How Connectivity is Changing the Learning Landscape

Regardless of what a higher education campus looks like in people’s minds, the reality is that the landscape is dramatically changing. Technology can enable institutions to remain competitive, meet the needs of students and professors and attract prospective students.

However, without the right connectivity and bandwidth, educators cannot accomplish their goals, explained Dr. Jonathan Huer, Sales Director Education Specialists, AT&T Services. Huer, who leads a team at AT&T that helps education customers achieve their digital transformation goals, addressed an online session at Fierce Education’s "Higher Education: Business & Leadership Summit -- Summer Edition." View this and other sessions on-demand here.  

Huer identified seven trends that will create opportunity for higher education in the future.

  1. Climate change. Huer explained that many of his higher education colleagues have been severely disrupted by weather events like hurricanes that impact different parts of the country. “This impacts teaching, learning, research, service, all of those things that higher education does and engages with our communities,” Huer said. “If we want to build equitable learning opportunities and we want to have inclusive learning environments, we need to recognize that not every person will be impacted equally by severe weather events.” We need to use connectivity, policy and training to support and prepare the educational community to mitigate these events, he added.
  2. Demographic trends. The population demographics are changing and average age is increasing. Employees need to keep learning. “How can we use connectivity to enable lifelong learning to meet all students, wherever they are in their lives?” Huer asked.
  3. Decentralization. Many parts of our daily experience are decentralized, which requires flexibility. “At some level, this is the unbundling of classes,” Huer pointed out. Students can now pick and choose how to make their own experiences from a wide range of choices, because of technology, he noted. “The question is, how can we maintain our higher education values while not appearing old and out of touch?”
  4. Consolidation. The trend of consolidation is closely related to decentralization. More and more companies are forming coalitions and people expect to have a seamless experience inside of an ecosystem, Huer explained. “How many institutions can say that students have a seamless experience when they change majors?” he asked. “So, students don’t necessarily get to experience the same seamless experience in higher education that people expect in the real world. And how can we do better that this? How can we create frictionless experiences inside of higher education?” 
  5. Fiscal Awareness. People are concerned about cost and value, Huer explained. “Generally speaking, many students have grown up with YouTube, where education is free and you can learn anything through Google and online videos,” he pointed out. “We need to think about how we can justify the value of higher education, and how we can use technology to increase the experience, reduce costs and more importantly, help everyone understand the long-term value of higher education.”
  6. Technology. According to Huer, if you’re not genuinely investing in technology as well as the people and the policies, all the different parts of an institution that build and maintain an inclusive tech-positive experience, you’re missing out. “How can we use technology to build the best community engagement, innovation, inclusive environment possible for teaching, learning and research?” he asked.  
  7. Competition. Huer said that he personally thinks of edutainment as competition. “One thing that’s absolutely crucial is that we figure out how we can help everyone understand that production quality doesn’t equal good teaching and learning,” he said. “Higher education needs to think about we can defend our turf and help people understand that teaching and learning is more than slick production value.”

Huer outlined how these trends point to opportunities for higher education.

  • Be connected. We need to think more about how more technology can work for us, know how to use it properly and have policies to prioritize the connectivity and be sure we can maintain proper mental health.
  • Digital impressions. Digital impressions are the first impression. Focus on the digital impression, the impact of your website and other digital materials have.
  • Build an ecosystem. Invite everyone in the community to be a part of your ecosystem. And it’s important that we all think of safety in physical and virtual spaces.
  • Sell your value. The higher education community needs to work together to sell the value of a college degree.  
  • Win students by design. If you utilize all the opportunities of technology, you can win students by design by using technology.
  • Create collaboration. In order to build out ecosystems and thrive, partner with companies and vendors and work together to ensure that you’re building the best experience you can for teaching, learning, research and service.

For more articles from Fierce Education's "Business & Leadership Summit", see: 

Addressing Students' Needs: Academically and Mentally