Digital transformation (Dx) is a relatively new and somewhat fraught concept for higher education. Dx in higher education leverages technological innovation to produce shifts in the institutional culture and workforce to generate operational efficiencies, realize cost savings, and improve the institutional value proposition. Despite the potential benefits, higher education institutions are finding it difficult to engage in digital transformation, with only 44 percent of institutions reporting that they are currently involved in a digital transformation initiative.
In addition to insufficient cross-institutional planning and a lack of buy-in and understanding of Dx, one of the significant obstacles facing higher education institutions today is cost. Large-scale technological investments may appear daunting in an era of shrinking budgets and reduced tuition revenue, but they are necessary to modernize institutional workflows and processes. Student success initiatives are a high-impact, relatively low-cost way to embark on a Dx journey and are, in fact, made more impactful through Dx.
The Tambellini Group has focused on a variety of ways in which the proper implementation of technology with an emphasis on shifts in cultural and procedural approaches can move the student success needle.
As noted above, introducing new technologies is just one component of Dx. Dx also requires shifts in institutional culture and the workforce championed and led by strategically minded campus leadership. To lay the groundwork for the successful Dx of student success, IT leaders can take the following steps:
Neither Dx nor student success is an IT project, but IT plays a critical role in the partnerships of these initiatives. Developing an approach to Dx and student success requires talking and listening to stakeholders from across the institution. Understanding the needs of faculty, advisors, support staff, and, most importantly, students is critical to the success of these initiatives.
In addition to investing in and fully leveraging the technology infrastructure for the project’s success, IT leaders need to prioritize the groundwork that will contribute to wholesale cultural and workforce changes. Aligning processes with desired technologically driven outcomes is critical, even if it means delaying major technology implementations.
Dx is fundamentally about student success. Prioritizing student success tool functionality in the context of the larger technology picture will ensure that students continue to find them extraordinarily useful, assuming they know the tools are available.
Dx is an intrinsically uneven process, with some parts of the institution proceeding apace while others remain untouched. Understanding the larger picture affords an opportunity to implement new technologies strategically and as the institution can do so. Such an approach increases the likelihood of buy-in, adoption, and alignment with new processes while reducing sticker shock.
While higher education tends to focus on the first part of the student life-cycle (e.g., recruitment, enrollment, completion), opportunities to engage learners after a degree is awarded abound. Planning now for how the institution can attract, support, and educate (returning) adult learners seeking to up- and reskill could pay dividends in the long run.
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