Institutions are witnessing a decline in student enrollment as a new generation of parents have fewer children than the baby boomer generation.
The winds of change are blowing across higher education.
To remain competitive today, educators must promote learning, collaboration and flexibility that gives students an immersive learning experience whether they are virtual or in the classroom.
Institutions are witnessing a decline in student enrollment as a new generation of parents have fewer children than the baby boomer generation. Moreover, students are more fickle these days. They are quick to change schools because they don’t like the experience. That is why there needs to be more interaction from everyone in the learning community to move students through their course work to graduation and into their careers.
Higher education institutions are looking for ways to maximize their budgets in this new digital era, especially as they compete to recruit and retain students, as well as faculty. Technology has been and will continue to be a game-changer.
IMPROVING THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Video is everywhere – even in curriculum modules. Universities can now implement asynchronous digital learning solutions with synchronous video conferencing and collaboration tools to create a fully integrated, engaging virtual classroom or a more rich, immersive on-campus experience as more students return to in-person schooling.
Forward-looking higher education institutions are working with industry partners to build digital learning platforms where educators can post pre-recorded sessions and other content. The learning platforms are integrated with voice and video conferencing for real-time collaboration. An artificial intelligence (AI) engine curates and finds interesting content, learns what content is effective, increases content engagement, scales digital assessments and automates the instructor experience.
Students have a view of all their content, and modules can be pushed out to them for classwork and testing as they go through their coursework. Professors do not have to spend the bulk of classroom time lecturing. Classroom time can now be used to find where the gaps are in a student’s learning. Moreover, AI and other technologies can help assess how a student is doing in the class and notify the appropriate advisers or counselors. If the student needs help, the adviser can look up tutors and provide dates and times the tutor is available. This is where education needs to head to give students an immersive learning experience.
Some schools are adapting to this new paradigm of learning, while some still lag. People might think that technology is where institutions start in making this transition. However, technology is the last step. The journey begins with people. To that end, institutions must:
- Ensure that all stakeholders are part of the search for learning solutions. The right people must be in the room. That should include the provost who oversees the curriculum and professors for pedagogical strategy. The chief marketing officer, who is concerned with how the university recruits and retains students, must be at the table, along with a representative from the IT department, critical for the support of technology. The president and chief financial officer are crucial for determining how to recoup money the university might be losing because of lower student enrollment, as well as how to monetize services for students. Finally, there must be student representatives to provide feedback on what students want and need to improve their learning experience. Those improvements can be phased in overt ime, leveraging COVID-19 funding and other money from the federal government.
- Determine and prioritize goals. Once the stakeholders are all together, they should determine what they want to accomplish, establish goals and prioritize them.What do they want to do: improve security on campus, recruitment, student experience, student retainment? Some universities are designing gaming rooms to boost their gaming curriculum for students who want to develop games. That is a big draw. Some educators are looking at how to make sure students stay in college, don’t drop classes and become discouraged. Others are focused on new technology that can make campus administrators more efficient. Whatever the goals are, prioritize them for better outcomes.
- Deploy cloud-based solutions. Chief information officers (CIO) in education today are concerned about having enough people to help manage and maintain digital learning platforms and associated technology. This is where the transition to cloud solutions becomes more appealing. IT doesn’t have to worry about standing up, managing and maintaining hardware and software, nor about staff shortages. Cloud-based solutions and the use of low-code, no-code development will make it easier to quickly develop applications and components for digital learning systems, then integrate them into back-end systems. This moves institutions closer to the composable enterprise, which involves creating unique experiences for users-students, faculty and administrators – either by using pre-built apps or creating brand new ones.
TOMORROW’S LEARNING ENVIRONMENT TODAY
As colleges and universities look for ways to remain competitive, the learning environment needs to keep up with the digital age, giving students a unique experience tailored to their needs and a common set of learning tools that can be used in and out of the classroom.