Design for Education Toolkit: Why User Needs in Higher Ed Are Changing

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

The market for edTech in higher education is changing fast, and edTech product owners can do more to support shifting user needs. 

Both higher ed administrators and university students require more flexible technology solutions to address the rising costs of college and the coming enrollment crisis. 

The role of edTech at the university level is changing, too. 

Gone are the days of viewing edTech as a supplemental solution for individual classrooms. Instead, universities with resources and vision view technology as an infrastructural or business need. 

That means product owners and edTech UX designers have new opportunities to help—and new ways to stay ahead of the curve. 

How to Address the Emerging Needs of Higher Ed Administrators & Buyer Personas

As the student debt crisis affects overall enrollment at colleges and universities, the business model of many higher ed institutions continues to erode.

Higher ed administrators are investigating how technology will help them reach prospective students, guide students through the application process, and provide new kinds of teaching models or more flexible degree programs.

Digital learning tools can do more to support these emerging administrator needs. With stronger investments in edTech UX, administrators can entice and retain students looking for programs that are more tech-centric, tech-savvy, or asynchronous. 

Supporting the Needs of College Students with edTech UX

edTech is also an excellent way to help university students educate themselves about high education. From financial planning tools to online communities, edTech UX can prepare students to engage in the world of higher education and take agency over their own learning. 

From a user standpoint, university students who better understand their goals and related education costs will have more agency around what it means to attend college. By supporting students’ increased needs for context, support, and engagement, edTech can offer students innovative ways to consider their course of study, learn how to pay for college, or follow a specific career path.

3 Ways to Design for Higher Education Right Now

Changes in leadership ahead? Still figuring out how to design for that consumer audience? 

Adjusting to these shifts in edTech isn’t easy–these three best practices will help you focus on user-centered design.

  • Conduct market research and competitive audits.
    Don’t operate on old data. With more research about existing online undergraduate degrees, programs, and course models, you’ll get a better picture of what the student or consumer user persona looks like right now.
  • Design for asynchronous learning.
    Decentralized, asynchronous tools give colleges and universities more flexibility. With these tools in their tech stack, your buyer persona can provide a rich, cost-effective, and technology-based education that is still facilitated by a skilled professor or subject matter expert.
  • Think about content beyond the college course.
    edTech has more opportunity than ever to help higher ed institutions reach and engage students with financial preparation, career investigation, and planning tools. Universities that offer more contextualization and real-world advice not only create more engaged students but offer more value.

Additional Resources

Want to read more about edTech UX design and user research? You might also like: 


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