Turning to ECM to Ready Higher Ed for 2014 and Beyond

Happy New Year, Higher Ed!  As we begin the planning and budgeting process, it’s time to reflect on what is working for your organization and what needs to change so that we’re setting ourselves up for success not just over the next year, but for many years to come.

The recent eCampusNews story about what a first-year student experience will be like in 2023 caught my eye. The article projected a future with significantly fewer choices, which limits a student’s ability to define his or her college experience. Frankly, that makes me sad. But the reason why they’ll have fewer choices makes me very nervous. digital campus

According to the article, a significant percentage of institutions could be bankrupt by 2023, and that less than 10 years from now, the first “steps” first-year students will make on a campus might be “entirely virtual.” 

Taking education online

Now, this is not to say I oppose virtual campuses. Institutions like Capella, DeVry, Kaplan and University of Phoenix make it possible for many people to obtain a first degree (or an additional degree) without asking them to commit to a traditional college experience. But, I believe an on-campus experience offers a student as much of a learning experience as every academic minute does. I want tomorrow’s students to have options. And, full disclosure here, I have a first-year college student now and I’ll have another one in 2022. I selfishly want each of them to go off to college and realize that their bedrooms at home weren’t really that small.

This vested interest aside, my prophetic reading of 2013, College UnBound by Jeff Selingo, leads me to acknowledge that the article’s projections have some merit. There are realities that we need to ready for if we are to protect the wide variety of institutions that we have today.  

Meeting the needs of students – today and tomorrow

As higher education’s measure of success shifts to the “completion agenda,” we must evolve strategically to meet the needs of students today and tomorrow while preserving the unique culture of our respective institutions. And, I think the way to do this, for both virtual and physical campuses alike, is by implementing a digital campus – a true digital campus – where students and staff are able to perform routine tasks online. No standing in line, no filling out forms, no passing folders or tracking results on paper or spreadsheets.

Institutions with a true digital campus rely on technology that moves forms online and manages and routes documents. Technology that does Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on critical and high volume documents like transcripts and purchase orders, technology that puts case management around every conceivable situation, technology that leverages your existing ERP investments. The institutions that will thrive will be the ones that maximize the opportunities that such automation creates for greater, more enhanced personal interaction.

So, what are the realities behind the article’s predictions?

“This could change the way colleges think about accreditation.”

I agree. Data drives what we do. Data about student completion drives our funding. Data about what skills are needed in the community and what jobs are available in our economy drives our programs. But, in order to aggregate this data, it must be in a system, not on paper or in a spreadsheet, so that even as the concept of “accreditation” evolves, the changes we make to our institutions are made with an eye towards protecting accreditation. This demands an agility that a true digital campus can provide.

“…Students will be more in the driver’s seat than ever before.” 

Again, I agree. This has already begun as so many campuses are moving to one-stop-shops. Going forward, institutions will have to make the shift to serving students who’ve grown up ‘online’ by increasing their ability to anticipate student needs.

Students will continue to map their educational experience, and it will likely include credit from multiple institutions. Advisors must watch and learn where and how each student is successful – and then build on that success. We will continue to see a programmatic shift toward “badges” and “certificates.”  This will demand a responsiveness that a true digital campus can provide.

“Faculty in the future will be more involved in the creation of the instruction rather than the delivery of the instruction.” 

That’s the trend, though we must watch outcomes carefully. I’m not convinced every student learns best in a flipped classroom model. It requires tremendous discipline on the part of students to participate in, for example, MOOC content or TED lectures and then be successful in a flipped classroom situation.

If, as the article notes, we are to rely on technology to monitor student progress and provide supportive content based on student results, this most certainly will demand the kind of technology infrastructure found at the heart of a true digital campus.

“For university administrators, whether they’ll still have a campus to govern come 2023 will depend on how quickly they can embrace changes…” 

And so it goes. We must remain fluid. We must embrace change – even in the most sacred halls of Higher Ed. If, as the article notes, we will demand our leaders in Higher Ed be “entrepreneurial” and “risk tolerant,” success for us all rests in our ability to change – period.

So let’s begin 2014 laying out a clear path for success. Take a peek at your strategic plan. Our “to-do” lists for 2014 may not be the same, but technology is likely at the heart of much of what you need to do – or much of what you need to do more strategically.

What’s on your to-do list?



Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller

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