The Shifting Higher Ed Landscape: 5 Trends to Know

Women in Higher Education
Online LearningResearch

Article Summary

  • The higher ed space is in a state of change, with educators hoping to convert new teaching methods and strategies into better learning outcomes.|In this article, we’re exploring five of these key trends—from student agency and dual enrollment, to corequisites and nudging learners.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The higher education landscape is no stranger to change. For years, adaptive learning and personalized approaches dominated headlines. However, disappointing results forced instructors and institutions to revisit the drawing board. Now, the higher ed space is in a state of change, with educators hoping to convert new teaching methods and strategies into better learning outcomes.

In this article, we’re exploring five of these key trends—highlighting the importance of these changes and what they mean for you and your students.

Trend #1: Student Agency

Student agency—or self-driven learning—is meant to give students choice in how they learn. With guidance from instructors, student agency promotes a student’s self-management of their academic life. Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of taking an active role in learning and mastering key course concepts.

Given the digital transformation institutions, instructors and students are currently making, the student agency approach aims to empower students to make the most of the resources available to them. In fact, research indicates this approach helps:

  • Boost student confidence
  • Increase student engagement in coursework and activities
  • Enhance the likelihood that students take ownership of their academic performance

Trend #2: The Return to Liberal Arts

In a 2018 interview, entrepreneur Mark Cuban predicted that, “In ten years, a liberal arts degree in philosophy could be worth more than a traditional programming degree.” While this may sound shocking, the reason behind the claim may not be. As Cuban reasons—and research confirms—the growing roles of AI, machine learning and automation mean technical tasks are increasingly outsourced.

While technology can write algorithms and process data, it’s the uniquely human skills like empathy, collaboration and seeing the “big picture” that employers value most.

Trend #3: Dual Enrollment Programs

Dual enrollment programs, which enable high school students to take community college courses for credit, have been consistently gaining popularity. Making the transition to standard institutions easier while helping cut college costs, it’s easy to see why. What’s more, dual enrollment is effective.

According to research conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 12% of dually enrolled high school students did not enroll in some form of college by age 20. However, dual enrollment programs are not available to everyone, and the higher ed community is taking notice. Instructors and administrators are pushing for dual programs for free, aiming to design more accessible programs that serve all students.

Trend #4: Corequisite Course Changes

Corequisites enable students who’ve been assessed as not ready for college-level work to take courses while receiving extra help. Today, coreqs are steadily gaining momentum across higher education as instructors and institutions explore alternatives to the traditional developmental courses. While not all instructors are on board with the shift, the impact of corequisites has been largely positive.

According to one study published by the Community College Research Center (CCRC), corequisite courses lead to consistently higher course pass rates than traditional remedial courses. Additional research has shown success in college-level courses covering Mathematics, Chemistry, Sociology and more.

Trend #5: Nudging Learners

While it may sound like the go-to tactic used by grandmothers everywhere, nudging learners as an effective method of building positive behaviors is gaining momentum in higher education. Designed to orient students toward positive change, nudging as a practical instruction tool is showing promising results, with personalized feedback, goal setting, reminders and deadlines being some of the most effective forms.

There’s even been a recent push for leveraging data collection and analytics to understand learners and predict which nudges yield positive learning outcomes. While the technology is still in its infancy, we can expect to see some increasingly sophisticated nudges tailored to the unique needs of students.

Want to Learn More About These Trends?

Check out our whitepaper, 5 Emerging Trends in Teaching, for additional insights, research and predictions around the evolving higher education landscape!