Five Trends That Are Encouraging the Adoption of Tech in Higher Education

In recent years, technology has vastly transformed the higher education scene. Colleges across the country have implemented various innovative methods to advance learning spaces, remodel their libraries and bolster campus security. 2017, in particular, has seen laptops, tablets, ebook readers and fitness trackers become must-have accessories for many college students. Even virtual reality has found a place in enhancing the teaching of certain concepts in the classroom.

As manufacturers and developers continue to prioritize higher education, the impact of technology in colleges and universities is poised to become even more significant in the future. Below are five trends that are spearheading the adoption of technology in the institutions of today and tomorrow.

1. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

The world is on the verge of major changes regarding how we all interact with our computing devices. Tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft have been consistently investing in new forms of human-computer interaction (HCI) – notably VR, AR and MR – and products like the Microsoft HoloLens are already influencing the types of hardware and software that are in use in colleges.

This trend is even more compelling when we think about combining VR, AR, and MR with other HCI technologies like cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. As HCI continues to gain traction in higher institutions of learning, the future may see the development of more devices and platforms that combine AI with VR/AR/MR for a more comprehensive experience. Holograms could replace physical bodies in classrooms, and students will perhaps be able to pick their preferred learning setting, such as studying by a brook, or in a virtual Starbucks.

2. Simulation-based Learning

Educators are increasingly employing simulation techniques to facilitate active learning through repetitive and thought-provoking practice in safe, life-like environments. These virtual worlds provide to students a unique opportunity to apply knowledge and make critical decisions while incorporating some immediate feedback or reward system, which makes it easier to grasp hard sciences like biology, anatomy, geology, and astronomy.

Drexel University, for example, has collaborated with Tata Interactive Systems to provide a simulation-based learning system for their online forensic students, where they can conduct clinical assessments in the aftermath of a violent crime. A 3D virtual crime scene, complete with clues and continuous feedback, makes forensics fun and exciting.

3. Internet of Things

Although IoT technologies are primarily focusing on the consumer field, higher education holds a lot of untapped potential for the concept. Smart cities and smart campuses, for instance, are areas of keen interest among tech developers. Some systems in colleges, such as light controls, sprinklers, parking space monitors and building alarms are already internet connected and are significantly improving operations. Future iterations of IoT will likely be more intelligent, requiring less human interaction.

The Internet of Things could also motivate higher learning institutions to create IoT degrees and certificates that meet the changing job market. The “new intelligent things” such as drones and robots are expected to motivate the creation of more than 100,000 jobs by 2025. This will likely drive institutions to introduce new programs, similar to the way hacking has presently driven cyber-security degrees.

The Unmanned Vehicle University is among the few institutions addressing the market by offering programs in Unmanned Systems Engineering. With IoT steadily growing its impact on our world, however, it won’t take long for others to follow suit.

4. Digital Literacy

While previous generations of learners first experienced technology at school, today’s students first interact with technology for entertainment and social communication. This path has put  strains on institutions to incorporate college-friendly devices into their education systems.

Because smartphones and computers now feel as natural to students as pens and books, colleges and universities are looking into lessons that encourage them to solve real-world problems using modern technology. In some schools, an English composition course includes creating a blog and reading web scripting, while in others, history students learn how to visualize and map information digitally.

The intent of this approach is to create self-directed learners, who know how to put together the technologies they’re already familiar with to find up-to-date information and create new solutions.

5. Blockchain and Credentialing

Blockchain may not seem relevant to institutions of higher learning until we discuss it around the aspects of badging and credentialing. In essence, Blockchain is shaping up to become the technology that enables students and young professionals to maintain lifelong, cloud-based learner profiles, which can accumulate qualifications and badges based on courses and programs. Employers would then use these profiles to identify their future employees.

Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn last year, which had itself acquired Lynda.com in 2015, is proof that learner credentialing via blockchain could take off in the coming years. Now, if a student takes a course at Lynda.com, their LinkedIn profile reflects it.

The push into artificial intelligence by Microsoft and other major companies could play into creating a marketplace where employers easily find qualified and competent employees online. Institutions of higher learning will likely be among the main contributors of data into these profiles.

