Global survey identifies critical accessibility barriers, tech needs in education

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A recent global study has revealed that student expectations following the COVID-19 pandemic do not fully align with what university leaders are envisioning for the future, indicating an opportunity for higher education institutions to make adjustments to the learner experience in support of better outcomes.

“As universities continue to drive digital transformation, they’re faced with new hurdles around everything from course delivery and support services to accessibility and how they equip their students and staff with technology,” said Jim Milton, Chairman and CEO at Anthology, a leading provider of education solutions that support the entire learner lifecycle.

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Anthology offers the largest EdTech ecosystem on a global scale for education, recently combining with Blackboard to support more than 150 million users in 80 countries.

Milton recently announced in Dubai the results of its 2022 global research study ‘Comparing Global University Mindsets and Student Expectations.’ The study surveyed more than 5,000 higher education leaders and current students from countries around the world, including the US, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Japan, Spain, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The survey targeted student respondents who are currently enrolled at a higher education institution pursuing a degree or diploma. University leader respondents are currently senior leaders (Dean, Provost, Rector, etc.) at a higher education institution. In total, 2,572 current university leaders and 2,725 students completed the survey.

“We believe that technology plays a vital role in shaping the future of higher education across the globe, and results from this study validate that viewpoint as leaders consider the impact of technology and data on the overall student experience,” he said.

Blackboard merged with Anthology last year to become one company, formalizing the promise of a new era in education.

With Blackboard and Anthology together, the combination brings the most comprehensive and modern EdTech ecosystem at a global scale for education.

The Anthology Together Middle East 2022 (ATME) conference held in Dubai. (Supplied)
The Anthology Together Middle East 2022 (ATME) conference held in Dubai. (Supplied)

The two-day Anthology Together Middle East 2022 (ATME) held in Dubai was the first conference as a combined company created to gather leaders and experts in education from across the Middle East and Africa to better understand the needs of this next generation of learners,

Session topics spanned student success through digital and blended learning, academic adoption, online assessment and feedback, data analytics and protection, accessibility, inclusive learning — all with a nuanced focus on the MEA region and supplemented with use cases.

“We believe that technology plays a vital role in shaping the future of higher education across the globe, and results from this study validate that viewpoint as leaders consider the impact of technology and data on the overall student experience,” the Anthology CEO said.

Lack of technology access

Outside the pandemic, the economy continues to have the most significant impact on learners across all regions (73 percent), followed by a lack of access to technology (35 percent). Lack of technology access was significantly higher in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, where 54 percent of students indicated this was a challenge.

University leaders in most regions are largely in sync with these challenges but only 30 percent of higher education leaders in the Middle East and Africa felt that technology access was a concern for their students, indicating a discrepancy between their perception and the student experience.

Hybrid Instruction for the future

More than 80 percent of students globally now prefer that at least some of their courses or instructional meetings take place online. Leaders are moving their universities in the right direction, with more than a third (38 percent) indicating that a mix of online and in-person course delivery would be the model at their institution by 2025, increasing from 16 percent currently.

Nearly a quarter of North American leaders (24 percent) stated that courses would still be offered in an entirely in-person format by 2025 – a significantly higher percentage than any other region.

The highest percentage of students interested in fully asynchronous courses were from North America, representing the largest gap compared to student preferences for how courses are offered.

Investing in holistic tech

Learners globally want – and expect – technology to be more prevalent in their higher education experience and university leaders agree, with 60 percent stating that their university currently lacks the appropriate digital learning tools to help students succeed.

While only 26 percent of university leaders have significantly increased the number of digital learning tools utilized over the past two years, more than half are considering additional investments in technology moving forward.

The majority (94 percent) of university leaders agree that a holistic view of learner data pulled across multiple systems would benefit their team and help more students achieve their goals. The same percentage indicate that their university is actively looking for new opportunities to aggregate and analyze data to drive more insights, ultimately seeking to use data to help improve outcomes for student populations through personalization.

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