Higher Education’s 2020 Trend Watch and Top 10 Strategic Technologies

Methodology and Acknowledgments


We assessed the 48 IT trends and 98 strategic technologies presented in this report via a single EDUCAUSE survey in the summer of 2019. The survey was distributed to 38,021 EDUCAUSE members as part of the Top 10 IT Issues research, with three reminders sent; 565 individuals (1.5%) 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 312 US-based respondents.

We reexamine our lists of trends and technologies annually. The lists in this year's research were derived from the 2019 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 2019 list were removed. Some were eliminated because they were obscure, were becoming irrelevant as technologies and practices evolve, or were still too nascent in higher education to warrant inclusion (e.g., blockchain). Some technologies were redundant with CDS content or were widespread enough, based on the 2019 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 2020. 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 2020.
  • 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 2020, 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 current roles and areas of expertise in higher education IT. Each respondent was also given the option to respond to all 98 technologies. As a result, the number of respondents rating individual technologies ranged from 231to 260.

The final list of strategic technologies 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 and Susan Grajek led the Top 10 series research project with help from D. Christopher Brooks. Ben Shulman led the statistical analysis, and Kate Roesch developed the graphics that help bring this information to life. D. Christopher Brooks, Malcolm Brown, Susan Grajek, Brian Kelly, Leah Lang, Mark McCormack, Betsy Tippens Reinitz, Valerie Vogel, Kathe Pelletier, and Karen Wetzel advised on the choices, definitions, and categorization of technologies. Gregory Dobbin is the editorial wind beneath our wings. Lisa Gesner led the marketing strategy for our entire Top 10 series research.

Everything we do at EDUCAUSE is for the benefit of our members and their institutions and is guided by their experiences and expertise. The time members devoted to supporting this project was invaluable and is deeply appreciated. In particular, the ECAR Working Group Strategies Committee; the Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC) Leadership Team; the HEISC Technologies, Operations, and Practices Working Group; the Enterprise Advisory Group; and the ELI Advisory Group provided critical feedback on the technologies we should include.