Sep 16 2021

Advancing and Streamlining DX in Higher Ed

Which digital tools can help define a strategic direction?

Even before March 2020, a steady decline in undergraduate enrollment was being closely monitored as higher education experienced a shift away from tradition. A significant portion of college students were no longer solely focused on attending classes full time. It was common to find students balancing work, family and school due to the time, money and resource expenditures that come with attending a college or university.

To maintain a competitive edge, institutions worked to improve student outcomes and implement more effective teaching methods. But COVID-19 accelerated the need for post-secondary infrastructural changes that can only be achieved through digital transformation (DX).

DX Tools Support a Cohesive Transition from K–12 to Higher Ed

Through digital transformation, institutions are leveraging technology and data to become more competitive. Universities and colleges are enhancing the student experience by using data to boost metrics such as retention, graduation and course success rates. And this begins with having the right digital tools.

Over 10 years ago, Google for Education brought Gmail to colleges and universities, where it proved to be a valuable communications app. But it wasn’t originally seen as something that could serve higher ed stakeholders.

Since Google Workspace has developed into a teaching and learning platform and expanded across the K–12 sector, institution leaders are seeing that it can mitigate critical technical challenges for higher education as well — particularly with incoming students. Many college students today have been using Google tools throughout their primary and secondary education. Having them continue to use these tools in college will make it easier for professors to engage these students. This creates a cohesive transition between K–12 and higher ed.

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An Optimal Roadmap for Leveraging Technology

According to a 2021 survey by the Boston Consulting Group, 70 percent of higher education leaders are prioritizing developing digital capabilities for their institutions; however, only 15 percent identified it as one of their highest priorities. There are various reasons for this discrepancy, but one of the biggest reasons is that many institutions simply don’t have a plan. They have no roadmap for leveraging technology. They often purchase platforms or build other tools to manage workflows without realizing that existing tools, such as Google for Education, can meet many of their needs and streamline processes in a structured way.

Many don’t understand that Google Workspace for Education is an all-in-one suite of productivity, communication and collaboration tools that are compliant with Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standards. Its benefits include:

  • Student-Centric Flexibility. Workspace tools help institutions build a student-centered ecosystem. They empower schools to tailor the student experience with consistent communication and collaboration through applications, onboarding, education and post-graduation activities. Take, for example, a Brown University professor using Google’s Tilt Brush to engage his American history class.
  • Reliable Research Workloads. Stakeholders can conduct research, access data and make decisions seamlessly with Workspace’s dependable cloud technology. For this reason, the University of South Carolina has been using Google Cloud to optimize its research workflows.
  • Advanced IT Support. IT leaders can ensure privacy and security with Workspace tools that protect against threats, mitigate attacks, monitor data and manage content sharing. Amherst College, for example, used Google migration to resolve a complete network failure.

MORE ON EDTECH: See how Kent State built a network that can stand up to anything.

As digital transformation takes place in the post-secondary space, Google for Education is re-emerging in new ways. Unlike K–12 school districts that may adopt the entire Workspace platform, higher ed leaders are integrating key tools and features into their digital infrastructure. That’s another reason institutions should include Google for Education in their actionable digital transformation plans.

Google doesn’t just push the entire Workspace platform; it gives universities tools that meet the needs of their faculty, staff and students because they can integrate into virtually any existing systems. When institutions required inboxes, Google offered Gmail. When they needed to upgrade their learning management systems, Google provided Assignments.

Overcome Challenges That Stall Higher Ed’s Growth

Digital transformation is improving day-to-day operations for higher education. Still, institutions face organizational barriers that prevent them from achieving digital maturity. This is the result of competing priorities, decentralized decision-making, budget constraints and cultural resistance. To mitigate these challenges that stall growth, institutions should:

  • Make Tech Investments with Good ROI. Cloud technology can be off-putting due to costs, but its ability to scale and replace other homegrown systems means good ROI. Institutions are making the decision to sunset underused services to help consolidate technology and defray costs for more effective tools.
  • Centralize Decision-Making. Digital transformation thrives on data-driven decision-making. However, when there are different data systems across the institution, it affects how decisions are made — and the foundation on which the future is built.
  • Take Small, Strategic Steps. Institutions migrating to a new system like Google for Education can make the mistake of changing too much far too quickly, which can disrupt the present workflow. Digital transformation is a journey that spans the institution, but there is no need for a complete overhaul. Start with small projects and technology integrations that work with what’s already available. This will help leaders reduce resistance among their stakeholders.

Colleges and universities cannot delay digital transformation if they want to retain current students and increase enrollment. Institutions must urgently prioritize digital capabilities, beyond just having the latest technology. There is value in acquiring digital tools that help define a strategic direction, shift propositions and cater to the new student experience.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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