potentially ongoing reductions in public funding for universities, which is another trend that we're seeing, and, and some of the other kind of, kind of the financial aspects, the economic trends, it definitely puts pressure on institutions both. And you know, again, combine that with this drive towards students want hybrid or blended or flexible learning, faculty are increasingly adopting and accepting and demanding to be able to teach in these modalities. And so, you know, campuses really are on the hook to rethink how they're outfitting their classrooms, how are they're rethinking their spaces entirely, which is a really, really big, strategic endeavor that requires, you know, so many stakeholders at an institution. So that, the combination of those trends, I think, is putting pressure on institutions in ways that, you know, have a lot of potential, but also, again, cost a lot of money, require collective strategic direction and investment.

Kelly: Yeah, you know, I think that climate change has appeared on the report a couple of years in a row. But it's interesting to me that this year, it seems a lot more sort of tangible, you know, like the need to have better disaster recovery plans, because, you know, the weather patterns are, are wilder, or, you know, thing, things like that. As opposed to sort of a kind of a far off thing that, yes, we're gonna have to deal with rising sea levels, but what does that really mean, you know?

Pelletier: Yep. And, you know, it's interesting, because I think I always look back to like, well, what did last year say? And how does that compare with this year? And what did we say the year before? And so it is interesting to look across the years, to see what the nuanced differences are. And you know, when you think about large scale trends, like the ones that we're talking about, you're not going to see significant movements, except when you have, for example, a pandemic, or something like that, that's gonna kind of throw a wrench in the trajectory of these trends. But what I really think is interesting in the example that you gave, and really with a number of these trends, when you look from year to year, and even the technologies and practices that well, as well, it's almost like, you know, last year, we're like, yeah, we kind of think this, this thing that we can't, we don't really know how to talk about it, we have a name for it, we think it's going to be important. And then this year, it's like we know what we're talking about now, and so can get into that nuance of, you know, not just climate change, but, you know, thinking about sustainable development, thinking about the structures on campus specifically, and how those relate to those environmental trends or how that is, how those are environmental trends. And, and so it'll be interesting. You know, I don't, I don't want to jump ahead to next year already, but it really will be interesting to see how those trends, the articulation of those trends and the way that our, our experts in our community are able to articulate them, I think we're going to continue to see refinements.

Kelly: So you had mentioned learning spaces. And I thought the trend of physical campus structures was really interesting, because it speaks not to just the classrooms, but really the whole campus. There's a line I really liked that said, "The campus of the future will need to be designed to meet more needs that ever before." I thought that was really insightful. And so can you talk more about what those needs are?

Pelletier: Yes, absolutely. I think this is a really interesting one as well. And one of the things that we published recently that is actually in our current showcase, which is related to the digital and brick-and-mortar balancing game, and I'll give you a link to that so our listeners can find it. The quick poll we did was on learning space. And one of the things that we asked institutions or asked respondents to tell us about is the, which types of learning spaces they're currently investing in. And it, just like you're noting, it wasn't just the classrooms, it wasn't, you know, large classroom, small classroom. But significant number of respondents, at least 50%, responded to rethinking libraries. Another really big chunk of respondents 44-ish percent, are talking about investing in study spaces. Similar percentage on experimental learning spaces, which may or may not be classrooms. And so there, I think, when you think about what the campus means, it certainly looks a lot different and has a lot, a lot different needs when students are learning both in the classrooms, and also digitally. And one example that I thought was really interesting of a, of a challenge is one of my colleagues who works at Penn State was talking about their strategic energy around learning spaces, and they were recognizing that if students who are, you know, quote unquote, on-campus students, your typical residential student, if they're taking both face-to-face and online courses, online synchronous courses, in the same semester, they need somewhere to go to do their online synchronous class time. And it probably, it probably needs to be close to where their on-campus, you know, regular face-to-face class is. And so they're really rethinking of like, what, what areas of our campus can we repurpose, so that they're private, they have good broadband and or WiFi connection, they are quiet. So students can zoom in to their synchronous online class and then not have to walk too far or get, you know, take too much time to get to their face-to-face class. So, you know, some institutions are looking at their libraries for that kind of space. You know, another strategic shift in terms of space that, that is related to library is where, you know, libraries used to be the hub for computer labs, where you would see the big old desktop and students would come in, and that's where they would, you know, maybe if they didn't have a computer, they would access the computers there. But as the students' needs are changing and more and more students are increasingly using mobile devices, whether it's a laptop, or some other mobile device as their primary or secondary learning tool, they, the libraries are really starting to think of their, the space itself as a service instead of the things that librarians do in that space, or the, the tools that exist in the library as the services. So that's another kind of mind shift that, that I think is coming with this trend related to, to really rethinking physical spaces on campus.

