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Phil Hill is a "consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education", and someone that I pay close attention whenever he speaks or writes about edtech.   

What follows is an edited (for length) version of some of Phil's predictions for edtech in 2013, courtesy of the folks at Zer0 to 5ive, (with whom I worked with to secure and edit the interview).   

How would you answer the questions below?

Question 1. What will be the big surprises of 2013 in Higher Ed tech?

1) Despite xMOOCs targeting ‘elite’ higher ed, it will be non-elite institutions that aggressively adopt the model and define the 2nd generation of MOOCs.

2) I suspect we will see more than one major shakeup – marked by significant layoffs and / or selling of assets - in the private equity side that will make companies we have taken for granted become almost unrecognizable.

Question 2. What do you foresee in the online learning space?

We will see significant merging of markets, and we will see a major emphasis on helping traditional institutions develop online programs. We used to have distinct, silo’d vendor markets – but the lines of distinction are becoming blurry. In 2013, it will become difficult to separate the markets and determine who is competing with whom.

In addition, the big movement driving the higher ed industry is formerly traditional institutions trying to develop significant online programs or hybrid courses. This move is extremely difficult, and vendors who provide services to help institutions make this move will grow significantly.

Question 3. Is social learning really driving higher achievement, or is it the equivalent of the modern day study group?

Social for social’s sake, or social as a buzzword, is not driving HE achievement. However, learner-centered design enabled by appropriate social components woven into the core application is driving achievement. The key to learner-centered design, in my opinion, is to treat students as unique individuals and not as a list of course enrollments. To the extent that social enables this design, it will also drive achievement.

Question 4. Will proprietary learning management systems be replaced by other options?  If so, what will these options be/if not, why not?

No, I do not see proprietary LMS being replaced in the short term. We have a very different dynamic now than we did five years ago for several reasons:

1) The market is no longer threatened by a lack of innovation from proprietary sources.

2) Proprietary and open are no longer mutually exclusive.

3) The market is looking for innovation, intuitive design, and low cost. Proprietary designs and business models are starting to meet these needs.

4) Despite the shortcomings of a walled-garden approach that drove the first-generation of proprietary LMS solutions, they still serve an important purpose. Most faculty members are still very basic when it comes to using technology, and there is value in having a standardized application for grading and sharing course materials. I continue to see many institutions where students are crying out for faculty to at least use the basics.

Question 5. How will “Big Data” impact Higher Ed in 2013 and beyond?

Big Data will remain a Big Dud in higher ed, and it will not will not have a major impact in 2013. Higher ed is still evolving their definition of success – so it’s hard to use data to analyze what’s happening and what impacts success.  Until we can answer these basic questions, Big Data will not be useful in higher ed beyond isolated projects.

Plenty of vendors have rolled out new analytics products and plenty of institutions are talking about the power of data, but we are no nearer to major breakthroughs in how institutions operate based on Big Data.

What will happen in 2013 is that we will continue to have a few individual projects (e.g. PAR Framework) that will produce compelling data of interest, and we will have more open data allowing others to research and analyze.

However, Big Data will not see any systemic changes due to data analysis beyond a handful of institutions.

Question 6. Will MOOCs replace accredited curriculum?  Why or why not?

To a degree, yes – MOOCs will move into their second generation, and we will start to see two results. One is that the MOOC-as-LinkedIn approach will gain steam, as more employers will use MOOCs to either identify entry-level hires or for professional development (threatening technical, community college or for-profit college classes).

In 2013, we’ll see examples of MOOCs not replacing a full program, but replacing entry-level courses within an accredited program.

Question 7. Is online education a trend driven by the economy and worker training, or is it a critical next step in getting student achievement back to where it once was?

While there is tremendous potential for online education to improve student learning, the uncomfortable truth is it’s the economy, cost of a degree, rising student debt, and need for flexible schedules that is driving the change we’re seeing.

Ironically, it could be the acceptance of online education for economic / job training reasons that will enable more people to understand the potential for online and hybrid education to improve student achievement.

What other questions for Phil would you have about edtech in 2013?

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