10 technologies that will have a huge impact on education in 2015 and beyond!

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Technology has the capacity to fundamentally change every aspect of our lives. There are few sectors where this is more visible and obvious than education.

According to technology research house Gartner, worldwide education sector spending is forecast to grow 2.3% to reach US$67.8-billion in 2015. This forecast includes higher education as well as primary and secondary schools. In Western Europe alone, education institutions will spend US$16.3-billion on technology products and services in 2015.

Of course the situation isn’t the same across the globe, but even initiatives such as Google’s Connected Classrooms and Free access to Wikipedia are changing the way children experience the classroom.

Technology has massive potential to disrupt education. And according to Jan-Martin Lowendahl, Gartner vice president and analyst, traditional educational business models are being fundamentally challenged by digitisation.

“An increasing number of technical innovations and technology trends are emerging from within the industry, but most will emerge outside the industry, driven by major forces such as digital business and the consumerisation and industrialisation of IT,” Lowendahl said.

Gartner has identified 10 top strategic technologies for the education industry in 2015.

1. Adaptive Learning

True adaptive learning is a type of crowd-sourcing and big data collection. The real value of adaptive learning lies in the metadata attached to each learning “morsel,” which must then be combined with enough empirical data of students trying to master the topic to allow personalised learning.

2. Adaptive E-Textbooks

Unlike traditional print materials, e-textbooks can be edited to include up-to-date information, be assembled or disassembled, or include content from other sources and social interaction. Adaptive e-textbooks add the element of tracking student interaction with the text, and adapting to the learning style. E-textbooks are the first key step of going from analogue to digital education.

3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM is now a widely recognised tool for tracking and managing relationships with constituents, including prospective and current students, parents, alumni, corporations, benefactors. However, institutions are having difficulties of standardising and integrating the institutional data to achieve success with these solutions, and to enable rapid and informed decision-making on their campus.

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4. Big Data

Big data in education is associated with collecting vast amounts of data from the digitised activities of students, parents, faculty and staff, transforming that into information, and producing or recommending actions aimed at improving institution outcomes. Big data in higher education has been around for decades, mainly focused on research. Now, it is a very promising technology-based strategic capability that has the possibility to improve the whole education ecosystem.

5. Sourcing Strategies

Not a technology in itself, sourcing strategies represent a collection of technologies and vendor services, from hosting to cloud, homegrown to open source, to subscription models for acquiring software/hardware capabilities. A sourcing strategy is a set of scenarios, plans, directives and decisions that dynamically define and integrate internal and external resources and services required to fulfill an enterprise’s business objectives. Strategic sourcing helps IT to focus from administrative transactions and operational support toward activities that enable differentiation and innovation for the institution.

6. Exostructure

Exostructure strategy means acquiring the critical capability of interoperability as a deliberate strategy to integrate the increasing numbers of partnerships, tools and services in the education ecosystem. When done right, an exostructure approach enables institutions to leverage services from the cloud, rather than having to bring them inside the campus walls. The future belongs to exostructure rather than to infrastructure.

7. Open Microcredentials

Microcredentials in the form of various badges or points have existed for some time in digital social environments in general, and in learning environments in particular. A key problem is that these environments are proprietary, which makes it difficult to display achievements outside of them. The aim of open microcredentials is to remedy that problem. For education institutions, issuing open microcredentials is a low-cost, high-value, technology-based capability that will provide more value and motivation to students. Open microcredentials is still relatively immature as a technology, but it is gaining traction in the education community but it is clear strategic technology with a relatively small investment involved.

8. Digital Assessment

Digital assessment is ultimately about being able to do any assessment digitally, to remove the need for physically tethered as well as human-proctored tests and improve modes of testing, grading and data analysis. The first-level application of digital assessments is to increase trust in online education by applying identification mechanisms, such as keystroke identification or cloud-based face recognition. Digital assessment is a very practical technology with a clear high-level goal, but with many problems in the implementation. However, good digital assessment is a necessity for trustworthy and scalable online or hybrid (digitalised) education, and will remain a strategic technology until it is solved.

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9. Mobile

Mobile is a popular term for pervasive access via many types of devices. Mobile is not simply a synonym for mobile smartphones or tablets. Mobile in education includes use in all aspects of the academy — administration, education and research. However, the domain is maturing surprisingly slowly. Inhibitors in 2014 still include smartphone cost, device limitations (such as battery life), the development of m-learning course materials, lack of skills and the wide diversity of mobile devices.

10. Social Learning

Social learning gives learners the ability to establish a presence or social profile that reflects their expertise and interest. It also allows them to create, discuss, share and capture learning content as learning objects. Furthermore, it enables them to organise and find learning objects from a variety of sources, such as search or peer ratings. In addition to its benefits, social learning allows for interaction between peers in their social networks and be able to reach beyond their networks to other trusted sources of information and to engage in experience-based learning exercises. With Social Learning, learners can receive real-time online coaching and support.

The experience from massive open online courses shows the importance of “social” in learning platforms and is influencing the acceptance of social learning platforms. However, a significant number of faculty and students prefer to use open social platforms such as Google Sites or Facebook to complement traditional learning-management systems rather than the now-built-in social features in the learning platforms. Vendors and institutions are still trying to figure out the perfect mix in the learning stack.

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Mangi Tshikomba is a technology entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of Things Technologies and founding editor of EdTechDojo.co.za. He is a OYW Ambassador, Queens Young Leader and Brightest Young Minds Alumni. He holds BSc(Hon) Civil Engineering from Wits University, Jhb and Leadership Certificate from certificate from Cambridge University, UK. His interests are in Entrepreneurship, EdTech and Early Childhood Development (ECD).