Kelly: I really like that term space as service. And I can remember when, when libraries, it was all about creating sort of informal learning spaces and collaboration spaces. And now it's sort of like the pendulum has swung, where we need more solo spaces, you know, for people who need to take those online courses. It's really interesting.

Pelletier: Yeah.

Kelly: So moving on to the key technologies and practices section of the report, I know we've talked a little bit about some of these. But I thought it was interesting how many of them were sort of similar but, but distinct in their own way. And so three out of the six technologies and practices on the list have to do with hybrid learning: hybrid learning spaces, mainstreaming hybrid and remote learning modes, and professional development for hybrid and remote teaching. So why highlight so many individual facets of hybrid, rather than an overarching theme of, say, hybrid learning?

Pelletier: Yeah, that's a great question. And that I think gets to what I was trying to describe earlier related to, you know, last year were like, Yeah, we kind of see this thing, and it's probably something like hybrid learning or new learning modes. But this year, we recognize that there are nuanced distinctions and really important conversations to be had about each of these separate aspects and, and different strategies to be had. So while, you know, mainstreaming higher hybrid and remote learning modes might be more of an umbrella, that really speaks to the overall digital learning strategy on a campus and the investment in the infrastructure across campus that might be able to, that might be required to enable these hybrid or remote learning modes, it, it reflects a shift in culture and really more of an acceptance to hybrid or remote learning. But then when you think about hybrid learning spaces, clearly, you know, you're focused on the space aspect, which, you know, there's specific technologies that can be, can be used to equip spaces to turn them into hybrid, you know, hybridize, so to speak, so that faculty can, can access students in their classes, as well as students that are coming in remotely. And, and that takes its own, you know, really deep strategy. One of the ones that I'm really excited about, in terms of the exemplar projects that came in this year, is from Florida State. And their project allows faculty to see, they've situated their, the monitors of students who are zooming into the classroom, at eye level of the faculty member, and at the same size as the students who are sitting in the class in person. And so that really created more of a seamless experience for the students who are, are coming in. And so it's not exactly virtual reality, because it really isn't virtual reality, but it's the idea of, you know, they appear to be in the space, they're occupying a similar space as the students that are, that are sitting in seats in the classroom. And so things like that, you know, take a very specific focus and expertise. And then finally, of course, the professional development for hybrid and remote teaching requires not only the, you know, investment and training of faculty, but also the investment in the staff who have the expertise to then do that faculty support. So it really felt important that, you know, and, of course, the way that these technologies and practices and the trends as well are, are identified and articulated really comes from the words and the data of the panelists that are, are really, you know, where we get all of our content for the report. And so in listening to the panelists and seeing their conversations as they were becoming more threaded and more distinct in these three areas, these are the three that popped out.

Kelly: Yeah, you know, with the learning spaces, the hybrid learning spaces, I thought it was really interesting. I think it's the first time for, gosh a pretty long time that I can remember, that the kind of the nuts and bolts of the technology was a big part of the trend, you know, because in the report, it talks about the need for, you know, microphones and speakers and things to be placed in such a way, you know, that, that hybrid learning really works. And it seems to me that that, you know, sort of the, the AV tech is getting a, its moment in the spotlight for the first time in a long time.

Pelletier: Yeah, for sure. And I think, you know, it's, it's also an interesting tension, as you know, that that section is called technology, key technologies and practices. And I feel like when I think about that section, or when I talk about that section, and the, the, the things that are highlighted in that section, technologies and practices just kind of runs together as a thing, like, it's, it is the technology, but it also is the practices that support the use of the technology. And I think you're exactly right that in this case, you know, in many cases, it really is, the things that we highlight in that section are really more practices and less about the specific technology or the technological capability. And, you know, in, in the sense of hybrid learning spaces, you're exactly right that so many of the, especially the exemplars and the way that the panel talked about that one was focused on the, the technology. And, you know, maybe that's one that in future Horizon Reports, we see even more refinement there, where now that more institutions might have the AV technology established, they've got the infrastructure, now we're learning like, well, what are the techniques? And what are the practices that really enable high quality learning experiences and learning outcomes? And that might be next year's conversation.

