Over the last 20 years, the world has experienced a technological surge unlike any seen before. This new digital age has introduced many changes — some advantageous, some challenging — to higher education. How can institutions not just pivot but take full advantage of this unique period in history? The answer: embrace and soar with Digital Transformation.
What is Digital Transformation in Higher Education?
Digital Transformation (DX) in higher education is the process of using technologies to create new — or modify existing— processes, culture, and student and faculty experiences to evolve with the changing times. According to EDUCAUSE, it can “enable new educational and operating models and transform an institution’s operations, strategic directions, and value proposition.”
Why is Digital Transformation Important in Higher Education?
Digital Transformation is important in higher education because it helps you create and implement all the key pillars needed for your institution’s long-term sustainability. Higher education is facing challenges, including: operating using manual processes, emerging technologies rapidly finding their way into the mainstream, and collecting an arsenal of single-point solutions. All of these can be costly and unsustainable because of maintenance, lack of expertise, retirements, and The Great Upheaval.
To add to this volatility, higher ed is at the edge of a looming enrollment cliff. HEERF funding — which helped institutions provide financial aid to keep their students in school as well as fund critical initiatives during a period of increased instability — is coming to an end in May 2023. Accreditation bodies are requiring more robust evidence of financial sustainability and operational efficiencies. This requirement is pushing institutions to design new approaches to assessment and evaluation of student learning which produce clear and convincing evidence of student achievement — while incorporating students’ knowledge, skills and abilities for career and employability. Students and their families want to be able to see, clear as day, what the return on investment is for their time and money spent on post-secondary education. And all of these challenges, while certainly exacerbated by a global pandemic, were already building up to a critical head for years, but perhaps not fully realized until the last few months.
Now more than ever, higher education leaders are seeking access to more meaningful data to support student success initiatives, educational quality, and allocation of resources that enable institutions to move their mission and vision forward — evidence of institutional effectiveness.
3 Benefits of Implementing Digital Transformation at Your Institution
Ideally, digital transformation provides higher ed stakeholders with visibility and access to data they need to drive their decision-making and future planning. What does that look like in practice? The benefits are:
More Strategic Decisions
Digital Transformation helps you clearly visualize outcomes of student learning in conjunction with other key performance measures like progression, retention, and completion, crucial to an institution’s long-term sustainability. Assessment needs to be connected to other key functions and initiatives within an institution in order to identify opportunities to improve the student experience, invest in the right resources, and ensure students see the value of the education they’re pursuing.
How your stakeholders communicate is key, especially when trying to draw connections and make decisions across functional units. Digital Transformation can help you develop and maintain a common language for stakeholders to communicate about data and use it to impact change.
Meet Accreditation Standards
With accreditation bodies standards evolving, being able to access your data, pull reports, and share evidence demonstrating your institution is meeting standards is essential. Digital Transformation can help you enable stakeholders to do this smoothly and swiftly, with less miscommunication, duplication of efforts, and a centralized repository for the evidence you need most.
Examples of Assessment Initiatives Supported by Digital Transformation
There are many institutional initiatives that can serve as chariots. Some examples of initiatives and how Digital Transformation can support them include:
Program design and redesign
Modernizing your programs and aligning outcomes to meet the needs of learners who are seeking expertise in entering a growing number of careers.
Engaging your faculty and staff
Your faculty and staff are stewards of learning at your institution. Provide them with the curriculum mapping technology they need to identify and align program and course learning outcomes with competency frameworks, employability standards and other discipline-specific requirements for regional and national employers.
Provide your students with practical learning experiences and assignments that can serve as evidence of proficiency on transferable skills for careers of today and tomorrow.
Alternative delivery options and micro credentials
Provide inclusive pathways to certificate programs, stackable credentials and modules that support a multitude of earn as you learn trajectories and evolving career paths.
Data to Trigger Learning Support
Help students meet program outcomes by putting action plans into place in real-time. Trigger learning support and intervention plans for learners so they don’t fall behind and can progress confidently through their programs with additional support as needed.
4 Things to Keep in Mind When Implementing Digital Transformation
Culture of Data
In many ways, this is the heart of assessment and any data analytics initiative. Digital transformation supports the collection and use of data to support learning, growth, and sustainability relies on a healthy culture of data at your institution. Without it, you can risk distrust, lack of communication, and misinformation. Your goals need to be clear: more visibility to the data needed to make better decisions, increased efficiency, and ultimately strengthening the trust between faculty, staff, and students.
If your data culture is the heart, then your process is the bones. There are many foundational elements that need to be in place before you can (or should) start introducing new technology into the mix. What data do you currently have and where does it live? Are your existing key processes, such as curriculum mapping, up to date? Can they access reports to support their improvement needs? Do your key stakeholders have the answers to these questions?
Buy-In & Collaboration
Change is uncomfortable. If you want to transform assessment at your institution, you have to be ready for some tough conversations with your stakeholders so they can also become drivers of digital transformation. Their questions and concerns will be crucial to helping you understand gaps in implementation, where it’s most needed, and where there is a lack of clarity around what’s happening and why. Ensure that they have a seat at the table, that you’re clearly communicating with them, and that you’re giving them channels to communicate with you.
Finally, there’s the accelerator to digital transformation: technology. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that new processes will likely mean a need for modern technology. Once you have a healthy culture, identify clear needs for data, set your foundation for successful implementation, and have initiated key conversations with your stakeholders, you can start looking for opportunities to optimize existing processes or make way for new ones.
Get Started with Digital Transformation
Bringing Digital Transformation to your campus is easier said than done. Once you’ve got a foundation in place, you need the right technology partner.
HelioCampus helps you look at your institution holistically. We give you the tools to build a healthy culture of data and draw connections between academics, finance, and administration. And when it comes to assessment, you need a platform that will meet your needs not only for today but in the future. From issuing micro credentials to providing your students evidence of their achievements across courses and experiential activities through Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR), HelioCampus can help you increase visibility across functional units, streamline your data, and enable data-driven decisions throughout your institution.
And if you’d like more tips on Digital Transformation, stay tuned for our next blog to learn the 5 steps to implement Digital Transformation at your institution — coming soon!