Higher Education’s 2019 Trend Watch and Top 10 Strategic Technologies

Methodology and Acknowledgments

We assessed the 49 IT trends and 77 strategic technologies presented in this report via a single EDUCAUSE survey in the summer of 2018. The survey was distributed to 11,397 EDUCAUSE members as part of the Top 10 IT Issues research, with three reminders sent; 405 individuals (4%) completed the survey. Where multiple representatives from a single institution completed the survey, we selected the response from the representative in the highest-ranking position to determine the top 10 issues. The final top 10 list is based on the responses of 297 US-based respondents.

We reexamine ours lists of trends and technologies annually. The lists in this year’s research were derived from the 2018 lists and revised in consultation with EDUCAUSE staff who lead program areas (ELI, ECAR working groups, ECAR research, cybersecurity, and enterprise IT).

Several technologies on the 2018 list were removed. Some were eliminated because they were obscure, were becoming irrelevant as technologies and practices continue to evolve, or were still too nascent in higher education to warrant inclusion (e.g., virtual assistants, autonomic computing). Some technologies were redundant with CDS content or were widespread enough, based on the 2018 research, to exceed our threshold of existing institutional deployment at no more than 30% of institutions. We refactored other technologies to better describe them and their relevance to evolving practices.


Respondents indicated the attention their institution was planning to devote to each strategic technology in 2019. Respondents selected one of six response options:

  • Don’t know: I don’t know what this technology is.
  • No deployment: None of this technology is in place, and no work will be under way or resources committed for this technology in 2019.
  • Tracking: Multiple person-days of effort will be assigned but restricted to monitoring and understanding this technology (much more than just reading articles).
  • Planning, piloting, initial deployment: This technology is not yet available to users; however, meaningful planning for deployment is either in development or in place. Staff are investing significant time (multiple person-weeks of effort) and resources in executing the plan to pilot or deploy this technology within a defined time frame.
  • Expanding deployment: In 2019, we will move from initial or partial to broader or even institution-wide deployment.
  • Institution-wide deployment: Full production-quality technical capability is in place, including ongoing maintenance, funding, etc., with deployment potentially supporting institution-wide access.

To minimize “don’t know” responses, respondents were presented technologies according to their areas of expertise based on current roles in higher education IT. However, each respondent was given the option to respond to all 126 technologies and trends. As a result, the number of respondents rating individual technologies ranged from 246 to 278, and the number of respondents rating individual trends ranged from 272 to 281.

The final list of strategic technologies—which included 11 items because of a tie for 10th place—is a weighted average of institutions’ plans, with the heaviest weight (5) given to expanding deployment, followed by planning/piloting/initial deployment (3), and then tracking (2). Other response options (no deployment, institution-wide deployment, and don’t know) were given a weight of zero in our scoring schema.


Many thanks are due to the EDUCAUSE staff who made this report possible. Jamie Reeves led the Top 10 series research project with some help from D. Christopher Brooks. Ben Shulman led the statistical analysis, and Kate Roesch developed the graphics that help bring this information to life. Ana Borray, D. Christopher Brooks, Malcolm Brown, Eden Dahlstrom, Veronica Diaz, Susan Grajek, Joanna Grama, Leah Lang, Mark McCormack, Betsy Tippens Reinitz, Valerie Vogel, and Karen Wetzel advised on the choices, definitions, and categorization of technologies. Gregory Dobbin provided his usual expert editorial review. Lisa Gesner led the marketing strategy for our entire Top 10 series research.

EDUCAUSE members are amazing. The time members spend to support the association is critical and deeply appreciated. The ECAR Working Group Strategies Committee, the Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC) Leadership Team, and the HEISC Technologies, Operations, and Practices Working Group in particular provided invaluable feedback on the technologies we should include.