Trends for agility: HE is evolving at an unprecedented pace

“Higher education is evolving at an unprecedented pace and institutions must be proactive and agile if they’re to remain competitive”

The world is changing.  From the workplace to the study place, higher education is also being forced to evolve and adapt to the changing demands of students and tomorrow’s careers. Since the 16th century, education has involved spending a good deal of time sitting in a classroom absorbing information before heading out into the working world to put it to use.

But the speed of change around us means that how we are taught today and the content we are taught about may well be redundant the next, causing higher education to rethink its framework and teaching methods for the careers of the future.

For educators, this means the way they teach, and how students learn has to evolve too, embracing technology and resources to ensure students are equipped for the fast-paced working environment of tomorrow. Here’s my look at the five most important trends shaping the future of education over the next 12 months.

Hybrid learning is here to stay

The global pandemic forced all schools, universities and course providers overnight to deliver education at a distance and there’s no going back. Delivered effectively, online learning means that educators can reach students no matter where they’re located providing equality of access to higher education for hundreds of thousands of would-be students.

In research commissioned by Anthology, we found that the student preferences for courses ‘delivered fully online’ was double that of the universities we surveyed goals, however, universities were more ‘committed to the mix of delivering fully online and fully in person courses’ vs student preferences who were less interested in this option leaning more to fully online programs.

Asked whether ‘they felt their institution had the appropriate digital learning tools in place for students to succeed?’ 60% of university leaders felt they didn’t and 51% said they were ‘considering additional technology investments moving forward’.

The class of 2026 expects a tech-enabled experience

Students today are digital natives and expect a seamless, technology-enhanced learning experience. In our survey, only 26% of university leaders felt there had ‘been a significant increase in the number of digital learning tools utilised over the last two years’ at their institution.

As demand for online grows and the competition increases among online degree providers, the challenge is keeping pace with rapidly advancing technology while providing meaningful human interaction and support to students online. It is therefore of no surprise that students fully expect educators set the technology benchmark preparing them for a high-tech future, offering more courses online, and that they deliver high-quality remote course options as standard.

Creating clear career pathways

Educational institutions have traditionally focused on learning and knowledge first and career second. As students question the value of higher education, institutions must provide clear pathways to careers and employment. Students, especially prospective online learners, are questioning the return on investment of their degree and what jobs their degree will prepare them for.

From our survey, 58% of students globally said they ‘want more career-focused services designed to help them secure a job after graduation’. As the workplace evolves so quickly and jobs that didn’t exist previously i.e. Blockchain Analyst or Cloud Architect (one of the most popular in STEM fields.) The challenge to institutions is providing relevant, in-demand skills while promoting critical thinking and creativity that align with the needs of the market. The importance of micro-credentials shouldn’t be overlooked either in their key role in supporting learners’ upskilling.

Student mental health is an increasing concern

The pandemic exacerbated mental health issues and the trends around student mental health are alarming.  The root causes of the rising numbers of mental illness extend beyond the campus, ranging from family and money issues to social media and politics, but students face a host of additional stress points including academic demands, finding a job after graduation, and coping with hybrid learning.

Some 43% of global students in our survey reported ‘struggling with their emotional wellbeing’.  Institutions have a vested interest in developing solutions which address these challenges prioritising student well-being whilst providing resources for support.  Effective learning cannot occur without a foundation of good health and well-being.

Data is our opportunity to unlock better outcomes

Delivery of powerful data-driven pedagogical can inform and improve education, yet in our survey, a staggering 94% of higher education leaders say they are ‘still looking for new opportunities
to aggregate and analyse student data to provide more insights as they consider student needs of the future’.

Anthology solutions deliver inside and outside the classroom to empower learner success focusing on three core areas: Teaching & Learning; Enterprise Operations & Lifecycle Engagement. The challenge is to incorporate data-driven teaching whilst addressing privacy concerns and the use of data ethically and transparently to benefit students and institutions.

The role of each of these areas in the evolution of education in 2023 indicates an exciting chapter in education paving the way for more opportunities and diverse learning for dynamic careers in the future.

About the author: Louise Thorpe has +25 years of experience in higher education. Previously the Head of Academic Innovation at Sheffield Hallam University and Head of Learning and Teaching Strategy and Enhancement at the University of Sheffield. Louise is Vice President and Head of Client Experience, EMEA at Anthology