AI Takes Center Stage in Education: Key Takeaways From EDUCAUSE 2023 

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In recent years, we’ve seen a notable transformation in the education technology landscape, encompassing both K-12 and higher education. EDUCAUSE 2023, the premier conference for edtech professionals, provided an opportunity for industry leaders to delve into the technology and trends shaping modern education.

EDUCAUSE addresses a range of crucial topics impacting the education industry — from federal policy, cybersecurity, analytics and DEI to digital transformation, teaching methodologies and student success. Here are the key trends and takeaways that stood out at the conference.

AI takes center stage 

AI dominated the conversation at EDUCAUSE, with Susan Grajek, EDUCAUSE’s vice president of partnerships, communities and research, deeming the technology an “honorary” topic on their top 10 strategic trends for 2024. 

Like many industries, the education technology space is grappling with the implications of AI. The conference looked to address several important questions: How should institutions set policies related to AI? How can we harness AI without overshadowing the human touch that is necessary in education? How do education professionals equip students with skills for the future while preventing potential misuse? The answers to these questions are evolving alongside rapid advancements in AI technology. 

Educators and administrators are also navigating best practices for incorporating generative AI into classrooms. There’s consensus that AI can serve as a valuable tool for educators, complementing rather than replacing the essential human element in education. Many universities have already begun experimenting with generative AI, using it both in the classroom and for administrative tasks. EDUCAUSE’s top 10 trends for 2024 underscored AI’s impact — the technology was mentioned as a possible tool for at least three of the trends, from hiring the right talent to making data management more efficient. 

While there are still uncertainties about AI’s role in edtech, the prevailing sentiment at the conference was that AI shouldn’t be something to be scared of and many educators are already “taking a cautionary approach.”

Strengthening cybersecurity

As cyber threats grow increasingly sophisticated, the education sector has become a prime target for cybercriminals. According to Check Point Software, the education sector was the hardest hit industry in the first quarter of 2023 — averaging 2,507 attacks per organization per week, a 15% increase from Q1 2022. Given the significant surge in attacks on educational institutions, it’s no wonder “cybersecurity as a core competency” was EDUCAUSE’s number one trend for 2024

The Biden Administration has recently emphasized the importance of cybersecurity in education technology through the K-12 Education Technology Secure by Design Pledge, urging edtech software manufacturers to commit to high-security standards. John Baker, CEO of D2L and a panelist at EDUCAUSE, spoke at the White House earlier this year to highlight the importance of cybersecurity measures such as vetting third-party tools, increasing cybersecurity training access and expanding third-party validation. 

There were many conversations among the edtech providers in attendance about the responsibility of vendors to support their partner institutions in building strong partnerships and ultimately work together to create a more secure education system. 

Meeting students where they are

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of meeting students where they are, both technologically and culturally. A shift in student demographics involving greater numbers of first-generation college students, adult students and students juggling multiple responsibilities as primary caretakers or workers highlights the need for diverse learning opportunities such as providing remote, hybrid and in-person options. EDUCAUSE’s top trends for 2024 emphasized the need for multimodal and flexible learning environments. 

As an industry leader in accessible teaching and learning, D2L places a high priority on adhering to accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.2). The focus is on delivering inclusive education through accessible technology and content, while also offering support for Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Education at all levels continues to experience a significant shift in the wake of the post-COVID era. As schools and universities adapt to the modern learning environment and the diverse needs of today’s students, technology will play a central role in propelling institutions forward. Edtech companies must demonstrate not only the substantial value they offer but also their capability to demonstrate a return on investment and serve as authentic partners to educational institutions.

To hear more about our edtech insights and key takeaways from EDUCAUSE, get in touch with our team today.


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