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January 16, 2020

The Use of Technology in Higher Education

MHT Partners  | Education Investment Bank

As the world digitally evolves, education technology (“edtech”) continues to proliferate, increasing the impact it has on learning. The growing exposure of students to technologies in various aspects of their lives has caused a noticeable shift in the way students learn and retain information. As a result, institutions have begun to rely on technologies such as big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to carry out their initiatives to differentiate learning experiences and implement unique, adaptive curriculums. In addition, the technologies are being used to recruit students, predict dropout rates, track student successes as well as help to improve operational efficiency, which ultimately drives growth, increases revenue and reduces costs. While campuses are certainly becoming smarter, many are seeing that implementation of these technologies doesn’t automatically result in improvement. Layering technologies over inefficiencies can be compared to a person buying the incorrect batteries for a TV remote – it simply doesn’t work, though well intended. The same logic must be applied when administrators and educators implement technologies on their campuses. With any luck, stakeholders will take the necessary steps to ensure adoption and utilization that are required to increase students’ performance and differentiate their college experiences.

The use of edtech on campus has created additional growth opportunities for students and schools. According to Educause, a renowned education non-profit that advocates for edtech use in higher education, the use of big data, cloud computing and online learning platforms are among the most important technology-driven changes in higher education. Colleges and universities are finding new, creative ways to utilize the data including but not limited to recruiting students and predicting dropouts by monitoring the data once the students are enrolled. The adoption of these new practices allows institutions to understand the changing habits and needs of their students and proactively create, implement catered curriculums, and differentiate learning experiences. In addition, institution leaders can grow their campuses by using data to attract and retain students and top-notch instructors.

Technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality are also expanding rapidly into higher education as they are giving college administrators innovative ways to track students, teach students and create smarter, more efficient campuses. The combined use of big data and artificial intelligence is becoming a dominant force on campus as educators seek to carry out advanced initiatives and implement technologies that are catered, adaptive and dynamic. Virtual and augmented reality tools are helping to take these initiatives to the next level by providing students with experiences that would be “otherwise too expensive or even impossible to replicate in the real world.”1 For example, Hamilton College utilizes these tools to change the way their 1,850 student liberal arts program teaches human anatomy. Students use virtual reality applications to record themselves explaining sections of human anatomy, enhancing the students’ critical thinking and oral communication skills. The learning capabilities of big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality tools are endless. And – quite frankly – unmatched when you factor in their ability to drive growth, increase revenue and cut costs.

With all new things, though, there is a potential for misuse. While not intended, misuse is a latent problem that applies to the capabilities of emerging education technologies. The intricacies of these technologies must be closely examined before use on a campus, or they could be just as useless as “Triple A” batteries bought for a remote that requires “Double A.” Yes, the intent is there; however, intent alone doesn’t lead to results.

Christopher Brooks, director of research for Educause, said it best when speaking on the implementation of technologies in higher education. It truly does take “a village to get a 3D project off of the ground.”1 Implementation is not a single action, yet it is goal-oriented strategy that seeks to solve a set of problems at the core. This rationale must be kept in mind by administrators and educators in order to unlock the potential of emerging education technology which is needed to differentiate learning experiences and spark student improvement.

We welcome further discussion on this and other trending topics in the education space. Feel free to reach out to a senior member of our education team: Alex Hicks (ahicks@mhtpartners.com) or Rebecca Bell (rbell@mhtpartners.com).

(1) https://www.educationdive.com/trendline/emerging-technology/15/

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