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2017 Ed Tech Trends: The Halfway Point

Four higher ed IT leaders weigh in on the current state of education technology and what's ahead.

In January, CT asked a panel of higher education IT leaders to opine on 11 education technology trends to watch in 2017. Now that we've passed the halfway point of the year, how are those trends shaping up? We asked some of the original panelists to weigh in.

Susan Aldridge, Senior Vice President for Online Learning, Drexel University (PA); President, Drexel University Online

Given the exploding pace at which new technologies are changing the way we live, learn and work, it will be imperative to reimagine our institutions as virtual gateways to connected education, which engages, empowers and equips students to learn effectively and collaboratively, purposefully and continuously throughout their lives. That will mean using the growing array of such digital tools and applications as virtual reality, robotic telepresence, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to facilitate customized, experiential learning in dynamic and meaningful contexts.

At the same time, we will need to design next-generation virtual learning platforms that connect formal with informal learning options across space, time and multiple spheres of influence or community. The learning environments they create must not only become purposeful communities of practice, but also connect students with the real-world expert knowledge and complex skills that drive professional and personal success.

Marci Powell, CEO/President, Marci Powell & Associates; Chair Emerita and Past President, United States Distance Learning Association

Much progress has been made this year getting us closer to the tipping point of "immersive learning," which includes 3D, VR, AR and MR. But five accomplishments in particular are having a significant impact on education: 1) AR- and VR-ready laptops like NVIDIA's new Max Q eliminate the need for expensive equipment and servers to support VR; 2) headset manufacturers are drastically reducing their prices, as new headsets continue to emerge; 3) Bluetooth and tracking-capable headsets, like the new Google Daydream, are removing the need to be "tethered"; 4) demand is causing a rapid increase in the number of headsets being purchased; and 5) the sheer volume of "learning objects" for VR is making powerful lesson creation quick and easy.

Phil Ventimiglia, Chief Innovation Officer, Georgia State University

At Georgia State, we recently opened our new EXLAB, a student makerspace that offers an informal environment for experiential learning, creativity and innovation. The space provides tools for exploring development of everything from real-world digital artifacts to augmented and virtual reality worlds. EXLAB is rapidly attracting a community of students, who are sharing with one another skills from across disciplines to build digitally and learn collaboratively. It's exciting to see how students are using the space to apply the skills they learn in class and connect with one another.

Daniel Christian, Adjunct Faculty Member, Calvin College

In the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, algorithms and big data, we continue to see massive investments being made and starting to impact the way business is being done. There are dangerous, tumultuous times ahead if we can't figure out ways to help all people within the workforce reinvent themselves quickly, cost-effectively and conveniently.

That's why I'm so passionate about helping to develop a next-generation learning platform. Higher education, as an industry, has some time left to figure out its part in this new world. Some of the questions each institution ought to be asking are:

  • Given our institutional mission/vision, what landscapes should we be pulse-checking?
  • Do we have faculty/staff looking at those landscapes that are highly applicable to our students and to their futures?
  • What are some possible scenarios as a result of these changing landscapes?
  • What obstacles keep from us innovating and being able to respond to the shifting landscapes, especially within the workforce?
  • On a scale of 0 (we don't innovate at all) to 10 (highly innovative), where is our culture today? Where do we hope to be five years from now?

I don't think we're looking into the future nearly enough to see the massive needs — and real issues — ahead of us.

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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