Education Modernization: How Higher Ed Institutions Can Learn to Innovate

Increasing innovation is often one of the goals of education modernization. This makes sense given that innovation is what helps institutions find new ways to compete, cut operational costs, and improve efficiency.

But while many in the higher ed space understand the need to embrace innovation, they often don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, the rise of digital transformation in the education sector makes it easier for colleges to launch innovation initiatives.

Why Innovation is Essential for Higher Education

Innovation in the education sector is more necessity than luxury. The unique challenges faced by the industry are forcing many higher education institutions to reevaluate how they operate, find new sources of revenue, and take greater steps to differentiate themselves from the competition.

But while overcoming these challenges require creative new solutions, colleges can’t afford to experiment blindly and hope for successful outcomes; Innovation initiatives need to be backed by existing data in order to minimize risk (and therefore cost).

This is because of several large-scale trends:

Too many open jobs and not enough skilled workers to fill them. A common complaint from business leaders is the inability to fill key positions due to skill gaps in the talent pool. In the United States, for example, there are more unfilled job postings than there are job seekers, according to the US Department of Labor. There are expected to be approximately 1 million unfilled positions in 2020 that require a computer science degree, for example. While many colleges are making an effort to expand their computer science programs, finding and retaining teachers has proven a challenge, since they can often make more money applying their knowledge for tech companies.

Increasing admission costs. The costs of attending college is increasing (even faster than inflation), making higher education either unattainable or impractical for many. The typical cost of attending an in-state public college, for example, costs around $25k+ per year. The price goes up significantly for private schools (over $50K per year) as well as out of state schools. High costs may be one of the reasons why college enrollment in the US has been on the decline since 2011.

State funding is decreasing. The source of the rising admission costs is due in part to a decrease in government funding. Between 2008 and 2018, state funding for 2-year and 4-year higher education facilities decreased by roughly $7 billion. Naturally, this has led higher education institutions to shift the cost onto students.

A massive drop-out rate. Last year, David Kirp published his book, “The College Dropout Scandal,” and brought to light a massive problem facing the higher education field: that about 40% of all college students drop out. Improving student retention needs to be a top priority for universities.

In addition to these challenges, higher education is also adapting to the rise of online degrees, which can be much more appealing to students, even when they live near a university. Shifting expectations are also prompting universities to find new ways to deliver a better student experience.

Let’s look at how education modernization allows institutions to find innovative new ways of tackling these challenges.

How Digital Transformation in Education Drives Innovation

Innovation initiatives can focus on mitigating various challenges faced by higher education institutions. They can improve enrollment, student retention, and quality of education, as well a reduce operational costs and improve efficiency.

It’s important to understand that innovation is not tied specifically to technology. In other words, innovation is not simply using the latest technology to solve a problem in a new way. Innovation involves changing people and processes as well. Technology can help fuel innovation, however, and undergoing a digital transformation can create a solid foundation from with to launch new initiatives.

There are several reasons why digital transformation in education can support innovation initiatives, but data is high among them. As mentioned previously, data can be used to identify new opportunities for innovation and support those initiatives. For example, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, a Colombia based university, established a pilot program that used machine learning to determine various probabilities, including the per student dropout probability. The program leveraged the university’s existing student data in order to make these predictions with a 93% accuracy rate.

For data to be most effective, it needs to be centralized, accurate, and searchable. A student information and management system can provide rich insights into an institution’s student body. At the same time, a cloud-based human capital management system can provide helpful data on faculty and staff. A financial management system, on the other hand, can help identify money-saving (or generating) opportunities. Combining these systems can provide deeper insights into the overall institution.

Digital transformation in education also improves organizational efficiency thanks to benefits such as automation and live dashboards. This frees up time for key stakeholders and allows them to spend less effort on transactional tasks and more time evaluating data and identifying new opportunities for innovation.

Ultimately, digital transformation in the education sector gives institutions the necessary tools to launch forward-thinking programs. To learn more about how education modernization can help your institution, subscribe to our blog.

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