Final Words

Recent advances in technology, coupled with the escalating demand for quality education are forcing greater scrutiny on the value that institutions provide to students. Consequently, educators are changing the way they teach, strategically incorporating a variety of innovations and team-based methods of delivering content.

If the trends above continue to gain ground, the near future may see even more disruptions to traditional learning experience, with more institutions experimenting and embracing new strategies.

Vigilance Chari currently covers tech news and gadgets at LaptopNinja. She is an International presenter and published author. When not writing, she spends her time as an enthusiastic professional party planner and part-time painter.

Higher Education Marketing: Why Chatbots are the Future of Communication

Higher Education Marketing experts are projecting chatbots to be the future of communication between schools and potential students. For many universities, improving communication with students has been a key focus. As any applicant knows, the process of researching university programs can be a complicated one. Whether it’s speaking with various individuals and departments, browsing through program pages or finding out the right information for financial aid, the amount of research required to find the right university can be daunting. But what if, instead of having to spend hours researching, all of the information could be presented to you via instant messages?

With emerging chatbot technology, universities delivering information to potential students could be the future of how universities communicate and market to future students. To help explain this developing trend, below I’ll highlight what chatbots are, why they are projected to be the premier form of communication and how chatbots could provide more effective communication between universities and potential students.

What Are Chatbots?

If you’re active on Facebook, you probably have interacted with early forms of chatbots. For those that haven’t, here is a quick overview.

Chatbots are computer programs designed to provide a service to individuals that interact with it via instant messaging. Typically found in social platforms like Facebook or Slack, chatbots have been used to help with a variety of tasks, ranging from ordering pizza, getting a weather report and even offering therapy.

Communicating with chatbots is no different than messaging with humans. In fact, some have found that services provided by chatbots are often more effective and efficient. Because of this, chatbots are projected to have a major impact on the ways that humans communicate with businesses, universities and other service providers.

Why Chatbots?

Chatbots are a fairly simple concept and forms of communicating with robots have been around as long as 2001 with Smarterchild for MSN and AIM. So why is there sudden hype surrounding chatbots?

There are a number of reasons for this, yet the major factor is that messaging apps now have more active users than social media platforms, with messaging apps attracting just over 3,500 million users while social media barely passes over the 3,000 million users mark. What is most interesting about this increase is that users are not just using messaging apps to communicate with friends, they are also looking to connect with brands, share media and even shop.

Almost all higher education universities have social media accounts, yet few have utilized chatbots to connect with students. This means that chatbots provide higher education marketers with a major opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

How Chatbots Can Provide More Effective Communication Between Universities & Students

A recent Gallup study found that messaging is the preferred method of communication for the younger generations, with 68% of Millennials saying that digital messaging had been their primary source of communication. This shift towards texting has resulted in a major decrease in phone calls amongst the younger generation. In fact, many millennials consider phone calls invasive and uncomfortable, especially when they are speaking with someone unfamiliar.

For many higher education marketing departments, phone calls or emails are the primary source of contact with potential students. By using now antiquated forms of communication, universities are missing out on building quality relationships with potential students and developing insights on what younger generations are looking for in a school.

For instance, consider the ease of messaging back and forth with a chatbot whenever and wherever you choose compared with being stuck on the phone with someone you don’t know, asking you semi-personal questions regarding a major life decision. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable sharing accurate and insightful information when you had time to think and weren’t feeling pressured to answer right away?

Another benefit of chatbots that higher education marketers should consider is the relief of financial and organizational pressure. For example, Georgia State University implemented a chatbot strategy to improve communication with students. Having never tried chatbots before, the university was unsure of how quickly students would adapt to the new technology. Yet after only 4 months, 63% of students had used the chatbot platform on a regular basis, resulting in approximately 200,000 messages. Without chatbots, responding to questions would have required a full-time staff of an estimated 10 members. That’s an annual savings of at least $200,000.

With improved communication and the ability to offer schools major financial savings, chatbots may soon be the future of how universities communicate with students. Keep in mind that, as with most advancements, the most benefit will come from leveraging chatbots before they are standard communication protocol. For higher education marketers looking to improve communication and increase enrollment, testing and utilizing chatbots should be under strong consideration, with potential plans in place for upcoming recruitment drives.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

5 Tips for Reaching Prospective Students On Twitter

With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter is considered by many to be one of the best social networking platforms for delivering quick, instant content. Yet due to the increasing levels of content creation, many higher education marketers have found it difficult to navigate through the “clutter” of tweets in order to find who or what they are searching for. Below, we will look at five different methods that higher education marketers can use for finding and reaching prospective students on Twitter.

