IT Trends

Mobility and Analytics Dominate Strategic Tech for 2016 in Higher Ed

While the topic of mobility technology dominated the Educause list of the most strategic technologies in 2015, this year's compilation for higher ed is quite diverse, covering mobile again alongside analytics, security, application management and delivery, service desk management, business performance and teaching and learning.

The Educause "Top 10 Strategic Technologies" is compiled and prioritized by members of the higher education IT association. This year's results bubbled to the top from a list of 83 distinct technologies. As the results show, the top choice was the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning. Last year, mobile as a theme appeared in seven places. This year, it surfaced four times — not just in teaching and learning, but also in app development, blended course access and enterprise applications.

Educause 2016 Top 10 Strategic Technologies

  1. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
  2. SaaS (software as a service)
  3. Administrative or business performance analytics
  4. App development (responsive design, hybrid, etc.)
  5. Accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices
  6. Mobile apps for enterprise applications
  7. Service desk tool and management strategy
  8. Learning analytics
  9. Data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security
  10. Application performance monitoring

While business intelligence and reporting dashboards topped the list in 2015, this year that technology is gone and the use of analytics takes several different forms: for administrative or business performance, in learning and for information security. That latter result, which came in at number nine, stunned Susan Grajek, vice president of data, research, and analytics at Educause. Last year, she noted, data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security came in 18. "The wording was exactly the same, so that one made the biggest jump. That surprised me the most."

Grajek was the author of a new report that explores the technologies as well as the top IT issues in higher ed. As she explained, "We've all got to up our game when it comes to information security. What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Institutions are realizing that if they want a different result, they have to do something different. Analytics includes trying to automate as much as possible the scanning for vulnerabilities and potential breaches and also at some point the remediation of them."

Besides giving advice for each area of technology, the report offered several predictions too. The organization anticipates that service desk tool and management strategies (number seven on the list) will be "universal" within the next five years, meaning that they will be deployed in more than eight in 10 institutions. Seven other technologies will achieve "mainstream" adoption over that same period, being deployed in more than six in 10 institutions. That list comprises the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning, software as a service, business performance analytics, mobile app development, accessing online components of blended courses from mobile devices, mobile apps for enterprise applications and learning analytics.

Similarly, the report offered a glimpse into those technologies that institutions are actually devoting the most attention to "tracking," all of which could appear on the top 10 in future years:

  • Next-generation learning management systems;
  • Adaptive learning;
  • Mobile data protection;
  • Use of big data in learning analytics;
  • Uses for the Internet of Things (IoT);
  • Games and gamification;
  • Cloud-based security services;
  • Software-defined networks;
  • Open educational resources (OERs); and
  • Use of big data in institutional analytics.

BI and reporting dashboards as a technology has disappeared from this year's list, along with two others: enterprise identity and access management solutions, and unified communications and collaboration. These three areas, the reported explained, are becoming more widespread — that is, deployed institution-wide in more than 30 percent of institutions. All three have been moved to the organization's "Core Data Service" benchmark, where members provide data in order to generate comparative benchmarks for "operational" attention. That benchmark differs from the strategic technologies report, which focuses on newer technologies that schools will be spending the most time implementing, planning and tracking in 2016.

"Information technology can truly help institutions gain a competitive advantage — through analytics and innovative applications of technology to education," said Grajek in a prepared statement. "The bar is high: Students and faculty expect their courseware and academic systems and services to function like major retailers and content providers. Colleges and universities have made significant investments in their physical infrastructure and services over the past several decades to differentiate themselves from the competition and to attract and retain the best students and faculty. Technology now has the potential to offer an arguably even greater value by helping to transform, not the facilities and food, but the very experience and process of learning, scholarship and community."

The report on strategic technologies for 2016 is available online to members only in the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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