The winds of change are blowing through higher education.
To stay competitive today, educators must promote learning, collaboration, and flexibility that provide students with an immersive learning experience, whether virtual or in the classroom.
Institutions are experiencing declining student enrollment as a new generation of parents have fewer children than the baby boomer generation. Also, students are more fickle these days. They quickly change schools because they don’t like the experience. This is why there needs to be more interaction from all members of the learning community to move students forward through their coursework to graduation and into their careers.
Higher education institutions are looking for ways to maximize their budgets in this new digital age, especially as they compete to recruit and retain students, as well as faculty. Technology has been and will continue to be a game changer.
IMPROVE THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Video is everywhere, even in program modules. Universities can now implement asynchronous digital learning solutions with synchronous video conferencing and collaboration tools to create a fully integrated and engaging virtual classroom or a richer, immersive on-campus experience as more and more more students are returning to school in person.
Forward-looking higher education institutions are working with industry partners to create digital learning platforms where educators can post pre-recorded sessions and other content. Learning platforms are integrated with voice and video conferencing for real-time collaboration. An artificial intelligence (AI) engine curates and finds interesting content, learns what content is effective, increases content engagement, adapts digital assessments, and automates the instructor experience.
Students have a view of all their content and modules can be sent to them for class work and testing as they go through their course. Teachers don’t have to spend most of their class time teaching. Time spent in class can now be used to find where gaps in a student’s learning lie. Additionally, AI and other technologies can help assess a student’s performance in the classroom and inform appropriate counselors or advisors. If the student needs help, the advisor can search for tutors and provide the dates and times the tutor is available. This is where education needs to go to provide students with an immersive learning experience.
Some schools are adapting to this new learning paradigm, while others are still lagging behind. People might think that technology is the starting point for institutions to make this transition. However, technology is the last step. The journey begins with people. To this end, institutions must:
- Ensure that all stakeholders participate in the search for learning solutions. The right people need to be in the room. This should include the provost who oversees the program and faculty for instructional strategy. The director of marketing, who cares about how the university recruits and retains students, should be at the table, along with a representative from the IT department, essential for technology support. The president and chief financial officer are key in determining how to recoup money the university might lose due to declining student enrollment, as well as how to monetize student services. Finally, there must be student representatives to provide feedback on what students want and need to improve their learning experience. These improvements can be phased in, leveraging COVID-19 funding and other federal government funds.
- Determine and prioritize objectives. Once the stakeholders are all together, they need to determine what they want to accomplish, set goals, and prioritize them. What do they want to do: improve campus safety, recruitment, student experience, student retention? Some universities design game rooms to energize their game program for students who want to develop games. It’s a big draw. Some educators are looking for ways to ensure that students stay in college, don’t drop out, and don’t become discouraged. Others focus on new technologies that can make campus administrators more efficient. Whatever the goals, prioritize them for best results.
- Deploy cloud-based solutions. Today, chief information officers (CIOs) in education worry about having enough people to help manage and maintain digital learning platforms and associated technology. This is where the transition to cloud solutions becomes more attractive. IT doesn’t have to worry about hardware and software availability, management, and maintenance, or staffing shortages. Cloud-based solutions and the use of low-code, no-code development will facilitate the rapid development of applications and components for digital learning systems and then integrate them into back-end systems. This brings institutions closer to the composable enterprise, which involves creating unique experiences for users—students, faculty, and administrators—either using pre-built apps or creating entirely new ones.
TOMORROW’S LEARNING ENVIRONMENT TODAY
As colleges and universities look for ways to stay competitive, the learning environment must keep up with the digital age, providing students with a unique experience tailored to their needs and a common set of learning tools that can be used in and out of the classroom.