Trends in Higher Ed and Technology

By Kristen Abell

I tried to come up with an original title, really, I did. But in responding to this week’s blog prompt, this is pretty much what it is.

Although there are a number of trends in technology in higher ed right now, I opted to focus on three: mobile, social media and cloud computing. I picked these three probably because they are the ones with which I’m the most familiar or which I use the most, but also because I see our students using them, as well.

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

When I entered grad school, I got my first cell phone – and I shared it with a friend of mine. That’s how little either of us used one at that point. Now, I pretty much go through withdrawal if I find myself without my phone for any reason. And it’s not just because I’m calling people – in fact, I barely use my phone to call anyone. I use it to email, text, surf the web, check Twitter and Facebook, take pictures – you name it, my phone does it. Although I’m still working on finding an app that will allow it to clean my house and office.

Students are also using phones for a variety of tasks and communications these days, and universities need to find a way to keep up. We need to be creating/using mobile websites, mobile applications that allow students to pay bills, enroll in classes, submit homework, etc. Rather than creating physical computer labs on campus, how are we working to enable students to access information through a mobile application or site? With the rise in tablet use, I think we need to continue to look at mobile, as the majority of these will use mobile browsers and applications. We also need to continue to think about location-based applications as more and more of these show up on campuses. Finally, we need to make sure that whatever we’re providing for our mobile users, we have another way of providing it for those students without the means for purchasing a smart phone.

Social Media, duh

Social media is not on the rise – it’s here. And it’s been here for awhile. And yet, we still have a number of staff and faculty who are resistant to participating in this “fad.” I even almost hesitate to put this as a trend, except that in a way, it is – at least it’s the first wave in a trend of our students demanding more personal communication from their university, more transparency, and most importantly, more authenticity. They want to know what’s really happening and who really works/teaches at their institution. In addition, this is providing us as educators more access to our students in a way we’ve never really had it before. While some institutions have really embraced social media in the form of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc., there are a number of universities and colleges that aren’t even on the map and don’t have the slightest clue about social media strategy. So yes, I am beating a horse, but I hardly think it’s a dead one yet.

Cloud Computing

Did I mention something above about mobility? Students want to be able to access their files/information from anywhere. Sure, we can provide access to computers, but they need to be able to get their stuff. Google has provided more than enough ways to do this, but we also need to consider virtual desktop interfaces and file storage for academic documents – especially as we move toward providing more and more online classes. If your university isn’t exploring this, they need to jump on board.

What trends do you see in technology for higher education? Come on, I know y’all have some ideas – tell us in the comments!

Trends in Higher Ed and Technology

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