As colleges open their campuses this fall to welcome back students, staff and faculty, I imagine the experience will be both exciting and a bit surreal. It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 months since our campuses were last in full swing, and so much has changed in the interim.
In ways both small and significant, many colleges and universities aren’t quite the same institutions they were before the pandemic. That creates a unique opportunity for them to build on their new momentum and to reassess where they’ve been and where they want to go from here.
Growth and Innovation in Higher Education
The investments and adaptations that colleges made to accommodate remote work and learning weren’t easy to pull off. They encompassed technology, classroom practices, business strategy and much more. Now, however, these pivots — many designed for resilience and flexibility — can serve as a foundation for ongoing growth and innovation.
Numerous institutions and individuals encountered serious challenges as they tried to stay connected and continue learning remotely. That raised important awareness about the kinds of efforts that should continue to be prioritized. Digital equity, accessibility, evolving pedagogy to align with hybrid curricula, the strategic role of IT professionals — there is so much work and possibility ahead.
Persistence and ingenuity have helped to provide new levels of connectivity to tribal institutions, such as Diné College. Brown University and the University of Michigan are among those pursuing digital transformation and data privacy through the lens of pandemic-related insights and experiences. Westminster College and others are advancing their IT infrastructure, particularly in the area of cloud security.
The breadth and diversity of higher education means that the paths won’t be the same for every college, and many institutions may continue to grapple with recovery from the long period of disruption. As the field moves forward, I will be eager to see how colleges choose to grow and evolve in this new chapter.