Four Takeaways from the 2018 ASU + GSV Summit

05/01/18   |  
Steve Fireng and Jon Gaunt

Every year, education leaders, policymakers and businesses gather in San Diego for the ASU + GSV Summit. Steve Fireng, Keypath CEO, and Jon Gaunt, EVP of Strategy and M&A, share a few salient takeaways for higher education administrators in this ASU + GSV wrap-up: 

Takeaway #1: When you build a house, you need a strong foundation. 

For years, data analytics and big data have been hot topics at this conference. How can we use data to gather insights and improve processes, outcomes and the student experience? This year, we saw a new buzzword strike fire: artificial intelligence (AI). There was a lot of discussion around the role AI could play in even more progressive analytics environments. Sounds exciting, right? 

Proceed with caution, though. In our experience, many universities lack a solid data analytics foundation and are not ready to introduce next-generation technologies and approaches. Before considering shiny new tools like AI, make sure you have mastered the basics of data analytics. Do you have foundational data collection and analytical processes in place? Do you have a process and software that gathers data on prospective students, their enrollment journey, retention, graduation rates by demographic, etc.? If not, start there and explore tools and service providers that can help you build a strong foundation before exploring the benefits of AI.

Takeaway #2: Technology fails because the end-user does not know how to use it effectively. 

Technology isn’t a magic bullet. Once you’ve gathered the data, how are your employees acting on it? Do you employ experts whose job it is to analyze the data and make recommendations for applying the insights to improve processes? 

More and more companies are combining innovative technologies with services and human support elements. In some ways, we’re coming full circle – the shiny tools are important, and we should continue to invest in them, but technology does not know or deliver the answers on its own. You need smart people (or service companies) to maximize the effectiveness of your technologies and solve its biggest challenges.

Takeaway #3: Think about what students want today and what they will want two years from today.

Today’s consumers are looking for software, not hardware. They want adaptable, flexible and relevant. Many universities have a great product in their course offerings but haven’t adjusted how that product should be tailored to their consumer: the student. 

Educators need to have an innovator’s mindset when it comes to meeting the consumer where they are, instead of expecting that they will come to us. As outlined in the Chegg presentation by Dan Rosensweig, think about how people have changed their entertainment viewing habits. Consumers now prefer the ease and comfort of watching a movie anytime, anywhere (think Netflix) vs. going to a movie theater at specific location and time. 

One great example of this in education is program selection and design. We continue to see MBAs and M.Eds flood the already-competitive market. Meanwhile, a huge opportunity exists to invest in emerging degrees, technical degrees and other high-growth potential degrees. Do your research. Know your target student and understand how he or she wants to learn. Know the occupational landscape. Analyze current and future demand trends. Build a model for each program you are considering launching. Then make an informed decision using these inputs.

Takeaway #4: Technology has a way of making our world smaller and more interactive. 

It’s time to think globally, if you aren’t already. More so than in years past, a distinct global focus permeated the Summit. We interacted with attendees and viewed presentations from all parts of the globe, including Asia, Australia and the Middle East. As an EdTech community, we need to push ourselves to think about solving global challenges, not just those within the U.S. 

When you think about expanding internationally, focus on your areas of strengths. Don’t try to stray too far from what you are known for locally, whether at the program or service level. This approach ensures that international education becomes an extension of your existing strategy, rather than a new, volatile ‘product.’ 

And don’t be afraid to partner with an expert on international initiatives. International IP and entering a new market can be a challenging, time-consuming process if you’re new to it, but much less risky and intimidating with the support of an experienced partner. 

As always, the 2018 ASU + GSV Summit gave us lots to think about, and provided takeaways that will act as a beacon in our goals, operations and vision for 2018 and beyond. We are already looking forward to how we’ll see these takeaways in action between now and the 2019 Summit, and discovering the new insights ASU + GSV will have in store next year.