Universities and other higher education institutions continually face challenges as they work toward their goal of delivering quality education. In addition to digital disruption created by new student learning technology, many schools are laboring under rising overhead costs, declining enrollment, or new competition, including schools offering global online open coursework.
Furthermore, higher education institutions are serving a new generation of students. Members of Generation Z (Gen Z), who grew up facing screens, are now working toward their degrees. These students expect mobile access to the information they need, whether it’s their latest grades, directions to a new classroom, their current GPA, or calendars and social media that allow them to manage their lives on or off campus. Universities are also advancing their digital transformation roadmaps not only to provide students with the tools and experiences they demand but also to prepare them with the skills they’ll need for the emerging roles in the businesses and enterprises where they’ll begin their careers. In response to these challenges,
4 Technology Trends are Emerging Among Higher Education Institutions:
1. Improving Back-Office Efficiency to Control Costs
Tuition costs are climbing, and in some cases, putting education out of reach for some promising students. According to debt.org, tuition costs have increased by 344 percent since 1980 in the U.S., and student loan debt now totals about $1.4 trillion. Universities that implement technology solutions can, however, operate more efficiently and keep costs low.
Purdue University is an excellent illustration of an educational institution that is prioritizing affordability and accessibility. The school’s strategy is to operate efficiently, finding and eliminating sources of waste, and, using SAP S/4HANA, digitalizing and standardizing processes across its finance and HR departments. Purdue’s digital transformation has eliminated millions of paper records and replaced spreadsheets with an automated system that provides a real-time, single source of truth. Advancing digitalization at Purdue has contributed to the school’s ability to avoid tuition increases since 2012-2013.
2. Recognizing Students as Consumers
Today’s students aren’t only tech-savvy, they’re focused on getting value from their tuition investment. It may be time that higher education institutions take a page from retail and turn to intelligent technologies to learn more about their “markets.” Universities need to build a digital presence through their websites and social media to interact with students. The information schools collect will enable them to get to know prospective students — not only their educational requirements but also their interests and ambitions. With this data and by embracing customer experience technology, schools can profile prospective students, segment their lists, and carry out targeted, relevant, and effective recruiting campaigns.
Digital transformation also enables universities to expand their reach to recruit students from all over the world. One tool that’s shown great success is the IDP Education platform, powered by SAP Hybris solutions. IDP enables universities to engage international students on familiar platforms such as Facebook and stay by their sides from decision making to coursework and then as they seek their first jobs.
3. Personalizing Student Learning with Technology
Higher education institutions store a wealth of data, but unfortunately, it’s often siloed and inaccessible. One area in which technology is making a tremendous impact is using real-time data to ensure student success. Data analytics can provide visibility into how students are progressing through their courses and can identify students who need help to succeed. Traditionally, a student’s success is measured after a course — and after it’s too late to improve the outcome or prevent a student from dropping out. New, intelligent technologies can monitor student performance and pinpoint issues such as whether the student is carrying a large course load or isn’t participating in study groups. Using data, schools can intervene when needed to help students get back on track.
Technology can also provide real-time suggestions for enhancing the educational experience. For example, the SAP Student Activity Hub solution is enabling educators to use data from structured and unstructured sources to gain the insights they need to help students succeed. The University of California, San Diego, is leveraging the platform to collect more data and have deeper visibility into student performance, with the ultimate goal of boosting graduate rates.
Additionally, technology can give students a voice in the moment, regarding their professors’ performance, challenges they’re facing with the schedule or syllabus, or other issues. Opening the lines of communication can give the school the opportunity to make changes or provide support when necessary to ensure student success.
4. Meeting the Needs of Corporations
Another trend transforming higher education institutions is a shifting focus to address new skills corporations need in their workforces. Schools are implementing student learning technology designed to maximize success after graduation.
To ensure graduates are ready for the challenges of the 2020s and beyond, universities need deep visibility into their curricula to ensure they are relevant and serve the needs of a changing world. They also need to build relationships with the corporate world to better understand the skills and mindsets they’re looking for in new employees. One way of building those relationships is through partnering on research, exemplified by the work at the National University of Singapore, which conducted studies on business ethics and leadership.
The Need for Change
Although transitioning from processes steeped in tradition to those that will prepare students for their future in a changing world will take time for higher education institutions, it is a change that they must make. Intelligent tools that improve efficiency, effectiveness, and student experiences, such as new student learning technology, automation, data analytics, and smart campus features powered by IoT, universities’ digital transformation can begin delivering benefits — to students, employers, and the schools themselves — today.
Download the latest SAP white paper “The Intelligent Enterprise for Higher Education and Research”, and discover how technologies like big data, machine learning and blockchain are reshaping the higher education industry.
– written by Rob Jonkers, Global Solution Director Higher Education & Research at SAP
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