The wonderful world of education is constantly evolving with universities, colleges and research centers. It’s often blazing new trails when it comes to the latest ideas, technologies and innovative projects.

In many ways, this makes perfect sense. These are the institutions that are there to garner and foster the minds, movers and shakers, and leaders of the future.

Many would argue that far too much of the money floating around the education system ends up getting spent on research funding, and not on developing the actual teaching and learning parts of higher education. Sure, research is key – nobody could claim that PhD students should have their funding slashed or denied, especially when they’re doing so much valuable work. However, there’s definitely a point to be made for redressing the balance regarding where university funding ends up going.

The vast majority of students moving through our great universities and colleges will never go on to benefit from research funding, and yet they’re the very people who are bringing the cash flow into these institutions in the first place. So where could some of that money be going, and which ideas and projects are most worth investing in now that it’s 2018?

We’ve put together five ideas to get you thinking, and which we feel deserve more investment and attention.

1. Digital Feedback and Submissions

The age of paper is well and truly behind us now, and paper submissions of essays and academic work should have gone the way of the dinosaur. Quite why so many education institutions haven’t yet caught up on the trend of paperless submissions, marking and feedback is something we struggle to understand – surely digital systems for handing in and receiving papers is worth investing in?

Studies into the impact of digital submissions, marking and feedback have shown that students are highly in favor of such a change. It’s not just a point of convenience – it’s the way the world is going. Banks have become paperless, as have your taxes, insurance policies, utility bills… so why not academic work? What’s more, it’s clearly going to remove plenty of stress from the professors and lecturers, too, as they won’t have to navigate mountains of term papers at the end of each semester. Everyone’s a winner!

2. Educational Assistance Software

When we think of investing in education, all too often we’re distracted by notions of buying endless hardware: computer suites, tablets, digital whiteboards and all the rest. What students will really benefit from, however, is more investment into software.

It’s been proven that the best ROI comes from investment into websites and apps that students can access from their laptops and mobile devices; the kinds of things that make being a student smoother, more manageable, and easier to cope with.

For example, some European developers are now working on projects like smart essay writer, which is going to be an AI-driven student’s assistant. Just imagine how profitable this startup can become in 5 years after being launched.

3. Letting Your Students’ Voices Count

Whatever you are choosing to invest in, it’s always a good idea to make your decisions student oriented, and driven by the changes that they want to see. This doesn’t mean putting more bars on your campus (although we’re sure that would be a popular investment), but rather giving your students a portal or forum in which their opinions and ideas can be heard.

The use of student-driven data, opinions, and the dissemination of information is the most powerful tool any education institution can get their hands on. It will allow you to improve satisfaction levels, think outside the box, and approach systems from the perspective of those who matter most.

4. Reversed Approaches and Innovative Teaching

If you’d asked students 20 years ago what they imagined university education would look like in 2018, it’s likely more than a few would have claimed they’d all be learning from robots, or entirely on the internet. While the fully-automated AI lecturer hasn’t yet been invented, online learning has become more and more popular and utilized all over the world.

Despite this, it’s probably fair to say that face-to-face learning remains considered the gold standard. But that doesn’t mean that money couldn’t or shouldn’t be invested in alternatives to this classic teaching style, or that innovations can’t be made. One popular method which is spreading across the globe involves an ‘inverted’ approach to university learning: the student watches a lecture delivered online (in bed with a beer and some popcorn, naturally), and then attends workshops, seminars or assignment sessions with a face-to-face tutor. The result? A better use of teachers’ time, and a more satisfying, less stress-inducing educational experience.

So long as adequate investment of money and time goes into the creation of the resources and lectures as online materials, there’s no end to the possibilities this sort of approach could bring.

5. Smartphone Educational Apps

The past few years has seen a meteoric rise in smartphone learning apps and software. Want to learn a new language, discover how to play an instrument, become a master engineer or stabilize acids? There’s an app (and probably several) for exactly that.

If you’re involved in education in 2018, then there’s no doubt about the fact that apps and mobile devices are what it’s at right now. If you can invest in an app which can enhance the learning experience of your students, and even gamify the approach or discipline that they’re learning… well, you may just be onto a winner.