IT and AV Market Movements in Higher Education

3d classroom rendering

By Chris Pennell
Futuresource Consulting

There’s no doubt that the higher education sector has experienced a difficult period over the last 18 to 24 months. Profound and far-reaching changes have been applied in an effort to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and enable students to continue to learn remotely.

In the wake of the changes, Futuresource Consulting has conducted interviews with IT and AV purchase decision makers in higher education across the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The research, carried out in September and November 2021, examines topics which include computing solutions, brand shares of leading vendors, AV devices, student information systems, learning managements systems, Esports, cloud services, the smart campus, and more.

In terms of technology, a high proportion of institutions in both North America and Western Europe reported purchasing new technology as a means of overcoming some of the difficulties presented to them by COVID-19. Non-interactive TV, flat panels and interactive whiteboards were prominent in North America, with interactive whiteboards favoured in Western Europe. Smaller items such as microphones and webcams also featured strongly in both regions.

Desktop Computers Maintain the Lead

“Desktops continue to rule the roost across universities,” says Chris Pennell, Principal Analyst, Futuresource Consulting, “accounting for approximately two out of every five computing devices. Yet Chromebooks and tablets are moving up the ranks, stealing share from laptops and MacBooks, due to portability and lower costs.

“Despite lengthy purchase cycles, with around 20% to 30% of devices only replaced once they fail, these can be accelerated by the needs of hybrid learning and portability requirements. We expect growth across North American and Western European higher education institutions during the next three years. Growth will be stronger across North America, particularly in smaller institutions.

An Emphasis on Overcoming Barriers to Remote Learning

When it comes to AV, interactive flat panels have the highest coverage in lecture theatres. In classrooms and seminar rooms, where communication needs are different, standalone projectors have the highest coverage. However, at 30% coverage in North American and 28% in Western Europe, purchase decision makers still have plans to increase their holding.

Speakers and microphones have high coverage across lecture theatres, classrooms and seminar rooms in both regions. These solutions are regarded as an important requirement for delivering lessons and communicating clearly and effectively with students.

“Lecture capture systems and integrated video conferencing systems are also coming to the fore,” says Pennell. “As COVID-19 continues to make its presence felt, finances are being channelled into solutions that can help overcome many of the barriers to remote learning, and this trend will continue.”

LMS Becoming Prevalent

Student Information Systems are now commonplace across higher education institutions in both regions, and are integral to universities and how they operate. We’re now seeing a shift to Learning Management Systems, with nine in 10 Western European universities having an LMS in place, and just under eight in 10 in North America.

Looking to the LMS brands, PowerSchool achieves the highest penetration in North America, followed by Google Classroom. However, these brands are eclipsed by Canvas and Blackboard in Western Europe, with other players a substantial distance behind the market leaders.

Esports is the New Battleground

Esports continues to gain traction, either as a course, as part of a course or as an activity. Although prevalent across both regions, Western Europe leads the way for Esports clubs, which can be found in 43% of institutions.

Planned investment is also high. With more than half of institutions in both regions considering investing in gamer server management, this is indicative of the growing importance this area is for higher education institutions.

Budgets on the up

“After a period of uncertainty, university IT budgets are beginning to increase,” says Pennell. “In both regions they improved marginally in 2021 compared with 2020, and our forecasts indicate positive movements next year, too. In North America, we expect average budget growth of 12.6%, with 11.2% growth in Western Europe.”