Kelly: Another technology and practice that sort of appears twice on the list is artificial intelligence. And so that's sort of divided into AI for learning analytics and AI for learning tools. So could you describe what the difference is between those two and why it was important to recognize each one?

Pelletier: Yeah, similar thing, we kind of went where the data told us to go, based on what the panelists were contributing. These feel a little squishier maybe than the distinctions between the hybrid and remote teaching techs and practices. But ultimately, the distinction that we saw was that AI for learning analytics really refers to the technologies that are behind the scenes that potentially are leveraged by faculty or by administrators to refine the teaching process or the curricular content, and ultimately pinpointing, you know, student learning gaps or gaps in the curriculum that, again, could help the faculty or the, the broader curriculum become improved and to fill those gaps. Whereas AI for learning tools, more often than not, would include student-facing tools. Some examples that we will see in the report include AI-based tutoring, or there was a really cool program that Purdue Global Campus submitted that was a combination of AI and virtual reality, where for their graduate nursing programs, this AI experience, virtual reality AI experience was, were patients for the students to interact with, so that they could practice their patient interviewing skills. In this, this is the first time, I think probably ever, that we had like an introduction to the introduction. So in the report, you'll see a bit of a blurb around these AI techs and practices that, that tries to make those distinctions but also recognizing that, that there's, this really is kind of an emerging category. And so the distinctions maybe get a little blurrier than the, the other ones.

Kelly: And so many of these things are intertwined, anyway.

Pelletier: Yeah.

Kelly: So I'm wondering if there's a trend or a technology and practice that didn't make it on the list that is worth mentioning?

Pelletier: This is a super interesting question. And, and just before I nail down a trend that didn't make it onto the list, I'll just share for listeners, the way that we elicit the trends, as well as the technologies and practices, is that we invite our 50 or so global experts on teaching and learning to, to share with, share with us what they think: what are the things that they see are happening in the world today that have the potential for impact on higher education teaching and learning. And we ask them to share evidence and, and also describe the impact that they see as potential. And so, you know, you can imagine with 50 people who are really smart and experienced, you get a lot of ideas about potential trends. So even though we only select three in each category, in some categories there were at least 25 possible trends to choose from. And also just to back up for folks who may not be as familiar with the report, we ask our panelists to think about trends across what we call the STEEP categories, and STEEP refers to social, technological, economic, environmental, and political. And so, so we have these kind of buckets, so to speak, for the trends. And then ultimately, after everybody has contributed their ideas, we then have some rounds of voting where the panelists can identify the top trends or the top technologies and practices that they, that they think will have the most impact. And so we only get to pick three trends in each category. So back to your question about ones that got left on the cutting room floor, there are, there's a lot! But I'll highlight a couple. You know, looking at the social trends, there were a couple related to just health and things like personal well being, pandemic lifestyle changes, and then a combination of health and teaching. Trauma-informed pedagogy was another one that was identified, but didn't quite make the top three. And so when you think about those together, and certainly actually looking back at last year, one of the trends that appeared on last year's report was mental health issues, and that, that didn't quite make it to the top this year, but, but it's just kind of the ongoing conversation about, you know, how are we taking care of ourselves? How are we taking care of our community? What are the things that we might adjust in our teaching and learning practices that support students who might, who might need a different kind of support and compassion than, than we've, we've even recognized that we need in the past? I have a couple others that I want to highlight if we have a little bit of time. Because I think it's really another interesting one, just picking one from the environmental category, was outdoor activities. That was one that actually got a fair amount of votes, but didn't make it to the top three. And so when you think about the overall kind of direction of the trends in the environmental category, where we're talking about physical campus structures, sustainable development goals, and planetary health, it's just interesting to consider, well, maybe we'll start thinking about the outdoors. You know, certainly on campuses, the quad, and you know, there are outdoor spaces that, that we cherish and are, you know, a historical part of what we consider the campus to be, but there might just be, you know, more things happening outdoors that, that end up becoming codified, whether it's teaching outside or, or recognizing the value of being outside and, you know, the climate conversation, kind of encouraging that. So that was one that I thought was interesting that popped up that, that didn't make it to the top.

Kelly: Yeah, I find it really interesting how campuses are exploring the idea of outdoor learning spaces, and how to make use of the campus in so many different ways.

