The pandemic has completely transformed the way higher education operates – we all know this by now. What we don’t know is which organizational changes, practices, and tools implemented in response to COVID-19 will stay with us for years to come.

These issues were the focus of the Horizon 2021 project conducted by EDUCAUSE, a US-based nonprofit association aiming to advance higher education through technology. The study resulted in the 2021 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report® Teaching and Learning Edition, whose key findings are presented below.

2021 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report® outlines key trends, technologies and practices shaping the future of higher education, as well as presents a range of possible scenarios. The report draws on the knowledge, experiences, and predictions of a global panel of leaders from academia across the globe. The panel used a modified Delphi method and also adapts elements from the Institute for the Future’s foresight methodology.


Experts participating in the EDUCAUSE project identified technologies and practices that have a particular impact on the future of higher education. From an initial list of 141 identified solutions, after several rounds of voting, the top six were selected.

The two most frequently highlighted areas are quality online learning and open educational resources. The main task for universities now will be to focus on quality – the immediate future is to develop procedures and methodologies, design courses conceived as remote from the outset, and implement technologies to enable effective online learning.

High quality education is directly tied to well-prepared teaching materials. Due to the difficult economic situation, the role of free open educational resources has increased. Digital materials made available by the university, which students can use anywhere and at any time, are equally important. Removing barriers in access to teaching materials and ensuring accessibility for all students is also an important activity.

The growth of microcredentials and alternative credentials within university settings is another trend identified in the report. Microcredentials are digital credentials for specific student skills, competencies and achievements issued by universities. HEIs are increasingly using them in online courses, where students can earn digital badges which they can use to showcase their skills on social networks such as LinkedIn.

Data analytics is another of the key areas for the future of universities. It is becoming clear that universities have more data than they can effectively use without the right strategy and tools. Through data analytics, universities can make better, evidence-based decisions that lead to greater institutional agility, optimized operations, and increased educational quality.

Hybrid learning models, also known as blended learning, is a practice that experts believe will become a permanent part of the higher education landscape in the future. While many students and faculty want to return to full-time teaching, they also appreciate the convenience of remote solutions. It will be necessary for universities to find the golden mean between both models of education.

Last on the list of key technologies is artificial intelligence. Its use in higher education is still controversial, but it is increasingly being used successfully in solutions such as LMS, student information systems, anti-plagiarism tools and proctoring (e.g. in Inspera).

Each of the listed technologies and practices is accompanied in the report by many examples of projects and activities implemented by universities from different countries of the world.


In addition to specific technologies and practices of greatest importance, experts also identified general trends that are most strongly influencing higher education and shaping its future. We will briefly list all of the identified trends – for detailed descriptions of their impact, please refer to the report.

The most important trends for the future of the university according to EDUCAUSE report:

  • social trends – the growth of remote work and education, more common mental health problems, and a widening digital divide;
  • technological trends – increased use of educational technologies, widespread adoption of hybrid learning models and the development of digital competencies of teaching staff;
  • economic trends – decreasing higher education funding, economic uncertainty, changes in the labor market and demand for different workforce skills;
  • environmental trends – climate change, sustainable development and reduction in work travel;
  • political trends – increased online globalization, rise of nationalism, frequently changing priorities and directions of the authorities that leads to unstable legal and financial conditions for universities .

Much more, including projected future scenarios and analysis of selected education markets worldwide, can be found in the full 2021 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report® Teaching and Learning Edition available for free on the EDUCAUSE website. We highly recommend you to read the report!