In 2023, higher education institutions will continue to adapt and develop their offerings and strategies to increase efficiencies, remain agile and continue to attract students. At the end of last year, we examined some of the upcoming market trends that will determine how they achieve this. As we enter a new year, we’re going to look at four more key trends that will also impact higher education in 2023.

Trend 1: Education by design

One thing is very clear – the educational experience needs to become more engaging and less didactic. We’ve known for many years that packing a couple of hundred students into an auditorium might not be the most effective way to teach students. Indeed, universities continue to turn their back on this approach, and most are looking at ways to make time spent on campus as productive, enriching and engaging as possible.

As a result of this move to a more active learning approach, the role of the learning designer has changed progressively, a topic discussed in this video from Deakin University. It has evolved from working to digitise traditional on-campus experiences, to entirely redesigning curriculums and associated learning activities to engage students and create the authentic experiences they are looking for.

Trend 2: Scalability equals great competition

In the pursuit of producing more rounded global citizens through the right mix of on campus and off campus experiences, universities are spreading their wings. With the widespread adoption of hybrid and remote learning – and the technology to support it – the world has effectively shrunk. Universities are seizing this opportunity to scale their marketing, broaden their offerings and highlight their specialties, to compete with a wider selection of globally aware universities and an increasing number of new competitors. Likewise, students don’t have to stay in their own backyard or pay exorbitant student fees – they can study at any university, anywhere in the world, remotely, and with competition driving prices down, they can do so far more affordably. This feeds nicely into the next trend we’re going to highlight.

Trend 3: Focus on equity and inclusion

As institutions embrace hybrid and hyflex learning models, can we guarantee that ALL students have access to the tools and technologies required to have a good educational experience? The answer could be no, depending on accessibility issues, financial constraints or cultural barriers. There’s also the issue of whether on campus learning is equitable and inclusive – or ever has been.

The author of our latest whitepaper, CRADLE (Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning) Professor Phillip Dawson from Deakin University Australia argues that on campus experiences have never been equitable. But how can universities adapt curricula to enable equity and inclusion? One way could be to use a hyflex model where the campus experience is replicated digitally for all, minus the burdens of time and travel.

For other examples of improving equity and inclusion, we can look at Cornell University which is focusing on banishing implicit bias from group work, while Eastern Michigan University has an early college program that has raised the graduation rate 300 percent higher than other students in Michigan and 700 percent higher for black students. The University of Edinburgh is widening access to funding for under-represented groups and minimising barriers to participation in postgraduate research study.

Trend 4: A “whole-of-university” approach to mental wellbeing

The events of recent years have compounded the mental health stresses and struggles associated with higher education environments. There is now an expectation that institutions, in addition to providing general support services, also provide mental health support and guidance. The mental toll on those being asked to take on this responsibility, on top of the role they were hired to do, can be great.

As a result, many universities are adopting a “whole-of-university” approach to supporting both staff and students to ease this burden, as exemplified by the University of Melbourne’s Framework for Promoting Student Mental Health and Wellbeing. Within this framework, flexibility in course-load and progression pathways, and assessment policies and practices are key suggestions, as well as ensuring that students receive regular, informative feedback on their learning and progress.

There are many other examples of universities taking positive steps, including mindfulness training programs at the University of Queensland and the University of Surrey, explorations of the negative impact of critical thinking at Flinders University, and discussions about the issue of staff burn out at Reading University.

Trend update: Microcredentials – a nationally consistent platform for students to easily compare microcredential courses

In our last blog we spoke about microcredentials, a promising option for those who are questioning their future work paths but don’t necessarily want to spend five, three or even one year retraining to follow their dreams.

On 9th December, Australian universities trying to cater for these smaller learning experiences have been given a helping hand by the government with the launch of a website called MicrocredentialSeeker. This website allows students to search for microcredentials from multiple institutions all in one place, helping them to easily find the resources to undertake shorter accreditations that suit their lifestyle, financial situation and family commitments.

Get ahead, act now

Market trends in the education sector are always evolving, with new pressures, innovations and opportunities constantly being thrown into the mix. What remains constant, though, is the fact that the institutions that digitise their assessment processes to align with these trends will stay ahead of the curve.

To better understand the trends in education and find out how your institution could benefit from the transformation to digital, get in touch with our team.

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