Usability and intuitiveness are by far the most important factors when choosing new student-facing technologies. This was confirmed by attendees at the Future EdTech conference last week in London. Technical, professional and academic delegates all agreed that investment in the end-user experience takes highest priority. Mobile optimisation, system integration and support for learning and teaching outcomes also scored highly.
The findings were gathered by Lorensbergs at an event where the student experience and student satisfaction were front of mind as universities develop their digital strategies for advancing the academic institution.
When it comes to higher education technology, simplicity is highly prized – after all it is recognised as the “ultimate sophistication”1. The push for user personalisation – a theme which developed throughout the conference – carries much less importance than straightforward usability when selecting new technology. According to organiser Ovum’s own live delegate poll, achieving personalisation of learning is more dependent on faculty training. This aligns to ideas around blended learning in course delivery – seen by many as an effective way to achieve personalised learning at scale. For blended learning, staff competencies and structures are considered paramount and supporting technologies secondary. Conference attendees agreed with this view, with only 20% seeing personalisation of learning dependent primarily on technology availability.
Another lower scoring attribute was for a system’s provision of management information. Although considered generally important, it isn’t a primary factor when choosing a system. Further insight from Ovum’s poll concluded that there is a lack of consensus on what indicators matter when using data to drive and evaluate institutional performance. With this divergence of opinion, stakeholders’ data needs represent a weaker case when choosing new technologies compared to more widely agreed priorities.
Throughout the conference, there were references to the ‘edgeless university’ and ‘borderless education’. These refer to the technology experience as being seamless, as well as mobility and choice between institutions and courses within each student’s academic journey. The importance placed on effective system integration fits with this aspiration and was singled out as a system priority in qualitative feedback to our survey. A single institution-wide login for students is both a symbolic and practical outcome of this need.
Further considerations for success
Factors influencing the selection of a new system will ultimately help determine the success of the overall project. But of course there's much more involved when rolling out new technology to ensure it works out as envisaged. So we also polled delegates on what they've seen are the critical success factors for new system introduction and adoption - the results are now available in a new infographic and report here.
1. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” Leonardo da Vinci, Wisdom Through the Ages : Book Two (2003) by Helen Granat, p. 225