The top 3 innovation drivers in higher education in 2023

by Kim Majerus | on

My conversations with education leaders around the world have me excited about how institutions are innovating across the board, responding to students’ ever-changing needs, and thinking big for the years ahead to future-proof their institutions.

At Amazon Web Services (Amazon Web Services), we work with K12 schools, higher education institutions, and education technology (EdTech) and learning companies to support teaching and learning, research innovation, and to build lasting institutions that positively impact their communities. We asked our higher education customers what’s top of mind for them in 2023, capturing insights from Amazon Web Services education subject matter experts and global education experts, including perspectives from leaders at The University of British Columbia in Canada, The University of Pennsylvania in the United States, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University in United Arab Emirates, Queensland University of Technology in Australia, and more.

The “ Innovation Drivers in Higher Education ” report presents the main priorities that they shared with us, and what their future roadmap is for teaching, learning, and research.

1. More choice and student-centricity in teaching and learning

Teaching is transforming to align with how students want to learn, be it in-person, online, or hybrid flexibility (HyFlex) delivery. Digital solutions offered by EdTech companies are helping primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions respond with tools that improve student learning outcomes and bridge the gap between student preference and traditional instructional design models. As a result, there is a move towards personalized, lifelong learning, using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and data analytics for student performance, assessment, and well-being. We expect to see continued interest in these solutions going forward, as well as greater inspection of the efficacy and the impact of digital tools and solutions.

Michael Rosemann, director of the Centre for Future Enterprise at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, categorizes two types of digital transformation on the horizon: “In one case, you are driven by a sense of urgency. You reactively need to fix a problem. If I use digital for improving a process like enrollment, I improve convenience and eliminate friction, but I largely automate what has been done in the past. That is where most universities are focused now. In the second kind of digital transformation, I am driven by a sense of ambition. I proactively explore an opportunity like a technology or business model. I use digital to enable new experiences, new services, and new revenue models like subscription models offering upgradeable degrees. This is very different in terms of mindset, skillset, and risk appetite.”

2. Need for scalable security in the research community

As computational research becomes ubiquitous, and as more and more researchers collaborate online across campuses and borders, the need to protect research data has become a priority for institutional leadership — not just IT. Government requirements around security further reinforce the need for institutions to think comprehensively about establishing scalable systems and controls for protecting valuable intellectual property.

As Jennifer Burns, associate vice president for information technology and chief information officer at The University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, “The costs are not just the ransom. It’s the time and energy and effort that your board, your executives, and your IT teams are spending to clean up, which could take six months even if you act quickly. It’s also the cost of the contractors you have to bring in to clean up. And it’s the distraction of focus from other priorities. All in all, these attacks are massively impactful.”

3. New urgency applied to sustainability by institutional leadership

Finally, sustainability is an emerging priority for higher education institutions around the world. Experts highlighted examples of it being adopted in university and college strategies, funding, curricula, governance, and community engagement. Institutions are starting to appoint senior-level individuals to focus exclusively on sustainability (e.g., Chief Sustainability Officers), and there is greater willingness to direct funding to sustainability initiatives. Academic institutions are also using cloud capabilities to drive data-based decisions and actions that make their institutions more sustainable.

Student demand is driving this change. Nina Morris, sustainability director at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, elaborates, “Students are very passionate about many topics of sustainability on our campus. They come to campus with a very diverse experience and understanding of climate change and sustainability, and there’s a lot of activism and engagement for sustainability topics.”

Looking ahead

We are so inspired by the work of education institutions around the world. Amazon Web Services teams and our partner community stand ready to help you use the cloud to accomplish your education objectives in 2023.

To read more about these priorities and learn how education leaders are using cloud technology to meet their biggest challenges and thinking big to future-proof their institutions, check out the new report, Innovation drivers in higher education today.


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