An end-to-end digital transformation strategy creates a path to deliver a truly student-centric learning experience in all aspects of campus life.
I’ve worked in tech for a long time, in particular in the education industry, and there is no doubt in my mind that to deliver a successful student experience in today’s rapidly evolving technology landscape, education institutions must embrace a comprehensive digital transformation strategy. A step-by-step approach to developing a digital transformation strategy can help ensure each aspect of the student experience is fully understood and from there, the best options from a world of digital possibilities can be selected.
Placing students at the top of the priority list
It’s imperative that the needs of students and their education, rather than those of the institution, be given top consideration. An end-to-end digital transformation strategy must take into account the student experience before, during, and after their time at the school.
To assist educational institutions in developing their digital transformation strategy, we’ve identified six key steps we believe can help create a path to success for both students and educational institutions.
Step 1: Make recruiting interactive and engaging
Your website is the face of your school. A robust website is a powerful recruiting tool to help potential applicants get a real sense of what it’s like to attend classes, live on campus, interact with students and professors, and engage in activities at the school. However, to optimise the opportunity, webpages must be easy to find, easy to navigate, and provide clear descriptions of university programs and life on campus. They must be engaging, interactive, and enable personalised experiences.
Technologies that support chat sessions, and provide opportunities for voice, text, and email exchanges with recruiting staff, professors, and current students, can also help. Easy access to campus experts to answer questions and provide insights to prospective recruits can help them better imagine a successful life on campus.
Step 2: Proactively improve student retention
Every college and university is challenged with reducing dropout and failure rates. Identifying struggling students so they can be offered academic, emotional, psychological, and other support services before they reach the point of no return is key. Data analytics can help identify which students need help. Analytics software uses a baseline of successful students to pinpoint those who are experiencing difficulties. In cases where it makes sense, nudge technologies, such as personalised text reminders and chatbots can then be used to encourage better academic performance.
Step 3: Create a true campus community
A student-centric technology platform that supports social learning is a good way to build a campus-wide community and help students feel they are supported in their environment. Students can use the platform to:
• Interact with one another and collaborate on class projects
• Exchange ideas and information with professors
• Get the latest department and school news
• Access information about campus resources, clubs, groups, and activities
The ability to connect, communicate, and collaborate through the channels available in the central platform helps nurture students’ sense of emotional safety and reduce feelings of isolation. Additional applications can also be integrated into the platform to broaden its capabilities, for example students can:
• Chat during audio and video conferences
• Reserve resources, such as a study room or library book
• Explore on-campus dining options and menus
• Receive updates and personal assistance for help desk tickets they’ve opened
Step 4: Support flex learning styles and locations
Traditionally most college and university students attended in-person classes ― for the most part. Now, every school must ensure it can support students’ preferred ways of learning. In our post-pandemic reality, some student will want to return to in-person learning. However, some will want to continue learning from their apartments, their dorm rooms, a library, or another location, with the flexibility to watch a recorded lecture when it fits their schedule. Others will want to take advantage of hybrid in- person and remote learning.
Today’s institutions’ digital transformation strategy must support all these options and include technologies that allow the school to be as agile and responsive as possible to evolving student preferences as well as unexpected circumstances, such as severe weather events, and on campus emergencies.
Step 5: Safety and security first
There is no doubt that creating a safe and secure environment for students and staff is a formidable task. The good news is technologies can be used to keep everyone physically safe and their information digitally secure.
When evaluating the best ways to protect individuals on campus, technologies such as panic buttons, safety hotlines, mass notification systems, and alarms monitored through a campus-wide safety dashboard are good options. Technologies can be implemented indoors and outdoors, so everyone on campus always has fast and easy access to at least one alert mechanism.
From a cybersecurity perspective, it’s important to develop a multi-dimensional plan that protects networks and data from cyberattacks. A good cybersecurity plan includes authentication, authorisation, auditing, and administration. The network must also safeguard personally identifiable information in a way that meets privacy regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S., or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.
Step 6: Staying connected
The final step is to determine how technologies can be used to help students stay connected with the school, and with each other, after they’ve graduated.
Staying connected with the alumni is a great way to help ensure former students remain ambassadors for the school and its programs, long-term. Helping alumni stay in touch with one another allows former students to benefit from networking opportunities and friendships for years to come. It also extends and strengthens their view of the value the school played in their life.
A win/win digital transformation strategy
As educational institutions embark on their digital transformation strategy it’s important to evaluate technologies that stimulate student success as well as provide educational institutions with a foundation for growth and security into the future. I am confident the six key steps outlined above offer a holistic approach to creating a digital transformation strategy that sets the stage for a win/win for students and educational institutions alike. To find out more about how we are helping educational institutions develop their digital transformation strategies, check out our comprehensive Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise solutions for the education industry.