More campuses have reopened and the majority of students who wanted to return to in-person learning have been able to. However, the lingering impact of the pandemic continues to reshape education across the globe. A growing demand for greater online and hybrid learning options is certain to continue in 2022.
Here are some of the standout and significant trends professionals and researchers in the education field should make note of as they formulate education delivery plans in the year ahead.
College Enrollment is Down, Again
College enrollment in the US dipped by 3.5% in 2021. Universities suffered an unsurprising drop in 2020, but the two years together add up to 7.8% lower enrollment. The numbers amount to the most significant decline in undergraduate enrollment in over half a century.
Interestingly, during the 2008 recession, enrollments surged with people seeking new skills because they couldn’t find employment. The COVID-19 pandemic had the opposite impact, with people focusing on entering or reentering the workforce.
With students becoming increasingly wary of loans, higher education institutions will need to ensure they provide value in exchange for tuition. One way to do this is to highlight how programs will prepare students for the professional world. According to students, career readiness is now more important than ever.
Career Readiness is Critical for Learners
In 2020, career readiness was already the leading concern for 78% students and educators. This year saw that number increase to 84%.The second most important factor in measuring student success in 2020 was student educational goals.
However, in 2021, skill competency replaced student goals, with 81% of respondents listing it as the second most valuable measure. This result further indicates students’ desire for an education that prepares them for a career.
Notably, holistic development remains the third measure of success. Clearly, education institutions should start asking how they can benefit students as individuals. Offering accessibility solutions, mental health support and other services will be vital for universities moving into 2022 and beyond.
Accessibility is Non-Negotiable
Today’s university leaders need to understand the vital importance of accessibility. Offering full access goes beyond adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In fact, 97% of survey respondents from higher education institutions state that their schools adhere to the ADA. However, 69% admit they could be doing more to accommodate their students with disabilities.
Since more than half of students who need accommodations will not request them, proactively offering services is one way to improve students’ experiences. Providing captions and other standard solutions can increase all students’ performance. After all, captions increase retention and comprehension for nearly everyone, not just those who need them most.
The 49 higher education institutions that reached out to Verbit this year to start using its live captioning, closed captioning, transcriptions and other accessibility solutions understand the benefits of this tool. These schools are investing in providing a better educational experience. Importantly, in 2022 and beyond, those resources will need to apply for in-person, online and hybrid learning options.
Learning Formats are Changing and Flexibility is Required
One common theme Bethany Stoltz, a Verbit customer success manager who works with K-12 districts, institutions and eLearning platforms noticed this year is the belief that “learning can happen anywhere.” Due to that reality, “courses need to be offered in various formats and modalities. Additionally, in many cases, in various languages.”
One example of this in practice comes from Management Concepts, which provides education for government employees. Najia Sabir, Management Concepts’ accessibility director, explains that because of 2020, it “had to pivot from offering predominantly classroom-based instruction to a 100% virtual model.” Heading into 2022, they “anticipate more learners seeking self-paced educational opportunities.” Sabir says using “unconventional strategies to deliver exceptional education will be critical to serving our learners in a post COVID-19 era.”
Statistics also show remote and hybrid learning remained common in 2021. According to a recent survey, 44% of institutions planned fully remote courses for the fall, while another 41% offered hybrid instruction models.
Alternative formats are no longer strictly tied to the pandemic, but result from the benefits discovered by students and instructors alike. Importantly, orchestrating these more flexible models means that institutional leaders must lean on innovative technology.
Technology Continues to Play a Key Role
Institutions are using a variety of technology solutions to accommodate hybrid, remote and in-person learning environment needs. One of the most common is video conferencing, which 89% of institutions report using. Many will continue to do so for their office hours, peer-to-peer networking, additional discussion forums and more. Additionally, about 93% of educators reported integrating more video into their instruction to engage their students when they were remote.
Verbit works with many providers to ensure that those conferences and videos are accessible. To support institutions that need to be flexible, Verbit must also be capable of quick adaptations when necessary.
For example, Juli MacArthur, a Learning Technologist with the Royal College of Art, turned to Verbit’s technology to ensure the school’s many upcoming planned events were accessible to virtual audiences. By using Verbit, the school could rapidly set up their account to accommodate and caption these events within the “really short notice” of a week.
Ed-Tech Investments Are Climbing
The high dependency on technology to support remote and hybrid courses is likely one reason for the increasing investments in ed-tech. The first half of this year witnessed $3.2 billion in ed-tech investments. That number far exceeds the $2.2 billion total for all of 2020. Estimates for the end of 2021 suggest an impressive $5.5 billion in investments.
The climbing numbers hint that investors believe ed-tech will become increasingly important regardless of the pandemic.
Preparing for Success in 2022
In 2022, institutional leaders who focus on preparing students for success in the professional world will likely fare better when it comes to enrollments. Platforms that offer skills training and professional development will also likely grow in today’s climate.
Whether students attend in-person or online, technology that offers students greater choice, flexibility and accessibility will be increasingly important in order to retain them. Verbit will continue offering accessibility technologies for K-12 schools and higher education institutions using web conferencing or live streaming. Verbit will also invest in more key partnerships and integrations to promote accessible eLearning environments. These accessibility offerings will allow individuals many opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge online.