It can be pretty overwhelming trying to keep up with every news story, technological advancement, and culture shift. But knowing what is happening now and forecasting what is coming down the road makes all the difference in any industry or market.

For example, online learning used to be a very small part of the education market. Now, the industry has exploded and 75% of America’s school districts offer at least one online or blended learning course to their students. Schools that read the online market trends and got in on this method early on are now reaping the benefits while others are just now jumping on the bandwagon.

Educators need to know what to expect next year and beyond. Education trends help determine how best to educate students, what schools can expect to pay to provide that education, and what technology they should invest in, including school administration software.

That’s why I’ve put together three trends every educator will need to know in order to make informed decisions for 2018.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is already a proven technology thanks to breakthrough games such as Pokémon Go and practical apps such as IKEA Place. Using sensors and smartphone cameras, they render digital objects in a real environment on the user’s screen.

For example, Pokémon Go players are able to render their monsters on their phones in their real-life environments, while IKEA Place users are able to visualize furniture in their own homes on their screen.While Pokémon and IKEA don’t have much to do with education, the technology of augmented reality has the potential to provide a new medium for teaching students. According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, augmented reality has four main advantages in the classroom:

Several studies published in the last four years have shown that it enhances learning and classroom interactions, helps students maintain positive attitude to learning, enhances collaboration, and motivates students to do better. Currently, AR is mostly used in tertiary learning institutions including universities and colleges where it is fast becoming a mainstay in science, arts, and humanities courses.

While augmented reality is a proven technology, the full range of uses of AR in the classroom are still unrealized. Luckily, thanks to recent advances in the technology from major tech companies, augmented reality is an available feature on almost all new mobile electronic devices, including Apple and Samsung phones and tablets.

Higher education costs are still on the rise

Unfortunately, the upward trend of higher education costs is not ending in the next year, according to research by College Board. Across the board, higher education saw at least a 2.9% increase in tuition and fees, from public two-year schooling all the way up to graduate degrees.

While the reasons for the tuition increases are hotly debated, there is one fact that remains constant: These tuition increases are not sustainable.

This trend is creating side effects for prospective and former students, according to Everything Finance. These effects include delays in marriage, difficulties in buying a home, barriers to entry for low-income families, delays in having children, and falling graduation rates.

Unfortunately, the trend of rising higher education costs will continue for the foreseeable future. Some point to rising college costs as a factor in declining college enrollment rates, especially among low-income students. If your school struggles with low enrollment already, this trend could continue to add to that issue.

Niche learning and micro-credentialism rise in response to greater job supply

Partially in response to the rising costs of college education and partially due to the growing job supply in specific industries, niche learning and certifications are seizing a significant corner in the education market.

Industries such as cybersecurity and even legal marijuana are investing in certifications in order to meet the staggering demand for workers, according to HRDive. By 2020, the legal marijuana industry is expected to reach a quarter million jobs available in the United States, while cybersecurity eclipses this number with over 1.8 million jobs open by 2022.

This demand requires a faster pipeline of qualified workers to fill these positions, breathing life into what is known as “micro-credentialism.”

Instead of going to school for a traditional degree which requires studies in a host of different subjects, micro-credentialism creates a streamlined niche environment that focuses only on what a student needs to perform their functions in a specific industry.

In fact, these certifications have led to schools partnering with industries in need of skilled laborers to help continue the flow of students from education to career. The Praxis program is an example of one of these partnerships that provides the education and work experience necessary to succeed in the workforce, all the while leaving students debt-free by the end.

In order to take advantage of this trend, schools ought to look into offering niche learning courses and explore partnerships with industries to meet the rising demand for workers. This has worked well at the community college level in recent years, especially when it comes to trades such as electrical work, car maintenance, and even nursing.

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