A road with "Disruption Ahead!" and an arrow pointing straight

The 4 main drivers behind higher-ed disruption

Higher education is at a critical space in between disruption and transformation

Higher-ed leaders must embrace change if they wish to remain relevant.

At EDUCAUSE 2018 last fall, James Phelps, director of enterprise architecture and strategy at the University of Washington and winner of the 2018 EDUCAUSE Community Leadership Award, discussed the four main drivers behind higher-ed disruption:

  1. shifting skills
  2. the digital transformation
  3. employment and income challenges
  4. the higher-ed financial crisis

As Phelps said, these drivers have brought higher education to a critical space in between disruption and transformation. They create a landscape that can give higher-ed leaders a better idea of how higher ed is changing and what institutions might look like post-disruption.

Related: How my university is disrupting higher education

The 4 factors causing higher-ed disruption

Driver 1: Shifting skills

“We have changing relationships on campus and we have to help our staff navigate these changes,” Phelps said. “We have great people, but they need new and different skills now,” he added, citing Gartner research predicting that in 10 years, the IT skills today’s workers will need will be completely different from the skills they possess today.

1. Create a strategic investment fund for reskilling the workforce
2. Build a strategic workforce development center focusing on continuous development and alignment
3. Create a continuous learning and improvement culture among all staff
4. Actively manage human resource debt

Driver 2: The digital transformation

The digital transformation is the change associated with the application of digital technologies to all aspects of human society. It focuses on customer experience design, user-centered design, and hyper-personalization. Those three things are built on data, the Internet of Things, and AI.

“Transformations have three phases, and you have to know where you are,” Phelps said. Those phases are refine, disrupt, and transform, and U.S. higher education is in between disrupt and transform.

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Laura Ascione

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