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Ed Tech Analysis

Ed Tech Companies Miss the Boat on Solving College Problems

Only one in seven education "insiders" (15 percent) believe that higher education tech companies are "solving the right problems." Three in 10 expect online learning to see more expansion between now and 2020 compared to any other new model or tech that could surface in education. Other areas of tech that most of these institutional presidents, provosts, deans and others predict will grow are competency-based education and predictive analytics, both referenced by 25 percent of insiders.

Those are a few findings from a recent "insider" report published by Whiteboard Advisors, a consultancy that specializes in policy development, research and communications. Rather than basing the results on broad surveys, authors Jeff Selingo and Ben Watsky talked with a "small group" of between 30 and 45 experts to understand national education trends.

Concerns about technology were way down on the list of priorities and pain points for the respondents. Only a quarter of people listed it as a "top priority." However, nearly half (48 percent) also said it was a major problem area for them. The most important priority and biggest pain point: developing a sustainable financial strategy for the institution.

In the areas of technology and innovation, specifically, the most cited priority and challenge had to do with "data-informed decision-making." In those same categories, information security and digital learning are the next most important priorities; and hiring and retaining talent and funding are the next biggest challenges.

More than half of these insiders (55 percent) don't see nontraditional, unaccredited education providers, such as bootcamps or stand-alone low-cost courses, as threats to their own models. Forty-five percent feel otherwise. However, a sizable majority (85 percent) also noted that they expect their schools to begin or continue offering alternative programs and credentials of their own. "Adapt or die," stated one respondent.

On the topic of the usefulness of solutions offered by ed tech providers, among the 85 percent who said those companies don't have a clue about higher ed needs, more than half offered commentary: "They are mostly shots in the dark with little more than a profit motive propelling them forward," offered one respondent. "The higher ed tech companies are more responsive to existing business models. They do not have the patience for longer term investments," said another. One individual offered this advice to tech companies: Fund "independent assessment of the effectiveness of the technology"; and make sure the data that's collected "is freely available to the institution."

The report is openly available on the Whiteboard Advisors website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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