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Strategic technologies and influential trends impacting universities in 2020

At the start of the year, we looked at the digital trends that you need to be aware of this year from video content to voice search, sentiment analysis, the smart campus, through to the increasing role of student ambassadors and rise in importance of accessibility standards. You can read it here if you missed the article back in January.

Following hot on the heels of this digital trend post, Educause has released the results of an expansive survey looking at the emerging trends shaping the strategic direction of institutions' digital activity.

This is the sixth year that Educause has tracked the influence of major trends and technologies on the IT strategy of colleges and universities and this year over 300 institutions were involved.

The results make interesting reading.

Understanding how the most influential trends in 2020 will affect your institution

Let's start by taking a look at the trends for 2020.

These are the top six trends selected from a long list of options and cited as having the most impact on higher education's IT strategy, and therefore, the highest anticipated level of institutional influence.

  • The growing complexity of security threats
  • Student success focus and imperatives
  • Data-informed decision-making
  • Privacy
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Institution-wide data management and integrations

Clearly security, data, and data privacy are at the top of the agenda.

The modern-day student expects seamless personalized experiences, so the typical security objectives of confidentiality, integrity, and availability are having to expand to include privacy, safety, and reliability as institutions become more digital in their interactions with students.

Finding the right balance is imperative here between convenience and user-friendly digital services for students and security. Students can become frustrated by layers of authentication, and meanwhile, university IT teams are rightly worried about the potential of breaches that could result in regulatory or compliance setbacks.

The strategic technologies that institutions will be prioritizing in 2020

The second part of the report highlights the top 10 strategic technologies identified by respondents that institutions will be spending the most time tracking, planning for, and implementing in 2020. They are as follows.

  1. Uses of APIs
  2. Institutional support for accessibility technologies
  3. Blended data center (on-premises and cloud-based)
  4. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
  5. Open educational resources
  6. Technologies for improving analysis of student data
  7. Security analytics
  8. Integrated student success planning and advising systems
  9. Mobile apps for enterprise applications
  10. Predictive analytics for student success (at an institutional level)

The prominence of 'uses of APIs' is interesting, coming out top in the survey for the second year running.

More and more institutions are moving their applications to the cloud, but many universities still maintain some on-premise legacy systems. The integration of these applications is critical to university operations, though "cloud-first" strategies will, over time, reduce the dependence on them.

Some institutions, meanwhile, are investing in 'nudge technology' which cuts across many of these findings. In simple terms, these are collections of technologies – cloud, mobile, social and data – that work together to achieve timely personalized interactions with students, staff and faculty. When they work well these initiatives undoubtedly have a major role to play in enhancing the student experience and improving outcomes.

More generally the technologies identified in the survey are all characterized by features that aim to facilitate student access and success, improve data collection, security, and use, and enhance mobile technologies.

Reviewing the trends that are taking hold and addressing them at your institution

As we enter a new decade, the higher education market faces wide-ranging opportunities and unprecedented challenges.

Institutions looking to thrive in the increasingly competitive education market must identify, adopt and leverage technology quickly that enables them to enhance their student experience.

The survey results from Educause provide both a snapshot of the industry's priorities and an opportunity to sense-check your own institution's strategic digital direction.

It's more important than ever to harness the powerful new disruptive digital technologies emerging in the industry today. Change is challenging, but 2020 is brimming with technological potential.


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