Five Steps to Digital Transformation in Higher Education

Guest Post March 23, 2020 Higher Education

Five Steps to Digital Transformation in Higher Education

The world is engaged in a life-changing pandemic. It is the brave new world of the coronavirus where our daily routines will never be the same. While schools shutter across the globe, the question remains: How do you keep students safe post-pandemic? How can you ensure students get what they need, take their required courses and classes, without risking their lives?

Tech-savvy students expect their interactions with colleges and universities to feel similar to how they currently communicate via their social media tools or even how they are already used to shopping via e-commerce sites. And now, the need is more dire than ever.

Staff will have to work remotely, more often. Student gatherings will have to be limited, perhaps more experienced virtually. And, every course will need an online option. Does your institution already provide these types of experiences?

The value of automation, and digital transformation, goes beyond the general attributes of productivity – which is a given – and towards overall learning, collaboration, and decision-making improvement. For universities to thrive in the future, to survive the new world post-pandemic, they must make the digital transition now and start deploying solutions that help them become faster and more cost effective.

From the cloud to analytics, AI and the Internet of Things, the digital world can be your oyster while setting your institution up for continued success.

Yet, many colleges still find it difficult to standardize organization-wide technologies as well as the digital capabilities of the classrooms. Sure, many colleges have limited resources but when you think of the return on investment, it can be similar to investing in the future health of your organization. You don’t want to be the institution left behind by faster, and better, colleges who “get it.”

There is a growing digital divide amongst the world’s universities between early adopters, mainstream adopters, and late adopters. Tech-savvy, and health-conscious, students aren’t going to have the patience for the late adopters nor will they want to be affiliated with a university stuck in the past.

There are so many priorities, and challenges, facing many colleges today such as:

  • How to streamline costs
  • How to standardize outsourcing, collaboration, and shared partnership
  • How to select and deploy applications designed for achieving student success such as getting early alerts, offering progress tracking, answering questions, promoting academic maps, course planning, and more
  • How to implement analytics to reach the objective of improving efficiency, data-driven decisions, and student success
  • How to use technology to improve research, scholarships, and access for students across the globe
  • How to use technology to improve security and the student experience
  • How to ensure student safety in the advent of rapidly-evolving viruses

Due to the coronavirus, if your processes are not 100% digital, they soon will be. The good news is these questions, and challenges, can be easily addressed. Keep reading to learn more.

Digitize the library and automate the library helpdesk with chatbots

Unquestionably, the college library is home to valuable content and continuously contributes to a well-rounded college experience. Yet, in uncertain times, libraries are usually the first to shutter. As a result, it no longer offers enough ROI to allocate resources for staff in a traditional library setting. The world’s needs are changing as we write this blog.

So then, the only answer now is to digitize the library. Offer digital periodicals and books that students can easily access via a specified portal and by using their student IT number. Therefore, you can maintain the value of the library while keeping student and staff safety in mind. Plus, it becomes more convenient for students. And, if they have questions, deploy AI-driven chatbots who can offer conversational responses and become more intelligent over time.

Connect your data with your processes

Now, more than ever, educational institutions need to integrate their data onto a single platform. Not only will this increase transparency, but it will also help to streamline processes so that colleges can quickly respond to any future outbreaks and pandemics without any major disruptions. Plus, the digitally native students will appreciate forward-thinking, planning, and preparation. In essence, the university achieves greater flexibility and agility.

Move every course online

If you haven’t already, it is past time to create online options for all of your degree programs. In a pandemic, this really is the most popular choice. In the future, students will prefer universities who have a comprehensive selection of online courses as social distancing may become a permanent routine. In fact, not having any online courses is no longer an option.

Monitor the student lifecycle from admissions to graduation

The student lifecycle is a span of several years, or more, starting with recruitment and on to graduation and perhaps advanced degrees. The students are your customers so it is critical to monitor this cycle to ensure your university better understands your students and can then tailor offerings to their needs and wants. Whether it is an online group fundraiser or new courses, the aim is to use your findings to keep students engaged throughout their college lifecycle. There isn’t any question that colleges are embedded with layers of complexity. But, by digitizing your processes, you can cut through the layers to become more responsive and ahead of the curve.

Digitize payments

Today’s students grew up with the Internet and used mobile devices when they were children. Many of them are also into conducting social good and preserving the environment for future and current generations. Not to mention, they are already used to online banking and so on. So then, they expect the same types of channels when it comes to paying their tuition and associated fees. Plus, you can also reduce the amount of paper checks you have to manage and use.

What’s more, there is a lot of discussion around becoming cashless campuses to increase the safety of financial transactions, but also make it more convenient for students. And, you decrease the need to purchase expensive point-of-sale systems or the need to hire employees to manage the cash registers.

Plus, when you use the data you collect from digitized communications then you can start to analyze and filter that data to gain more insight while increasing your ability to make data-driven decisions. As a result, your offerings can become more personalized and relevant for your student body. Moreover, if there is another outbreak and everyone is required to stay indoors, payments can be processed as usual.

Invariably, digitized and automated workflows increase productivity because it relieves the burdens placed on faculty and staff of non-critical workloads. Then, when you centralize management of those processes, you can eliminate redundancies while increasing the speed of deployment.

Final thought

Universities and colleges must adapt fast to digital transformation to ensure the continuity of their institutions and the completion of degrees. Through digitization, connectivity between educational institutions, students, and teachers becomes much more fluid. Further, it optimizes the best use of current resources.

In addition, automated workflows and centralized portals with tools for request-management improve the student experience since you can guarantee by efficiency and accuracy. With automation, students can weave through processes much faster opening the door for greater satisfaction and more revenue. And, digitization will ensure business continuity and resiliency.

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