The higher education technology marketplace—captured in our recently-published 2020 Higher Education Technology Landscape (Landscape)—continues to evolve since we published our first report in 2014. This year’s Landscape responds to the strains the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our technology systems, teaching and learning ecosystems, and student success.

There has been, however, a more significant change to how we produce the Landscape: one that ensures that it represents the solutions required to meet institutional needs for student success. Today we will discuss this change and highlight five companies—one from each of five new segments—that we think are worth watching.

Five Vendors to Watch

Our 2020 Higher Education Technology Landscape (Landscape) classifies 340 unique solutions into 43 segments, like Student Information Systems and Learning Management Systems, and four categories, including Admissions & Enrollment Management and Student Success & Instruction (Figure 1). Beyond providing market clarity, our approach has expanded to identify and address gaps between products and institutional needs.

 

Figure 1: 2020 Higher Education Technology Landscape (click to download full-size image)

 

To capture how schools are changing their operations in today’s environment, this year we added five new segments: Accessibility Solutions, Faculty Life-Cycle Management Solutions, Institutional Effectiveness Solutions, Student Engagement Solutions, and Student Mobility Solutions— to address the gaps we found this year. Here are five vendors (and their products), one in each of these new segments, to watch :

 

Ally from Blackboard (Accessibility Solutions)

According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 19% of undergraduate students in the United States reported having a disability in 2015–2016. To address this substantial population of students, the majority of Accessibility Solutions seek to assess whether students with disabilities can engage with existing digital content without issues. But, as evidenced by Educause’s recent study on the technology needs of students with disabilities, ensuring accessibility should also involve designing all future digital content with these students’ needs in mind.

Acquired in 2016, Blackboard has enhanced its Ally solution to empower institutions to place design for accessibility at the heart of content development, by enabling them to build content in line with the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Likewise, Ally also integrates with any Learning Management Solution (LMS), which enables institutions to build accessible content for students regardless of which LMS it has.

 

Faculty Information System from Interfolio (Faculty Life-Cycle Management Solutions)

Many products in this space focus on helping university leaders manage faculty hiring and promotion and meeting accreditation reporting requirements. Missing from the analysis, however, is insight into faculty activities like courses taught or assessments administered to better evaluate course loads and instructor effectiveness.

Interfolio’s Faculty Information System stands apart from its competitors in the Faculty Lifecycle Management segment with a focus on tracking faculty activities for both compliance and evaluation. Founded in 1999 as a solution to help job applicants in higher education, Interfolio provides a more complete view of faculty to enable better institutional decision-making for faculty management.

Impact from Civitas Learning (Institutional Effectiveness Solutions)

Institutions, such as Loyola University of Chicago, routinely explore ways to test how well their academic efforts and activities promote student learning. One major challenge to the success of these evaluations, however, is identifying, gathering, and analyzing the right data.

Civitas Learning’s Impact solution stands out in the new Institutional Effectiveness segment not only because of the breadth of data it collects, but also because of the methods it uses to analyze the data. Launched in 2016, Impact allows institutional leaders to view the outcomes of efforts, such as retention initiatives, by isolating their actual drivers, which can point toward concrete steps for improvement.

 

Cadence from Mongoose (Student Engagement Solutions)

While texting has fast become a critical tool to support student engagement, both institutions and vendors tend to deploy it as an isolated, tactical communication channel for a specific purpose at a certain point in the student lifecycle. Mongoose’s Cadence solution is a texting platform that enables institutions to go beyond tactical contact and deploy texting as part of an integrated engagement strategy with the goal of providing a better student experience, increasing a student’s sense of belonging, or driving better achievement. It does this by allowing for two-way conversations between students and institutional leaders.

Founded in 2009, Mongoose empowers institutions to leverage Cadence’s two-way messaging functionality to support their overall student engagement strategies. It enables advisors to have text conversations with students about their concerns, such as requiring academic help or navigating financial challenges.

 

Transfer Evaluation System (TES) from CollegeSource (Student Mobility Solutions)

According to the National Clearinghouse’s Tracking Transfer Report, just over 31% of community college students transferred to four-year institutions in 2017. While recruiting transfer students can be challenging for institutional leaders, the most significant burden falls on the students. These students face several challenges—from identifying available institutions to researching how courses and programs map to potential degrees.

Compared to other products in this space that focus on the challenges student transfer places on the institution, CollegeSource’s Transfer Evaluation System (TES) focuses on easing the burden placed on transfer students. TES enables students to navigate the entire transfer pathway, from locating courses at institutions to determining whether these courses overlap with those they have already taken. Founded in 1971 as a college course catalog company, CollegeSource has leveraged its experience collecting and tracking course information across institutions to help transfer students overcome the challenges they face.

Bottom Line

Taken together, these five new segments and the vendors within them signal a deepening institutional focus on developing a more engaging and inclusive experience for students throughout their educational journeys. We see this focus strengthening over time as institutions reflect on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 disruption, and prioritize activities like preserving student engagement in the world of online learning. It is notable that many of the firms highlighted here are well-established rather than start-ups touting the latest thing. Institutional leaders may welcome such maturity in a sector with a reputation for faddishness.

Our ongoing Landscape work will continue to identify and address gaps between institutional needs and segments in our Landscape. In our 2020 Higher Education Technology Landscape Report, we will dive more deeply into the newly included segments and the vendors we highlighted today. We look forward to sharing this report with you later this summer.

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James Wiley

Eduventures Principal Analyst at ACT | NRCCUA
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We understand the incredible challenges that COVID-19 has caused for each of you, your institutions, and most importantly, your students. We recognize the immediate impact the industry is already facing, and we understand the potential long-term consequences to come. We are committed to being a trusted resource for all of our members and providing institutions with timely insight to better support your evolving needs.

In addition to our weekly Wake-Up Call, we are committed to delivering timely and relevant answers to real-world questions that institutions are now facing in light of COVID-19. These Snapshots will cover a broad range of questions that our team has received over the last several weeks. You’ll find concise and pragmatic advice around traditional student demandprogram innovation, and adult learner demand.

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Never Miss Your Wake-Up Call


Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.