When it comes to foreseeing the future of digital technology, there is no crystal ball. Yet developers in the education technology sector do have ways of predicting upcoming trends. By interpreting and utilising the raft of information available to them, they are able to combine insight with innovation to develop the products of the future, says John Butler, VP Europe at leading technology provider Ellucian
With changes in digital technology moving at an accelerated pace, valuable intelligence can be gained by monitoring the evolving habits of the whole population as well as education-specific trends in other countries, particularly the United States, which help to show us the way.
An international Google Report which analyses IT usage among the 18–25 population shows us the importance of mobile technology as well as the importance of ‘context’ when the time of day, goals, attitudes and location of the user influence the choice of device. The same trends apply to higher education.
According to a recent EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) study, students are now bringing three or four devices to university, with the expectation that they can access all information from all devices.
To meet this requirement, institutions will continue to invest in a fully integrated portal and mobile application which utilises cloud capability. Five years ago, when the cloud was discussed it was in the future tense, as something visible but on the horizon. Now, it is no longer a trend to analyse but a reality to embrace, providing users with the ability to access and share information at any time, from multiple devices.
Global trends also reveal a move away from IT-centric management, with decision-making responsibility devolving to executives who are not responsible directly for IT. This is because IT is no longer the exclusive domain of the technology professional. Staff across all areas of the institution are becoming increasingly involved in the decision-making process as they grasp the benefit that integrated technology solutions can provide.
Technology never stands still, however. Innovation and expectation are constantly evolving and our experience at Ellucian demonstrates the unprecedented pace of change. Our technical teams have brought out five upgrades of Ellucian Mobile in just 16 months since March 2013. Each enhancement illustrates new areas of development, many of which were mapped out in response to engagement with existing users.
For example, one of the early upgrades of Ellucian Mobile introduced a range of new features including Arabic language support and the brand new version includes registration notification support for students. Forthcoming upgrades (currently in the planning stage) are likely to include enhanced recruitment options, Google Analytics and a checklist for new students.
For real progress to be made, however, technology providers cannot simply follow; they must also lead. The final element that influences the future of digital technology is innovation. It is the value-added ingredient that creates the framework to accommodate future trends, opening up more possibilities. It is always worth remembering that no one thought they wanted an iPad until the first one had been developed and manufactured. In a similar way, product developers need to come up with the improvements no one had realised they wanted, until they became a reality.
As for the crystal ball: it seems certain that we will see further developments in cloud technology and that we will embrace mobile technology even further. As whole campus mobile systems become ubiquitous and universities continue to develop satellite campuses at home and abroad, single portal systems, based in the cloud, will become a more integral part of everyone’s lives.