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An Overview of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

Deidra Peterson Specialist, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 8 Jun 2020

The Changing Technology Landscape of Higher Education in 2020

“Driven by a number of business trends, education leaders are always looking at how technology can optimize and modernize. Now, they are increasingly looking at how technology can enhance competitive advantage and support emerging business models — and, ultimately, the institution’s main missions of education, research and outreach.” -Gartner, Inc. in Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

Gartner has identified the primary strategic technologies critical to higher education this year, as well as their influence on IT organizations. It’s incumbent upon higher ed CIOs to consider these technologies and the Gartner recommendations that accompany them as they progress through the year.

As higher education technology continues to evolve and, in some cases, increases in complexity, it’s becoming even more crucial for the operational success of higher education institutions – not to mention a competitive differentiator. Today, many institutions are pursuing technologies like smart campuses and artificial intelligence with digital transformation remaining the ultimate goal. This year, three new technologies are changing the landscape for higher education: new display, visualization and collaboration tech; faculty information systems; and 5G. Furthermore, institutions are adopting 5G more broadly.

It’s important to note that this list doesn’t exemplify how CIOs in higher ed are spending the majority of their time and money. Rather, it represents the strategic technologies Gartner has identified for 2020. The technology ecosystem in education is intensifying competitively. As a result, institutions need to focus their innovation efforts and heighten the stakeholder experience. CIOs should use this list to remain inspired, current, and well-positioned to utilize critical technologies at their inception.

Higher education’s top 10 key strategic technologies for 2020

  1. Artificial intelligence strategy and tactics

“Gartner defines “artificial intelligence” as a discipline that applies advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning, to interpret events, support and automate decisions, and take action. AI is a “general-purpose technology” (GPT). In this profile, we look at the use of AI applications and their impact on higher education institutions.” – Gartner, Inc. in Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

It’s reasonable to assume that AI will be present in most technologies higher education institutions rely on today. It is particularly applicable in scenarios that require the analysis of large, unstructured data volumes and subsequent actions. In fact, artificial intelligence is poised to quicken the adoption and impact of analytics.

  • “Traditional” institution analytics and learning analytics already are implemented in 55% and 42% of institutions, respectively, according to 2020 Gartner CIO Survey respondents.
  • However, in the same survey, only 10% said that they have already implemented AI and machine learning, and another 19% said that they will implement in the next 12 months.

It’s important to note that while AI in analytics has great potential, institutions often lack quality data and an understanding of the data available.

  1. Next-generation security and risk management

The increasing emphasis on personalization across industries, education included, has called the ethical use of data into question. For higher education institutions, this becomes a security and risk management issue that calls for the control and consent of staff and students.

Meanwhile, regulatory compliance increases in complexity across technology practice areas, requiring institutions to focus on security, risk, and privacy to effectively protect sensitive personal information. Ultimately, this need impacts how staff and student information is processed.

In addition, the inception of 5G coupled with continued growth of IoT creates the need for security teams to protect a fast increasing the number of applications and devices. Cloud and SaaS offerings are on the rise, too, making effective cybersecurity programs ongoing challenging undertakings.

  1. Smart campus

Though smart campuses have garnered a great deal of attention in recent years, they’re still in the early stages of technological development. At the same time, higher education is putting greater emphasis on their implementation.

So far, the most common smart campus elements involve optimizing energy consumption and waste disposal, typically accomplished by implementing IoT reliant sensors, plus AI and robotic process automation for taking action. Other relevant technologies include augmented reality, virtual reality, facial recognition, wireless mapping, RFID and sensor technology.

  1. Nudge tech

“Nudge tech is a collection of technologies that work together to achieve timely, personalized interaction with students, staff and faculty, such as a just-in-time text (SMS) reminder for class. Technologies used include chatbot, texting, algorithmic analytics, machine learning and AI CI.” – Gartner, Inc. in Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

Originally, the term nudge came from Richard Thaler’s behavioral economics researched focused on how “nudging” can help human beings make better decisions – it’s actually an established theory. Understanding it and identifying opportunities are key to its successful application in higher education and can be used to positively impact priorities like enrollment, retention, and personalization.

  1. Digital credentialing technologies

“Digital credentials deal with trust and verification differently, using technology like cryptography to eliminate fraud. They enable institutions to deliver authenticated credentials instantly and enable learners to control and share credentials more freely in the education ecosystem.” – Gartner, Inc. in Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

The need for trust, speed, and granularity in credential exchanged has led to new forms of credentials within higher education. Innovative methods of credentialing continue to develop, as there’s no standard digital credentialing infrastructure within higher ed yet. As the evolution continues, it’s expected that digital credentialing will make sharing credentials with employers faster and simpler.

  1. Cross-life-cycle CRM

“Cross-life-cycle CRM is a CRM deployment that creates an enterprise-wide, 360-degree view of a constituent, most often a student, across the major life cycle phases, beginning with precollege and moving through prospect, applicant, enrolled, graduated and alumni statuses.” – Gartner, Inc. in Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

Historically, CRMs in higher education are focused on individual department needs. Today, they’re changing to establish a centralized view of each student. Interest in cross-life-cycle CRMs is increasing, with early adopters kicking off with large, aggressive projects.

  1. 5G/ecosystem infrastructure

5G is deployments began rolling out last year in 2019 and are expected to continue for the next 5-8 years. Capabilities include:

  • New or enhanced end-user or IoT applications
  • Low latency data transmission
  • Support for large deployments of machine-to-machine communications

5G coverage will likely remain in urban areas during the early stages of deployment. It’s worth noting that along with 5G comes mobile edge computing, wherein low latency enables devices to access processing hosted in the network. This capability will benefit edge architectures and enable new kinds of networked devices.

  1. New display, visualization, and collaboration technologies

As online learning becomes more prevalent, display, collaboration, and visualization tech continue to evolve. Both students and teachers have access to innovate forms of engagement within online classes and breakout rooms. As such, “live” teaching and discussions are now a competitive differentiator in higher education. Many universities have invested in tech-rich classrooms and learning spaces to support this initiative.

  1. Career software

    “Colleges and universities use career software to assist students in planning for their post-tertiary-education careers and life in the workforce, including assessing their skills and making connections with employers.” – Gartner, Inc. in Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020

    Ensuring the post-graduation success of students is a growing initiative for higher education institutions. Universities are concerned with employment rates and remuneration, which drives the need for career software, though it’s in the early stages of implementation across departments.

  2. Faculty information systems

Faculty information systems track faculty data such as promotion, tenure and sabbaticals; profile and CV administration; faculty recognition, impact and activity reporting; and collaboration tools.

Today, higher ed institutions commonly use unintegrated, siloed solutions for managing faculty personnel administration. To their benefit, more comprehensive systems, as opposed to point solutions, are under development and gaining traction.

The above represents an overview of Gartner’s complete list. We encourage you to read the comprehensive Gartner report, which goes into much greater detail on the top 10 strategic technologies for higher education in 2020, as well as key findings, implications and recommendations you can apply at your institution, plus changes from last 2019 to 2020

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