HED innovation

5 ways innovation is inspiring higher ed

Innovation at all levels and in all departments is key for universities that want to meet students' expectations

It’s no wonder institutions are focused on innovation–as students demand more from their schools, institutions must be ready to meet those expectations with new mentalities and a willingness to think and act outside the box.

Some schools are rethinking the way they use technologies and are turning to students for inspiration, while others are turning the idea of the traditional campus on its head and are aiming for a complete conceptual redesign.

Whatever the action, most higher-ed leaders know they have to be willing to embrace change in order to remain relevant and retain students. Here’s a look at 6 different examples of institutional innovation.

1. Ninety-one percent of all administrators say innovation is a top strategic or academic priority, but just 40 percent say their institution has a dedicated university innovation budget, according to The State of Innovation in Higher Education: A Survey of Academic Administrators.

2. Many community colleges recognize the importance of mobile devices and mobile connectivity for their students, and they’re working to meet these expectations and ensure campuses and faculty are ready to support the technology. Thirty-four percent of recently-surveyed community colleges have a strategy in place for the use of mobile devices, 44 percent offer professional development for teachers on how to use mobile apps for instruction, and 20 percent of colleges offer professional development for teachers or provide specific policies regarding how to protect student privacy when using apps.

3. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is re-imagining the traditional conception of college as the middle ground between high school and the workplace. In a merger with LRNG, a non-profit that serves disadvantaged youth populations, SNHU will work with cities and employers to develop innovative learning and workforce solutions. The ambitious effort will reach out to both pre-college and older learners, offer opportunities to youth from low-income backgrounds to become more engaged with their studies and help them transition into rewarding careers.

4. Disruption in higher education needs to happen everywhere. Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, is examining every aspect of what’s “traditional” in higher education, right down to the core of the culture. The university aims to serve students through disruption by changing the way instruction is delivered, focusing on life after graduation, and upgrading the entire student experience.

5. College presidents say they are exploring a range of innovative possibilities on their campuses, including a “safe to fail” mentality that allows faculty to take risks, listening more to students and helping them look forward at how jobs of the future might change, and to keep learning well beyond graduation.

6. Data holds the key to innovation and change, in many cases. Leaders at Elon University in North Carolina have been able to harness the power of big data to increase collaboration across departments and ultimately enhance the college experience with a true focus on student success.

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Laura Ascione

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