Business continuity in higher education - Part 1

Business continuity in higher education

On March 31, over 1,000 Ellucian community members met online for “Business Continuity Best Practices in Today’s Environment,” a panel discussion focused on the shift to remote teaching, learning, and work. Here’s a brief look at the key takeaways and best practices institutions have implemented in response to COVID-19.

Student support and communication

Panelists agree that student service is now the top priority.

  • Identifying at-risk students through LMS attendance and other data.
  • Connecting students to support resources through calling campaigns and text check-ins.
  • Partnering with student government to increase social reach and engagement.
  • Involving faculty in student communication efforts.
  • Providing online counseling, from academic advising to emotional support to financial aid assistance.
  • Maintaining food pantries and providing other basic needs for low-income students.

Helping faculty shift to online instruction

Faculty enablement is essential to an effective transition.

  • Ensuring collaboration between IT, staff, and faculty has been essential to rapid rollouts.
  • Leveraging course templates or shells to quickly create online courses.
  • Working with academic affairs and faculty leads to populate courses with content and resources.
  • Partnering with distance learning departments to scale up training and transition to an online environment.
  • Moving staff and faculty members to the same collaboration platform used by students.

Planning for the immediate future

There are still many unknowns, but certain shifts in strategy are looking more likely.

  • Making specialized course software available online via streaming apps, rather than on-premise in the computer lab.
  • Implementing a remotely accessible “digital backpack” for each student, with a comprehensive suite of personalized applications.
  • Connecting the dots between pandemic, disaster recovery, and business continuity plans to help accelerate the deployment of applications and hardware.

Looking ahead to what's next

Panelists foresee lasting change for higher education technology after the pandemic subsides.

  • New ways of thinking, driven by necessity and dramatic shifts in priorities.
  • Blended online instruction to serve students and surrounding communities in multiple ways.
  • An accelerated push to the cloud for remote administration, faster innovation, and better disaster recovery.
  • A focus on agility to bring streamlined administrative processes and more efficient workflows.

I think we’ll just continue to improve. Change is a challenge on many campuses, but this has shown us that we actually can turn on a dime. And it's giving people a lot of courage to really look at our processes and challenge the way that we've done them.

Candace Jones, Associate Vice President for Information Technology Services, Pasadena City College
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