Jim Milton is the Chairman and CEO of Anthology, a global EdTech ecosystem supporting over 150 million users in over 80 countries.

The pandemic has had a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives, and higher education is no different. More than any change, the widespread use of online and hybrid learning is shepherding the next chapter of education, one where data will fuel more personalized experiences that ultimately forge a more direct path to student success and positive outcomes for learners.

As global education leaders look to advancements in education technology (edtech) to curb the impact of external and internal pressures and help define a new normal on their campuses, many are questioning what comes next after the initial wave of digital transformation has passed. The best way to understand what lies ahead for global education and where we have opportunities to grow through technology is to first look back at where we’ve been.

The Foundation Of EdTech

Edtech was initially conceptualized in the late ’80s during the Information Age when technology was first retrofitted for educational use. Fast forward to the early ’90s, and edtech became a standalone industry as early educational tools were catalyzed by the invention of the Internet, introducing the learning management systems (LMS) and student information systems (SIS) that educators and administrators are familiar with today.

In the new millennium, the growth and utilization of personal devices prompted a new perspective on enhancing the student experience through technology. Unfortunately, gaps remained in many of the solutions invented during this time and siloed data and disparate systems left organizations unable to scale technology and effectively tap into data for strategic decision making.

Once the pandemic hit, the sudden move to fully online instruction ignited the adoption of next-gen edtech and prompted the need for new products and services to meet the changing demands of today’s learners. The shift to digital learning also increased the volume of data points available to track in the lifecycle of each student’s academic journey. As a result, nearly half of institutions became actively engaged in a digital transformation strategy, which brings us to our current state.

The Next Chapter Written With Data

Today we’ve stepped into a new era where data plays a more prominent role than ever before. Institutions are responding to the need for a more holistic approach when determining which technologies to adopt and seeking out edtech partners that can help create dynamic, data-informed experiences for their learners. Many campuses have started leveraging cloud-based systems, data lakes and other intelligent and privacy-secure solutions to enable a comprehensive view of student profiles and behavior. In response, edtech companies have a renewed calling to help institutions action critical information across the campus to gain new insights and better guide students throughout their academic journey, ultimately improving the college experience through a more personalized approach.

University leaders globally, no matter their country or region, are nearly unanimous in this need for a more holistic approach to data. In a recent survey of more than 2,500 higher education leaders across 10 countries our company conducted, 94% confirmed they are looking for new opportunities to aggregate and analyze student data as they consider learner needs of the future. And the same percentage agree that a holistic view of a learner’s data pulled across multiple systems would benefit their team while also helping more students achieve their goals.

Data’s Impact On Student Success

What does a holistic view through data mean in practice, and how will it positively impact both students and the institution? Designing a holistic view of each student’s experience can help administrators, faculty and advisors benchmark and improve outcomes around areas like retention and enrollment initiatives and preparing students for the workforce. In addition, with touch points across the campus, universities gain a better grasp of drivers and when and how various interventions are needed to make a difference in a student’s path toward their degree. From the faculty and administrator perspective, these insights can be used to guide curriculum development and understand the effectiveness of services and support provided to students.

For students, it’s about a learning experience that fits their personal needs. That might mean online campus resources available in the evening when students with jobs are able to do coursework. It could also mean a registration and enrollment experience built specifically for their goals with reminders to keep them on track toward graduation—or a prompt to submit coursework or seek extra assistance from the instructor. In a learning environment where the right data is at the institution’s fingertips, learners are more likely to reach their desired outcomes, and universities can make more strategic decisions about how to drive enrollment, retention and overall student success.

When evaluating the right technologies to help propel their institution forward, universities should consider which edtech systems can scale for future growth while informing this holistic view of learners. By incorporating valuable data across the LMS, the SIS and other core solutions, universities can create a framework of information that underpins all of the technologies that drive their campus. Edtech partners that share this perspective are uniquely prepared to help support universities and students with innovations that meet all of their needs, both today and in the future.

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