The summer of 2020 allowed educators and faculty time to prepare for a return to campus in the fall—in person, online learning, or a hybrid approach.
The pandemic has changed more than an increase in online learning. While the digital transformation of higher education was underway before the pandemic hit, the crisis only accelerated the transformation.
What is the digital transformation of higher education?
The 2019 McKinsey Global Survey on digital transformation found that about 80 percent of respondents said their organizations had begun digital transformations, but just 14 percent said their efforts made any sustained performance improvements.
With the need for faster and more socially collaborative interaction for students, staff, and faculty, higher education has begun moving into the digital transformation age.
In partnership with RingCentral, the Aragon Research white paper, The Digital Campus Starts with Cloud Communications, looks at what makes up a digital campus and explores what factors are driving this transformation.
What is driving the demand for digital communications?
- Evolving student populations
- Changing the instruction experience
- Local and virtual campus
- Safety and security
Just like businesses, colleges and universities are evolving and becoming more digital. The rapid shift to virtual learning has expedited the need and desire of universities to offer more collaborative and interactive services to students, which are essential to attracting and retaining undergraduate and graduate students.
Another factor in this evolution is the increase in digital natives entering higher education. And with them comes the desire for digital-first interaction and collaboration. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center announced in September 2020 new data that show undergraduate student enrollment declining 2.5%, so the quality of digital campus services will be playing an even greater role in enrollment competitiveness.
In a 2017 student technology study conducted by Ellucian, 97% of student respondents felt that technology outside the classroom was just as important as technology inside the classroom. Moreover, 87% of the students in the survey said that a university’s technology competency was an important factor for them when deciding on a school.
What is a digital campus?
What does a digital campus look like? A digital campus is a thriving digital culture that creates meaningful data from student interactions, scholastic behaviors, etc., with the ability to derive and apply insights. And in light of many universities still primarily conducting courses remotely, it is paramount to extend the definition of a digital campus into virtual communities.
From a technical standpoint, a digital campus consists of a common infrastructure that:
- Provides contextual information summaries and helpful recommendations to students and staff based on their individual actions and behaviors
- Supports students with digital assistance such as push notifications and proactive reminders for study prep and classwork
- Ensures uptime, reliability, and other critical services like disaster recovery, which has been a foundational component of the move to digital
Additionally, having a consistent way to communicate with students and faculty outside of email platforms is critical to a cloud-based communications infrastructure. Lastly, improving safety and emergency communication on the physical campus as well as inside the campus network is a must-have for a digital campus evolution.
Aragon prediction: By YE 2025, team collaboration will be the primary way that people collaborate and communicate.
As the campus environment changes to become virtual as well as physical, colleges and universities need to act now to be able to offer better methods of engagement for students, faculty, administration, and alumni.
By retiring outdated communication modalities and introducing the capabilities and benefits of cloud-based communications and collaboration platforms, higher education has the opportunity to transform disconnected groups and siloed communications and create truly innovative digital campuses.
Originally published Oct 13, 2020