Are We There Yet? Impactful Technologies and The Power to Influence Change

Campus Technology | June 10, 2019 - Learning analytics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and other new and emerging technologies seem poised to change the business of higher education — yet, we often hear comments like "We're just not there yet…" or "This is a technology that is just too slow to adoption…" or other observations that make it clear that many people — including those with a high level of expertise in education technology — are thinking that the promise is not yet fulfilled. Here, CT talks with veteran education technology leader Ellen Wagner, to ask for her perspectives on the adoption of impactful technologies — in particular the factors in our leadership and development communities that have the power to influence change.

"It becomes harder and harder to justify not being interested in putting data back to work to answer questions in support of the success of the enterprise."  — Ellen Wagner

Mary Grush: What do you find, when you look at the adoption of new and emerging technologies — particularly those that reputedly have the potential to create the biggest changes at our institutions? What factors influence acceptance and adoption on our campuses and within our development communities?

Ellen Wagner: Digital learning professionals working across the full array of institutions, enterprises, and agencies that make up the learning and development ecosystem know how important it is to stay ahead of the curve on trends likely to influence the industry as a whole. This is especially true about staying abreast of new competencies and skills that will likely be needed to keep up with the capabilities that new digital tech tools enable. In the current era, some learning professionals are beginning to speak of artificial intelligence as the next big thing in our organizations; others of us are just beginning to make peace with the idea that our futures will demand that we develop more than a passing familiarity with analytics dashboards and evaluation methods. I expect that more than a few of us will become increasingly conversant with techniques of data-driven decision making. But so far, the current bubbling angst about changes on the horizon bears many similarities to prior periods of bubbling angst that eventually calm down after a few incremental changes appear in the workplace.

Grush: Let's look at one specific example. Let's take a big one: learning analytics. What should we be asking ourselves?

Wagner: After 10 years of significant interest in learning analytics, commercial product development in student success software products, in foundation initiatives exploring various dimensions of student success, intervention measurement, college completion, retention and persistence studies, why do you suppose learning analytics have not lived up to all of its expectations?

I personally think it has a lot to do with overselling and underdelivering on technology as the innovation — rather than as the solution to a problem. It's too much touting of innovation wrapped up in the tools, rather than in what people are doing with the tools. This is not to say that software isn't innovative. But with education technology, it's easy to forget that the software is the means to the end. It is what we use to solve our problems at hand. This is just one of the issues we should be thinking about.

Grush: What is one of the key things we should be considering when we look at how we are using our data in higher education? What's the opportunity we may be missing?  Of course there are many things you could point to… but what would you pick to make people aware of?

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SOURCE: Campus Technology