The team at eThink recently attended OLC Innovate in New Orleans. Between stuffing ourselves with gumbo, etoufee, and beignets, we spent time attending many of the sessions and speaking with most of the vendors in the exhibit hall. During the conference, we found that there were 3 trends that stuck out above the rest. Keep reading for our OLC Innovate 2017 trends and take-aways…
1. The acceleration of open-source products in the Higher Education market
For quite some time, Higher Education institutions have recognized that, when properly configured and managed, open-source products provide a level of flexibility that closed course products cannot. While walking the exhibit hall it was clear that more and more vendors are leveraging open-source solutions to provide services to the market. Companies such as the team here at eThink, as well as Blindside Networks and many others that were in attendance at OLC, host and provide services for these free solutions. This allows colleges and universities to capitalize on the many benefits of open-source solutions while also having experts available to host and provide services – the part of the equation that is often tricky for IT staffs.
Our take away:
When open-source solutions are hosted and serviced by a vendor who has scale and a service-first mentality, colleges and universities can capitalize on the flexible nature of these products at a price point that is often far lower than the competing closed-source systems. Vendors who host and provide service for open-source solutions also have the ability to focus on the services they provide and maintaining a happy client base, as opposed to repairing and developing code. This service-first mentality is often a welcome change to college and university administrators. The growing number of companies providing open-source products offers insight on the popularity of these solutions.
2. Competency-Based Learning
Competency-based education (CBE) is not a new trend, but it’s one that is continuing its trajectory as evidenced by the many presentations and conversations on this topic at OLC Innovate. Institutions like Western Governors, Sinclair, UMUC and Ashford presented from a position of experience offering glimpses into their challenges and successes around developing programs and scaling them. The common questions were mostly around: Where do we start? What does our program look like? How do we engage our CBE students? How do we access and track the acquisition of skills? How is this communicated to both the learner and the institution and on to future or current employers? And what tools do we need to do this successfully?
Our take away:
Competency-based education and alternative credentialing, while not fully technology focused, is obviously supported by and has most of its groundings in online learning. The LMS is naturally one of the first places institutions look, and we’re excited to contribute to the conversation around how Moodle can support these initiatives.
3. Deep dive into data
Like CBE, data is by no means a new trend but it seems that many more instructors and instructional designers are realizing the importance of collecting and analyzing data. For years conversations have been abuzz about Big Data to aggregate everything in order to examine student success at the institutional level and make informed decisions regarding educational strategy. While that high level is obviously an important one, it was intriguing and exciting to hear several presentations and conversations during the conference that brought that data-driven approach down to the course level. Taking a very macro-level look to make even minor course design improvements is really the foundation for improving learning, retention, and ultimately student success.
Our take away:
For years Moodle by eThink has expanded reporting capabilities for our clients to provide a better look at what’s happening in the LMS. These custom report capabilities paired with some of Moodle’s core activity types such as Choice and Feedback can equip our clients to take a data-driven approach to their own course design.
At OLC Innovate 2017, we saw a heavier emphasis on open-source technologies, competency-based education, and data than in years past. Although none of these concepts are new, these ideologies are being more widely adopted and, with more interest about these topics, there was no shortage of enlightening presentations and conversations on the subjects.eThink loves attending conferences, not only to keep in touch with our valued partners and clients, but to stay on top of the latest trends in a rapidly-evolving educational market. Next month from May 21-24, we will be attending the ATD 2017 International Conference & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. We hope to see you there!