Using Search Queries

Although there are a variety of advanced methods for finding prospective students on Twitter, higher education marketers should always start simple before branching out. Twitter offers a solid built-in search platform that works great, yet most people don’t take the time to figure out how to properly use it.

For example, most twitter users have probably seen the search panel at the top of every twitter feed and know that this is a great search option when looking for popular hashtags, keywords or users. But did you know that you can narrow your search even further in order to find people that are talking about your program, school, or even one of your competitors? To do so, you will want to master these search query shortcuts:

  • Username queries – to: and from:
    • To:@circaedu “higher education”
    • From:@circaedu “higher education marketing journal”
  • Geolocation – searching with the parameters near: & within:
    • “digital marketing” near:San Diego within:5 miles
  • Exclusion Filter – place the minus symbol (-) before the keyword/user you want to excuse
    • “digital marketing” @circaedu

Also, if you are interested in automation, I recommend checking out automated Twitter listening services like Twilert, which you can program to send alerts anytime that specific keywords are mentioned.

Make Sure You Actively Use Your Account

As more millennials continue to shun traditional media formats and turn to social media for news and information, colleges and universities are finding it essential that they regularly check their Twitter accounts to answer questions or respond to comments or feedback. The importance of monitoring your Twitter account may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to check their Twitter account on a consistent basis, especially if they have an automated or pre-set tweeting schedule in place.

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to check your account a few times per day. Although there are many studies that highlight when Twitter is most active, I wouldn’t get too caught up on always checking your news feed at the same times each day. That said, some people enjoy making a routine out of checking Twitter – ex. Right before leaving for lunch – so feel free to do what works best for you.

Have a Call to Action (CTA) In Your Bio

Placing a call to action in your bio is an easy (and free) way to attract prospective students on Twitter. But in order to do so, you will want to make sure that you follow this guideline of do’s and don’ts so that your CTA is simple and effective.

  • Do make your CTA a clickable link
  • Don’t put the link in the section for your website URL (put it right in your bio)
  • Do make sure that your CTA is easy to understand
  • Don’t forget to be interesting and engaging
    • Make viewers eager to learn more

By implementing these simple adjustments, you can be sure to increase the efficiency of your CTA and Twitter profile. Also, keep in mind that you can use your Twitter account to log in to other social sites, so with a CTA in your bio, you’ll have the added bonus of attracting prospective students as you navigate other sites as well.

Post Engaging, Sharable Content

Nothing attracts attention more than great content. So to really catch the eye of potential students, make sure the content that you’re posting is something that they – your target audience – would find value in. Also, make sure to continuously test a variety of mediums and adjust to what is working and what isn’t. For example, a recent study by Buffer found that tweets that contained images received approximately 150% more retweets than those that had only text.

Another fairly new medium to try is Twitter Polls, which provide Twitter users the opportunity to garner public opinion on whatever they’d like. So whether looking for quick feedback on a new logo or potential program courses, Twitter Polls provide higher education marketing teams with unique opportunities to generate buzz while getting quality feedback as well.

  • Example:
    • Which course would you rather take: “An Introduction to Augmented Reality” or “The Science Behind Virtual Reality”?

Twitter Advertising  

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A recent Hootsuite study found that advertising on Twitter resulted in leads at one-third the price of other paid channels. Mix that stat with the fact that the social platform has over 320 million monthly active users and it becomes clear to see that Twitter provides higher education marketers with an invaluable opportunity to advertise to prospective students at a relatively cheap price. With Twitter Ads, marketers can boost tweets, promote accounts and even create Twitter Cards that drive traffic directly to your site or landing page.  With a click through rate 8-24 times higher than Facebook ads, advertising on Twitter is something that every higher education marketing expert should take seriously.

As you might have noticed, these tips are not very difficult, but they can produce consistent results. So if you take the time to implement these best-practices and combine your Twitter efforts with tricks for other social media platforms – like Instagram and Facebook – you can be sure to see an increase in your social media presence and performance.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.