Like many other industries, much of the change occurring in colleges and universities is driven by the rise of mobile devices, the consumerization of IT, and higher customer expectations. With so many educational choices both on-campus and online, institutions have had to set aside their aversion for change in order to meet the digital desires of a new generation of students and compete on a global scale. But what will higher ed’s strategic digital efforts look like in the future?

Then: Simply Keeping Pace

Along with the economic downturn of the late 2000s that caused students, parents, and even prospective employers to begin questioning the value of a college degree, which resulted trends in career and employability-focused education programs and CBE, as well as the replacement of legacy administrative systems with more modern systems, the move to a more digital campus has also been driven in a large part by the demands of a tech savvy-generation raised with smart device in hand and accustomed to anytime, anywhere access to information. Accreditation agencies today are not only looking at student competency and course offerings when rating performance — they’re also looking at student satisfaction surveys and student outcomes.

Students now expect the same amount of digital literacy on the websites, programs, and applications offered through their school as they do in their personal life–and they’re not afraid to say it. In fact, a 2016 survey by Unit4 and DJS Research found that 7 in 10 students would recommend that their university changes their digital strategy. [Read more stunning results from this survey: “Students say campus technology needs major overhaul—but why?”]

Now: Tailored for the Evolving Student

The desire for a more digital campus has also come hand-in-hand with the rise of the non-traditional student, a population of which is generally characterized by part-time attendance, student swirl, working either full or part time, and taking classes either partly or entirely online. [Read: “Is it time to rethink the term nontraditional student?”] Online learning platforms change the lecture and classroom experience to allow students to connect with the university through a familiar medium–their mobile device.

Digital transformation isn’t just about the changes to the curriculum, however. Many forward-thinking colleges are embracing digital strategies to modernize their administrative side as well, such as processes for financial aid, course sign up, campus enrollment, the bursar’s office and others previously operated independently. Digital integration between departments can streamline tasks and make them accessible online to adapt to the needs of remote students, meaning campuses can put the student first and can streamline operations to follow the student journey.

Today, hundreds of colleges worldwide allow students to register for courses through mobile apps that guide them, helping to streamline and previously lengthy and time consuming process. In addition, many colleges offer dashboards where students can explore outstanding requirements to complete their majors, access grades and transcripts, and manage course loads.

However, mobility isn’t just for students — admin users of ERPs and student information systems (SISs) want mobility too. They desire a consumer-grade experience, just like students and admin users across the campus need mobile-friendly access to perform work on-the-go.

(Next page: The digital learning experience in 5 years)


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