April 12, 2021
4 min read
The leading big-picture question for most higher education technology leaders today pertains to the forecast for investments made throughout the past year.
As the world shifted to virtual in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many decisions were made in rapid fire succession.
One year later, we take a collective breath and wonder, did long-term strategy drive our responsive technology expenditures or did pressure and anxiety overshadow smart decision-making?
Did we invest wisely or did we panic-purchase?
If purchases fell into the following buckets, there is a good chance the investments made will persist long-term. While they may need to be scaled down or up over time, the initial spend filled a service gap, aided in the learning process and/or kept our community safe and connected.
Campus expenditures in on-campus wireless as well as solutions designed to increase remote access, as long as integrated with strategic vision, are sustainable, long-term, smart investments.
Whether a traditional face-to-face experience is looming or a continued hybrid/fluid campus experience is the goal for the foreseeable future, the ability to teach and learn to, on and from a campus relies entirely on a strong network and infrastructure core. This is the foundation upon which business is run, teaching is delivered and learning is received.
If classrooms were upgraded and equipped with scalable technologies empowering more diverse methods of teaching delivery, institutions will continue to use those technologies.
Of course, if champagne was purchased on a beer budget, now is the time to start planning for a more sustainable future. Start researching how those over-investments can be replaced by or integrated with more realistic solutions at hardware end-of-life. Until then, enjoy the champagne!
And know, students are now aware that classrooms can meet them where they need (and want!) to be. This space will only grow.
New technology solutions and services are only as strong as a campuses ability to use them.
With the new remote normal, watching faculty embrace online teaching has been a beacon of light during the dark Covid-19 days.
Of course providing a class online is not the same as mastering online teaching. Any investment supporting faculty in the development of their online teaching presence will no doubt pay off exponentially for student success.
And, despite some historical industry side-eye towards online learning, now many faculty members and students alike are embracing unique features available within campus learning management systems (LMS) and the flexibility they afford.
Paper processes. Required in-person interactions. Ink signatures. Endless steps to complete the simplest change.
From more deeply using current technologies through new investments in software and systems, any investment – whether time or financial or both – driving to eliminate bad practice and introduce streamlined processes is money well spent.
Who knew that tools like Microsoft Teams, Blackboard, Panopto and Wordpress would be the out-of-band glue that helped keep higher education together?
While the flavors of cloud brands vary, as tech teams moved swiftly to address service issues on-premise, the as-a-service cloud solutions simply delivered.
Sure, the onset of the pandemic showed stress and occasional service disruptions, but, in hindsight, the uptime statistics remain impressive.
In addition to uptime, the speed with which more storage, simpler integrations and enterprise-grade metrics were delivered continue to outpace internal capabilities.
Increased pandemic spend in cloud solutions should be expected. Only time will tell how that spend might change over the next few years; however, one of the best features of using the cloud is its ability to expand and decrease alongside institutional consumption and need.
Conveniences suddenly critical
From mobile dining apps to Wi-Fi coverage in parking lots, efforts formerly questioned as conveniences saved the day!
Investments made in supporting contact-free service and increasing access to high-dollar resources (example, internet) expanded the reach and safety of the campus. And now that they have been experienced, they are likely here to stay.
Still unsure if money was spent frivolously or wisely?
First things first, grace needs to be fully embraced for decision made. Covid-19 was and is scary. Surely very few-to-none made early pandemic decisions with nefarious intent. Very few higher education campuses were set up to successfully shift to all-remote and socially distanced in March 2020. Investments were a necessity. For virtually all institutions. And if panic-purchases happened, start mapping out how to remediate those decisions.
While the past year has certainly been trying, what a waste if we don’t reflect on all that we have learned.
We now know that providing and supporting options in how we teach, learn and work is both manageable and inclusive. It’s likely the past year’s technology investments will serve as a springboard to stronger positioning for continuing to offer such options. After all, our industry has spend the past decade professing a desire to meet our students where they are. Today, we know how to do this and we have proven we are capable of walking that talk.