Digital Hype

Tech Hype: Emerging Technologies are Our Future

The Commodore 64 was a magical device. When I was a kid, the “C64” was my initial experience with a computer. I typed papers for class (printing them out on a dot matrix printer), played a few rudimentary games (high tech back then!) and even managed to dabble a bit with programming. I was excited for the future of technology…the hype of what was yet to come.

Remember when we thought that Commodore 64s were the epitome of computing awesomeness?

While “technology hype” is often criticized, I am as excited today about the prospects of new technologies as when I was learning how to use the now ancient C64. For example, while watching an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I learned that there are plans to create tiny space probes powered by lasers that can go almost 167,654,157 miles per hour. That’s technology that gets me hyped. It’s science (almost) fiction today that will be our reality in the near future.

So how does this connect to higher education? Commodore 64s, space probes, etc? It’s all about a sense of experimentation, trying to do things that weren’t possible before something was invented that now lets us do something new…or better. In higher education, we aren’t always the most high-tech. However, we do interface with a massive amount of technologies that create opportunities to enhance student success.

The Hype Cycle

Each year, I take some time to think about the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. In all honesty, a lot of the technologies on the Hype Cycle are brand new to me. I literally have to Google them to find out exactly what they are all about. Now, to be fair, this is a report that is largely focused on how businesses can make money using technology.

However, there’s something universal about how we use technology: “the more organizations are able to make technology an integral part of their employees’, partners’ and [students’] experience, the more they will be able to connect their ecosystems to platforms in new and dynamic ways.”

For higher education, while business-like in some capacities, student success, learning, and research are the primary drivers. And, unlike a lot of businesses, higher education isn’t always comfortable with innovation…the unknowns can frighten institutions that are based on tradition and a known model.

“Inflated expectations” and “troughs of disillusionment” are difficult to overcome when an entire organization based on learning and research is focused on “enlightenment” and “productivity.”

However, there are some institutions that are increasingly become more technology-focused as it relates to their mission and vision. One important thing to note is that oftentimes the attitude and boldness of an organization is directly related to their focus on getting (more) digital. At Staffordshire University, they are “aspiring to be a digitally led university.”

In my previous position as an academic advisor, I would have loved to have had access to learning analytics. Being able to use student data to enhance student support would’ve given me the opportunity to scale my ability to reach out to more students who needed academic support. In 2017, there are so many different technologies that can be implemented to help enhance the student experience.

Making Connections with Higher Education Issues

According to EDUCAUSE, the Top 10 IT Issues in higher education in 2017 are: information security; student success and completion; data-informed decision making; strategic leadership; sustainable funding; data management and governance; higher education affordability; sustainable staffing; next-gen enterprise IT; and digital transformation of learning.

The Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies list matches up with EDUCAUSE’s top ten and provides a sense of real world applicability between what is still considered “hype” with recognized IT issues in higher education.

Being Patient with the Hype

A lot of emerging technologies have taken a lot of time to develop/evolve. For example, augmented reality systems, virtual reality hardware/software, machine learning bots, accessibility enhancements, 3D printing, etc. have all been slowly getting “better.” Yet, we are impatient. We want immediate productivity and a clear cut “use case” for technology. The thing to remember with the hype is that it creates a fast sense of excitement for things that require a slow burn of progression. Plus, sometimes the most exciting technology is about the creation of new efficiencies that run behind-the-scenes. They aren’t necessarily the shiniest or awe-inducing, but they do make things better.

According to Bill Gates, “technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could.” In other words, technology (and the hype) plugs into our imaginations and allows us to explore new ways of thinking, creating, and inventing.


This post was sponsored by SAP as part of a higher education influencers collaboration.

Additional posts in this series:
Digital Engagement – How Technology Enhances the Student Experience

Student Success, Retention, and Employability – Getting Digital in a High Tech, High Touch Environment

Learning and Connecting on the Go – How Mobile Technologies are Changing Higher Education

Digital Leadership – Onboarding Technologies into Organizational Culture

  • timekord

    Great post Eric …although I would temper your tech optimism with some pessimism – A lot of tech that goes in the trough stays in the trough

    I would ask a question …. does all the tech that comes out the trough actually benefit us … does it really enrich our lives or simply enrich the establishment and the tech companies

  • I do think that all technology does benefit us in one way or another. Sometimes we have to modify it so it cam benefit us in the long run. Yes I agree with Mr. Bill Gates ““technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could.”

  • Jared Douglas Weitzel

    I really enjoyed reading this post Eric. I think a point touched in the article about how the Gartner Hype Cycle show how businesses are using technology today, but in essence aren’t most higher educational institutions influenced by the market anyway? The technology that major companies are using will directly effect what colleges and universities will consider teaching to the students soon after. Those companies want their employees to have some experience with the tech they are using. Higher educational institutions must follow the tech of businesses today to ensure their graduates are prepared for high paying jobs once they have graduated. If a the students are not prepared with current technology being used they will not get those jobs and incoming students may decide to go elsewhere to get those skills needed. Technology has a huge influence over higher education in many ways.