I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bob Nilsson, our director of content and vertical solutions marketing, for his views on EdTech trends in the coming year. Here is a glimpse of our Q&A:
Nilsson: Among educators and IT managers, the biggest issue for 2019 is whether EdTech will deliver on the promise of improving educational outcomes and extending quality education to students of all backgrounds more efficiently and at lower cost than traditional styles of teaching. While many EdTech enhancements, such as digital text books and the increased use of video have had demonstrable results; other emerging styles, such as adaptive learning have shown some progress, but are yet to deliver definitive results.
Two other growing trends for 2019 are eSports and improving the on-line learning experience. Fielding competitive eSports teams requires highly-capable systems and high-performance networks. To extend the campus experience to non-resident online students, schools are making better use of video, robotics, and virtual reality.
Nilsson: Augmented and mixed reality are now poised for hard takeoff in 2019. Virtual reality has earned a permanent role in most curricula, especially with the widespread use of Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions. Looking forward, if the number of AR sessions at Educause 2018 and ISTE 2018 are any indication, augmented reality will enable a new style of collaborative teaching, especially in the fields of healthcare, architecture, the arts, and design.
AI and machine learning were also emerging hot topics at EdTech conferences this past year. These are being applied to help with student retention by better predicting which students will face difficulties, and to improve adaptive learning. They are also important subjects for the curriculum. AI is further being incorporated into network management, with products like ExtremeAI that reduce the resources required to provide the best educational network experience.
Nilsson: The Department of Education and FCC must decide what direction the next phase of e-Rate will take. This year is the last of the current 5-year program, and the general sense is that the program will be extended with minor modifications. While E-rate has helped schools bring high speed Internet into the classroom, not all students have the same access at home. Bridging this “homework gap” is a hurdle that government policy can solve next year.
Nilsson: According to the Campus Computing 2018 National Survey, IT budgets will continue to face reductions: “Fully two-thirds (68 percent) of the fall 2018 survey participants report that campus IT funding has not recovered from the recurring budget cuts that began for most institutions with the “Great Recession” in fall 2008.” Luckily, technology advances like AR and VR mean expensive equipment can now be simulated or virtualized. Network infrastructure is getting faster, more tuneable to efficiently deliver bandwidth when and where it is needed. Migration to the cloud, outsourcing, and network infrastructure-as-a-service (NIaaS) are also providing new means to restructure the school budgets.
Nilsson: Our hope is that EdTech will enable ever-more personalized learning through mixed reality, AI, increasing use of video and other digital media, as well as adaptive learning and competency-based education. These technologies have the ability to extend quality education to all students and prepare them with the skills needed for the workforce of the future.
Nilsson: Many of these emerging styles of education place a significant stress on the educational network infrastructure. If the flow of data to student or teacher devices slows, the network is usually blamed. It is a major challenge to insure the highest quality of educational experience, but this can be solved with a quality-of-experience network dashboard and new AI and ML-based network management tools.
Schools need to be especially prepared for ever-more sophisticated cyber-attacks, which can not only bring the IT environment to a halt, but jeopardize the private data stored on and off campus, and potentially expose the school to legal and financial repercussions.
To learn more about the challenges and opportunities at the network edge, and Extreme’s Smart OmniEdge solution, check out the resources below: