In Today's Digital World, Industries of all Types Must Transform in Order to Thrive
I often attend CIO “summits” and similar events for IT and business leaders. A common theme at these types of conferences for the last few years has been the idea that Digital Transformation is essential for today's businesses to survive and thrive. Businesses of all types must strive to determine how digital technologies are going to transform their industries and get ahead of the curve, or they may very well go the way of Blockbuster, Borders Books, and the Blackberry.
And while many industries and organizations have fallen behind but have not yet gone out of business, a lot are being disrupted or are in decline. Consider newspapers, broadcast television, taxis, the music recording industry, and travel agents, to name just a few.
So how about Higher Education? Surely the hallowed halls and ivory towers are immune to digital disruption? Well, we all know that is not the case. Just look at this shocking list of dozens of colleges that have closed or merged/consolidated since 2016! Of course, technology is not necessarily a villain in these situations. Nevertheless, higher education faces many challenges as we approach the third decade of the present century, and getting ahead of the digital curve is definitely one of them. After all, higher ed has never been known for its ability to quickly adapt to change.
Like any other industry, higher education needs to anticipate the changing needs of its customers (including students, the work force, and our communities). We've already seen massive online mega-universities like Arizona State University and Southern New Hampshire University purloin tens of thousands of students who might otherwise have gone to local colleges. ASU and SNHU got ahead of the curve and leveraged technology and other means to create a popular new model for degree attainment.
Following are of some of the emerging technologies that can play a role in enabling higher education to transform and stay current, relevant, and healthy.
Chatbots – Most businesses in a service industry are likely to implement chatbots for improved customer service in the next 3 to 5 years (if they haven't already). This is all uphill for higher ed – few are doing it, many are unaware of it, but smart schools are thinking about where it fits in their plans.
Microcredentials – This is not a technology as much as a potentially fundamental change in the nature of the higher education deliverable, enabled by technology. Digital Badges, MOOCs, and other forms of “smaller than a degree” education are going to play an increasingly meaningful role in careers and in degree attainment.
Artificial Intelligence – We're already using it via Google Search and Siri and many other services that we may not immediately realize use AI, but the use cases are expanding rapidly (and overlapping with other technologies in this list). In what other ways will schools leverage AI to provide better service and improved learning experiences?
“Mobile First” – Education typically trails business in terms of fundamental technology transitions. “Mobile first” is one of these – we need to move our primary user interfaces to be phone-friendly. This is not a new thing, but many institutions have a long way to go to get there. This can make a big difference to both our younger, traditional aged students, and to the adult market with their busy on-the-go lives.
Adaptive Learning – How has this not exploded already? Proven offerings from companies like Knewton, Smart Sparrow, and others have been around for years now but they are far from common in our colleges and universities.
5G – While it is not without its controversy, the next generation of high speed wireless computing can be a game changer for many industries. How can higher education leverage it to create new, innovative functionality?
Digital Fluency – While many schools are incorporating more focus on digital literacy, the best schools will take it up a notch and work to make digital fluency a part of their outcomes.
Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality – There are already plenty of fun and affordable Augmented Reality apps for education available, but VR is a more costly undertaking. Still, like all digital technologies it will become more affordable and offer opportunities for schools to embrace a very different form of immersion in an educational experience. Lots of schools are beginning to explore virtual and mixed reality.
Cyber Security Governance and Awareness Training – While this may not pave the way to new innovations, it is vital for institutions to improve their practices in order to avoid being the next target. Education has been hammered by criminal hackers and will continue to be a ripe target until they get more consistent in doing what it takes to better prevent successful ransomware and other malware attacks and breaches.
Better Online Learning Experiences: I've participated in some excellent online learning experiences and some boring ones. As online learning continues to expand, schools that do it better will serve their students better and experience more success.
This list is by no means definitive. Other digital technologies and innovative applications of them are sure to arise and change the game. What technologies or tech-enabled ideas did I fail to mention? Drop a comment and share your thoughts, feedback, questions. Thanks!