SXSWedu 2014: Greater Focus on Higher Ed

While in many ways it's business as usual at colleges and universities, higher education is in the midst of change. At the recent SXSWedu conference, an offshoot of the popular South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, there was a new emphasis on ed tech and how it fits into the higher education landscape.

The keynote, co-presented by Norma Ming and Vivienne Ming, addressed Keeping the Promise of Educational Technology.

Now in its fourth year, the education convention attracted a reported 6000 plus attendees and was far more focused on higher education than in the past, when K-12 dominated the discussion.

Ed tech has its detractors, but from the look of SXSW, disruptive technology is here to stay when it comes to student success.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored the HigherEdNext series, covering topics such as online instruction, adaptive learning and tools to encourage student retention and student success through technology solutions.

One of the Gates-sponsored seminars, Clicking Your Way to College Success, featured free and near-free mobile and web-based apps for low-income and first-generation students to improve enrollment and completion of college and other postsecondary opportunities. The College Knowledge Challenge produced 19 apps that launched in late 2013. Entrepreneurship and education have a shining future together.

The Technologies to Improve College Completion panel was a look at partnerships between higher ed institutions and vendors of Integrated Planning and Advisory Services (IPAS) technologies, and included Mark Amos, Southern Illinois University’s Associate Provost and Jeff Snell, Senior Director at Alvarez and Marsal.

While some of the predictions for traditional higher ed are dire, pointing to a downward trend in enrollment and an increasing interest in online learning, the general sense among SXSWedu participants is that technology will bolster and complement higher ed, at least for some time to come. Change is happening. For the moment the best course is to stay the course, and remain open to transformation.