Pelletier: Right.

Kelly: Out of curiosity, which category would you say had the most, you know, trends to choose from?

Pelletier: Oh, let me look at my data here. You're lucky I have this in front of me today. It was the, it was the social category. That was the one that had 25 different trends. And then the one with the fewest suggestions was a tie between environmental and political. They had about seven each. So a pretty big difference there. And, you know, looking at the, it's really interesting that, I feel like the kind of altitude question is coming up across our conversation today. Because when I look at the, even though I think, for example, the environmental trends became much more granular than last year where, you know, we move from climate change to these variants on sustainability. Classroom air quality was another one that was named as a trend that didn't make it to the top. That still, both environmental and political have kind of a broader altitude than some of the other ones that were suggested in the social trends. But it also, you know, when you think about the experts on our panel, they're teaching and learning experts, technology experts, so the social and technological aspects really are their sweet spot. So I certainly think that there's, there's probably a, that probably contributes to just having more ideas top of mind. And as they're doing their research related to trends, they might spot these more readily because of the way that they're, because of their training and expertise.

Kelly: Yeah that makes sense. So let's talk about scenarios for the future. The report outlines four possible trajectories for higher education: growth, constraint, collapse and transformation. So should institutions see pieces of themselves within each scenario? Or do you think they tend to gravitate toward one in particular?

Pelletier: I love the scenario section. And I feel like we should put it at the front. Because I wonder sometimes, I wonder if, if readers recognize the, the true value of it. The way that I would hope that someone would approach reading the scenarios is to recognize… Well, first, let me back up and just share a bit how we create the scenarios. So it's not something we just make up. It's not something that we just, you know, you know, sit there and turn on our creative energy and start brain brainstorming what possible futures are. We go back to those conversations that the panel had about the signals that they're seeing, which are, you know, those, those things that you see in the news or a story that somebody tells you and you're like, Oh, that's really interesting. I never would have expected that. It's just kind of gives you pause. And then the large-scale trends are the drivers. And we kind of mash up all those different data points. And we think about, within these different kind of structures of growth, constraint, collapse and transformation, what would it look like for those, that mash up of signals and trends, if they're acted on, if they're acting on each other, and if they are, you know, again, kind of within these ideas of growth, constraint, collapse and transformation. And so it's the same ingredients, but they're cooked up in different ways, depending on which, where you put pressure and where the focus is. And so ultimately, the scenarios, and there could be more than four scenarios, certainly, we offer these four as kind of food for thought, but the scenarios ultimately allow us to see what might be, given what we know now about what's happening in the world. And we also, that scenarios also allow us to think about, you know, what are the things that I have, I'll say, control over? That's probably not the right word, but what are the things that I have influence over at my institution? So do I want to be investing in the AV technology because I believe that it's going to be a change maker 10 years down the road? Or do I want to really pay attention to those environmental trends, and make sure that I'm, you know, planning ahead for expectations related to sustainability that become policy? And do I want to be ahead of that curve? And certainly, a lot of the things that were discussed in the scenarios are, are outside of the control of higher education. It allows you to plan ahead for those things that, that might not be within your control, but, but that you can be prepared for. So, you know, this is probably a quote that I mangling, so maybe I'm just making it my own quote, but, but really the idea is that, you know, prepare for all possible futures. And then, you know, once the real future comes, you will have, you know, you'll have, you'll be ready. And so that's the idea of the scenarios is really being prepared for all possible futures. But, you know, at the same time, really trying to show where there are levers for us to create the future that that we want to come to pass

Kelly: Yeah, preparing for all possible futures to seems like it's kind of at the core of what it's like to work in IT.

Pelletier: For sure, that's a really great point. And in the world these days, I mean, I really think, I, I don't know, if, you know, five years ago, if there was as much attention paid to things like forecasting or scenario planning. I know certainly a lot of institutions inside and outside of higher education admitted to not really having much, you know, contingency planning before the pandemic. And so I think there's, there's just a lot more recognition of the power of this kind of information to be able to be ready.

Kelly: Well, thank you so much for coming on and diving into the trends with us, and let's do it again next year.

Pelletier: I love it. Always great to talk to you. Thank you so much for having me.

Kelly: Thank you for joining us. I'm Rhea Kelly, and this was the Campus Technology Insider podcast. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify and Stitcher, or visit us online at Let us know what you think of this episode and what you'd like to hear in the future. Until next time.

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