November 10, 2023
4 min read
Digital transformation can help higher ed leaders improve student and institutional success. This article outlines what IT initiatives can help them achieve these goals.
It's no secret that education technology made remote learning possible when the pandemic forced over 1.5 billion students worldwide out of the classroom. And the innovation has not stopped now that life is largely back to normal.
Today, higher education is at a critical juncture. Universities and colleges nationwide are in the midst of a significant shift, using digital transformation to offer innovative learning models and enhance student campus experiences. In this era of digitalization, students are looking for an education that will equip them with the skills necessary to transition seamlessly into their chosen career paths. As a result, the IT infrastructure within these institutions has undergone significant changes. The focus is no longer solely on managing hardware and software; instead, IT systems must deliver the technology and services required to facilitate agility, efficiency, and innovative learning practices.
But while we've made a lot of progress, achieving effective digital transformation is still difficult for many higher education institutions facing barriers such as limited IT budgets, decentralized computing and weak network security.
The drive to transform higher education
Today's learners are used to immersive engagement in their personal lives. As a result, the need to provide 24/7 uninterrupted, inclusive and highly engaging learning experiences in and outside the classroom has never been more critical. Ensuring students and teachers are connected and provided with opportunities through immersive hardware and software is essential to build brighter futures for today and tomorrow.
Today, higher education IT leaders want to improve student and institutional success through IT initiatives that bring digital transformation to their campus experience. How can they get there?
- Saving capital and innovating smarter: Over the last few years, universities have had to reshape budgets quickly and drastically, with many having to reduce overall spending. As a result, the university sector, now often unbearably stretched due to today's economic challenges, has called for a new higher education funding model. Higher educational establishments can use subscription-based solutions, cloud services, or even PCaaS to ensure agility, efficiency, security, and effective management of digital resources. Switching to the consumption of IT on a pay-per-use as a service model makes it easier to track which projects are or aren't working according to plan. This helps universities and colleges know where and where not to commit additional funds.
- Cybersecurity transformation: Cybersecurity threats and network security are top priorities for CIOs in education. Higher education ranks amongst the top five industries that face cybersecurity challenges. Colleges and other FE providers store large amounts of sensitive data, including student and staff information, which makes them prime targets for cybercriminals. This data could be exploited for financial gain or other malicious purposes if left unprotected. Findings have revealed that 88% of further education colleges and 92% of higher education institutions have fallen prey to breaches or cyber-attacks. Therefore, institutions must build a holistic strategy through campus security solutions that protect people, information, and physical components.
- Data storage and management: Data is increasingly becoming decentralized. The influx of student devices and an explosion of data are putting enormous demands on IT resources. Intelligent automation and integrated compute clusters can empower academic institutions to streamline data management and reduce operational expenses. This ready access to data provides many digital tools and resources for students and teachers.
- Powerful cloud technologies: Today, remote learning has shown the power of the cloud in transforming education. Cloud services have helped create significant cost and operating advantages, such as assisting academic institutions in reducing capital and enabling rapid scale-up and scale-down capacity to enhance IT agility and adapt to the ever-changing environments. Delivering the solutions and services that facilitate seamless, virtual interactivity between teachers and students is necessary.
- Connected campus: To better engage students, a connected campus is no longer a luxury but a necessity for universities. As universities evolve, a robust and interconnected campus is a fundamental component of a modern and influential higher education institution. A connected campus can enhance the overall campus experience, improving access to online resources, enabling remote learning and virtual classrooms, and providing real-time information regarding campus events and services. It also helps address immediate needs for the dynamic allocation of IT resources, holistic security, and technology access for an increasingly remote student population. Because of its inherent design, it also serves as a foundational technology that many educational institutions leverage as part of their long-term digital transformation strategies.
Getting the digital classroom right
By harnessing new innovative technologies, education leaders can do more than sustain education – they can transform how students learn, and teachers are supported. The sweet spot for EdTech occurs when the technology is fit for purpose, and students and teachers are well versed in using it to get the most out of it.
For this to happen, the digital foundations must first be in place before seizing the next generation of opportunities and preparing robustly for the future of work, especially as 74% of Gen Z consider learning new digital skills essential to increase future career options. But it must be grasped with care – as the successful application of a digital strategy for education requires nuance, vision and collaboration with the aim of always putting students' success first.