The purpose of higher education, whether it’s to prepare a person for life or a specific job (or to push the boundaries of research) – is based on a drive for betterment, new knowledge and to constantly redefine our future.
This enterprising attitude for progression shouldn’t stop at academia – higher ed institutions themselves need to constantly improve, adapt and grow to keep up with changing student and staff expectations.
Mapping academia 4.0
Digital transformation strategies are pervasive in higher education, with some institutions at the beginning of their journeys and others advancing rapidly. No matter where you are on your journey, it’s important to map what the future may look like, to ensure the software you’re using today is ready for tomorrow. This blog looks at five key areas that are revolutionising the face of higher education: intuitive student information, virtual recruitment, personalised learning, on campus versus online learning and activating the cloud for cost efficiency.
Intuitive student information
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long been heralded by retail and e-commerce to understand customer purchasing trends but it has a use in higher ed too. AI can be used to drive better insights to improve the student experience and overall student outcomes. Machine learning can be used to help identify student patterns to gain a better understanding of student behaviour. It enables institutions to respond quickly to identify risks of a student dropping out, predict students that may need extra support to pass exams and pin-point which students may need additional intervention with education fees.
One institution that has leveraged AI to refine its process of identifying at-risk students is Georgia State University’s. The university’s Student Financial Services team set out to create a system that harnesses AI to provide early alerts and extra insight to help staff offer the right interventions.
By applying AI analytics to the vast amount of data in the university’s student information system (SIS), the team developed a new platform to help students pay for their studies. Thanks to the hard work behind the scenes, one year since launching the programme, the university served twice as many students without increasing staffing levels and students who sought assistance were 20.6 percent more likely to complete all financial-aid requirements and bring their balances down to zero.
Student recruiters will use a mix of digital and face to face approaches, both in the immediate post-COVID future but also in a bid to broaden recruitment opportunities across the globe.
Virtual student interaction has already moved outside the lecture room, with recruitment set to leverage digital technologies. As one in six high school seniors in the US who originally planned on attending a four-year university before the coronavirus pandemic are now considering a different path, it is imperative student recruiters adapt – and quickly – to keep prospective students engaged and interested.
Whether students are engaging with key department staff and student leaders on their own time or through planned virtual meetings, they need to be able to access key information in flexible, and digestible ways. Read more here.
Customized and personalized learning
The personal demand principle, created because of technology’s ability to serve personalised data to users, means that students and staff in higher ed are moving to a model where they access information when it is relevant to them, whether it’s on their phone out and about on campus or on their laptop.
This impacts on not only the courses offered to students, with a greater level of personalisation than previously required, but also creates an expectation shift that goes beyond education delivery. Students and staff expect to be able to access the information they need, when they need it. This has implications for data access behind the scenes. For example, if a student makes a change to their address information, staff expect that information to be updated quickly so whenever they run a report on student information, it is always up to date and accurate.
This is where solutions such as the Ellucian Ethos platform can offer an advantage. The software platform establishes a uniform data structure, integrating Ellucian, partner and institution applications to enable informed decision making across campuses and programs.
One institution to do this was Southern New Hampshire University, who partnered with Ellucian to integrate Ethos and MuleSoft with its internal processes for real-time data reaction.
Toby Carroll, Director of Development and Integrations, Southern New Hampshire University, explains: “An advisor can now contact a student if they get a failing grade, and they’re going to know that within a very short period of time.
“Before we put this system in place, once you clicked your application, it would take 15-20 minutes before that would even get in front of an advisor, it would be put on a spreadsheet, and you’d see it the next day. Now, from the time that you say yep, I think I’m interested in SNHU, within six seconds, an advisor can call you and start to talk to you about your options at SNHU.”
On campus versus online
Two sectors that remained open and active to deliver services amidst the coronavirus pandemic were healthcare and education. For a sector that largely hadn’t changed in 400 years, higher education had to adapt – and adapt quickly. Students who were used to being taught on campus saw their courses switch to online delivery. Whilst the world emerges from this pandemic, it’s arguable that many institutions will need to continue to deliver a mix of on campus and online learning.
For example, how will international students continue learning when they can’t travel to the country in which they study? And how will we continue to meet the changing expectations of students, who may now be used to learning predominantly online? The answer is in a blend of on campus and online learning.
By adapting course delivery in the immediate post-pandemic world, institutions will be able to stand out and attract new students whilst driving revenue when budgets are feeling the pinch. The key is crafting courses that are insightful, meaningful and effective and ensuring the software backing up online learning services is robust and efficient.
You can read more about recommended strategies for effective teaching online here.
Revenue down, costs up
Institutions will be looking at ways to reduce labor costs, improve efficiencies and ensure teams are focused on improvements to deliver great experiences. Preparing for a move to the cloud is essential for institutions looking to cut costs in the long-term delivery of IT services.
This was the case for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities who when making a switch to the cloud saw their costs drop from $3,000 an hour to run their ERP to just $300 an hour – a meagre 10% of the previous cost.
Commenting on the move to Ellucian, Joseph Tolisano, Chief Information Officer, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, said: “Moving… to the Cloud gave us more security, monitoring, and a more cost-effective solution.
“Once we moved to the Cloud, the cost model changed to just over $300 an hour, because you're [Ellucian] maintaining and monitoring those systems 24 hours a day. You're doing all of our upgrades. You provide full DR [disaster recovery] for us.”
How will technology help the sector get there?
Digital transformation strategies are pervasive in higher education, with some institutions at the beginning of their journeys and others well on the road.
One thing we can be certain of, is that the future will be different than today. Whether it’s meeting changing student and staff expectations, the introduction of new technologies or an unplanned global pandemic, change is inevitable. Therefore, it’s vital you’re able to grow and adapt with the right mix of technology solutions and partners, like Ellucian, to challenge you and support your vision of the future.
To learn more about the role of technology in empowering change in higher education, you can read our latest blog here.