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Wearable tech in HE: fad, flop or flourishing?

There’s lots of talk about educational applications for wearable tech in HE. How have things moved on in the last year or so?
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

I wrote here last year about the as yet unexploited benefits of wearable technology in higher education

There has undoubtedly been lots of enthusiasm for wearables and plenty of excitement about the possibilities but the evidence so far about the material benefits of the technology remains rather thin.

There really must be many ways in which education should be helped by this new tech but this recent(ish) report suggests that we are really still in the early adopter phase and the technology does have a rather high abandonment rate. It quotes a Gartner survey on the issue:

According to the survey, smartwatch adoption is still in the early adopter stage (10 percent), while fitness trackers have reached early mainstream (19 percent). Only 8 percent of consumers have used VR glasses/head-mounted displays (excluding cardboard types).

The research also revealed high abandonment rates for wearable devices. “Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate. To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification.”

According to the survey, the U.S. leads smartwatch use at 12 percent, while the U.K. is at 9 percent and Australia at 7 percent.

The report also suggests that smart watches, fitness trackers and VR glasses and the like really do need to be demonstrably more useful in higher education before they will start to make a serious impact.

From an institutional perspective there do seem to be quite a few possibilities, not just with learner analytics and tracking but helping with motivation and support for students. VR too offers options in terms of student recruitment as well as enhanced learning opportunities.

Will wearable technology flourish in higher education then or is it destined to flop? Perhaps we just need a little longer to decide.

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