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The Future of Education: 8 Trends to Watch in 2024

An education trends illustration showing a student looking at stack of textbooks and a number of different web page tabs showing things like a calendar, a student login screen, and saved classwork files.
The top education trends for 2024 include prioritizing increasing enrollment, further implementing AI for students and teachers, and creating a data-driven culture around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Following a year of change across the education industry, here are 8 big education trends to watch in 2024.

The year 2023 was a rollercoaster for many of us, and it was an especially up-and-down year for the education industry. A combination of economic, environmental, political, and social factors impacted education, resulting in a dramatic shift across the industry’s landscape. 

On the heels of so much change last year, what education trends are in store for the industry in the year ahead? Using insights from market analysis and customer conversations, here are what I think will be the top education trends in 2024.

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1. Increasing enrollment will be a top priority 

Due to changing demographics, colleges and universities in the U.S. are projected to see a dramatic decline in enrollment starting in 2025. To recapture the attention of prospective students, institutions will need a long-term vision for enrollment, rather than short-term tactical approaches. According to Tom Green, industry advisor for strategic enrollment management at Salesforce, many are looking at key enrollment indicators (KEI). KEIs are a set of factors that help institutions understand complex enrollment patterns in the context of their culture and enrollment profiles. 

Furthermore, personalizing engagement with prospective students will help institutions improve yield, which is the proportion of students who enroll of those who were admitted. Yield is a critical factor for institutions looking to hit or exceed their enrollment targets.

2. Diversity, equity, and inclusion will shift from a strategy to a data-driven culture

Demands from external governing and funding bodies for improved equity in accessibility and learning outcomes will influence institutions to develop and advance their missions to serve and support diverse student populations and workforces. 

Given this new priority, we’ll see education leaders create data-driven cultures focused on factors like financial hardship as a barrier to better outcomes. This is especially noteworthy given that many state legislatures in the U.S. pushed back on DEI initiatives in higher education in 2023.

The difference in a DEI strategy versus a data-driven culture will be in the long-term impact. Students and the institutional workforce are more motivated when they feel a sense of belonging, which is the foundation for success, according to the 3rd edition of the Salesforce Connected Student report

3. Data and AI will bring the personalization students are demanding

Generative AI will create a new wave of personalized education, enabling teachers to generate content that’s aligned with a student’s interests and skill level. 

While it would be prohibitively expensive to scale such an idea using the large language models (LLMs) and tools of today, within the next three years we’ll start to see the proliferation of specialized ‘small language models,’ or SLMs. These specialized models will significantly decrease the cost of scaling personalized learning and enhance individualized instruction, getting institutions closer to the end-to-end personalized experience students are demanding.

4. Institutions will use AI to support students and reduce attrition rates

We’ll see the rise of generative AI assistants that can help overwhelmed student advisors better manage caseloads and be more responsive to student needs. Additionally, these assistants will help resource-strapped advisors personalize learning paths for every student. They’ll even help to identify the students more likely to drop out early based on data like badge-ins, class attendance, and grades — all of which are indicators of which students are at risk.

By using AI tools to help identify high-risk students early,  institutions can then proactively engage them before it’s too late, helping to keep more students on the path to graduation.

5. AI curriculum will become mainstream in K-12 classrooms

AI curriculum will become mainstream in K-12 classrooms, particularly in high schools. Increasingly, schools will recognize the importance of AI literacy and establish policies and guidelines for how students can and should use generative AI in their work. We’ll see states in the U.S. pave the way with acceptable use standards and policies to protect students using the technology, while schools around the country roll out AI coursework.

Schools will also start to encounter new risks stemming from AI use by staff. As a result, schools will have to start providing their staff with centrally-managed generative AI tools that have prebuilt safeguards in place to ensure safe and ethical use, much as they do today with other productivity tools.

6. Mission-critical systems will continue to be modernized

Education leaders have been at a crossroads for some time now, as balancing growth ambitions with aging infrastructure and outdated systems has become increasingly difficult. 

As the pool of applicants decreases, competition is on the rise, and students are seeking a modern, sustainable, and reliable experience. This means mission-critical systems, such as student information systems (SIS) that increase both operational and student success, will continue to be modernized. The SIS of the future will focus more on the student experience, as well as ease of integration and interoperability.

7. Institutions will rethink alumni engagement

Understanding the needs of alumni and how best to engage them meaningfully is crucial to building a great institution. While advancement offices will continue to interact with alumni via traditional channels, they won’t be restricted by them. In 2024, institutions will be more strategic in placing alumni at the heart of their efforts by creating personal and easily accessible programs such as mentoring, volunteering, and career networking.

8. Skills and credentials will be better recognized as educational achievements

According to WorkingNation, nearly 70% of professional jobs require a four-year college degree, but less than 40% of U.S. workers have one. Many people with cutting-edge technology skills don’t have a degree, but might have a different type of credential. 

Corporations and technology companies will begin to widen their talent pools by screening for applicants with skilled credentials — certifications that demonstrate an industry-approved level of skill or expertise. This will be an opportunity for institutions to strengthen corporate and employer relations so that students can work under the observation of industry professionals who can certify they have acquired the skill.

I welcome your feedback and the chance to talk more about these trends. To continue your learning, take a look at the Leveraging Data and AI to Boost Enrollment and Retention case study to discover how data and AI can strengthen institution-student connections.

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The third edition of the Connected Student Report offers in-depth insight from over 2,600 faculty, staff, and students representing six countries.

Bala Subramanian More by Bala

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