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How the Pandemic Boosted Ed Tech Adoption

Mainstream education technology adoption: Pre-2020, 2020 and 2021

Mainstream education technology adoption: Pre-2020, 2020 and 2021. Source: "The Changing Landscape of Online Education, 2021" from Quality Matters and Eduventures Research.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting pivot to online learning in higher education increased mainstream adoption of many education technology tools, according to the 2021 Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) report. The technology with the greatest gains: videoconferencing, which is projected to reach 87 percent mainstream adoption by the end of 2021, compared to 51 percent in 2019.

CHLOE is an annual survey of chief online officers about the structure and organization of online learning in United States higher education, conducted by Quality Matters and Eduventures Research. The 2021 survey polled representatives from 422 U.S. colleges and universities, drilling down into the impact of the pandemic on the future of online learning.

Other technologies seeing a significant boost in 2021 compared to 2019:

  • Video recording and distribution tools, which went from 44 percent mainstream adoption in 2019 to a projected 60 percent in 2021 (as the report noted, moving into "majority territory" for the first time);
  • Accessibility tools, from 42 percent to 51 percent;
  • Assessment integrity (including e-proctoring), from 29 percent to 49 percent;
  • Student support (including retention tools), from 32 percent to 43 percent;
  • Open educational resources, from 15 percent to 25 percent; and
  • Virtual labs and simulations, from 11 percent to 28 percent ("the only category to more than double its mainstream adoption rate," the report pointed out).

While learning management systems are projected to reach 96 percent mainstream adoption this year, they were already in use by 93 percent of institutions pre-pandemic.

The report also analyzed the proportion of institutions reporting "little or no investment" in each ed tech segment in 2019 compared to the 2021 projections. Across the board, all ed tech segments "saw significant reduction in institutional non-participation," the report said. For most segments, non-adoption is expected to drop below 20 percent post-pandemic. Put another way, virtual labs, open educational resources, assessment integrity technologies, accessibility tools, video recording and distribution tools, videoconferencing, textbooks/materials and learning management systems are all forecast to have been at least partially adopted by 80 percent or more of responding institutions by the end of 2021. And both videoconferencing and the LMS will reach nearly 100 percent mainstream or partial adoption.

"The pandemic pushed schools of all types … to invest in novel forms of technology or reinvest in existing capabilities," the report noted. "COVID-19 has closed technology adoption gaps faster and more decisively than anything previous."

The full report, which covers enrollment trends, attitudes toward online learning, online learning quality assurance and more, is available for download on the Quality Matters site (registration required).

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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