Updated on 12 August, 2021
Table of contents
- Digital transformation in education
- Digital transformation in education sector: Challenges
- Can universities compete with cheaper eLearning providers?
Digitalisation in Education
Education and the nature of educational institutions is changing and will continue to change for the next decade. Twenty years ago, digital transformation in education sector was not a major concern for educational institutions. Although the World Wide Web started as an academic endeavor, universities were slow to catchup with a global digital transformation.
'Digital' no longer means a university or school IT department. It no longer means rooms full of computers and printers, or keeping the WiFi running. Digital transformation for education now needs to play a role in every department and function.
For example, universities are now competing globally for students, academics, funding and business opportunities. Physical universities are also competing against online competitors. In theory, traditional academic institutions are competing in some way against everything from Wikipedia and YouTube to massive open online courses (MOOCs), Open Educational Resources (OERs), podcasts, videos, blogs, and webinars.
Digital transformation in education sector: Challenges
Schools experience challenges with digital transformation because 70% of employees from the public sector believe that their digital skills are worse than in the private sector. Fear of failure and hesitation to learn new skills are major barriers. Added to that, the need to learn new IT systems and interfaces may require additional training both for students and teachers, which may be overwhelming for everyone involved. For smooth digital transformation, educational institutions should possess enough qualified employees. However, there exists a significant skill gap: employers fail to fill in 43% of STEM positions in the UK due to the skill gap. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022 around 54% of employees will need significant reskilling. The solution is to upskill your employees, so they could evolve into different roles in your institution. Also, remote learning depends on student’s connection speed and availability of internet connection, which may put some of them at disadvantage. This is highly undesirable, as students of disadvantaged backgrounds are under high risk. Another potential challenge of digital transformation is that students may misuse educational technology, being distracted by other apps on their devices.
Digital transformation for higher education has its own challenges.Despite the amount of free knowledge and content online, universities do have several advantages. According to a PwC report, students see universities as a way to secure employment, rather than a platform for solely learning and self-development. Employability and student experience are more crucial than they have ever been.
Universities need to understand new generations embarking on courses. Younger generations grow up as "digital natives", spending up to 53 hours online - usually on a smartphone - every week.Need for digital transformation in higher education is essential,as universities need to offer them something more, something they can't get for free online, that challenges them and equips them with the ability to think critically and analyse, which the Internet can not achieve.
One more issue noted in PwC's study is that universities often "invest heavily in IT systems that don't deliver the anticipated benefits and outcomes. These universities fail to appreciate that they don't need a digital strategy – just a business strategy that is fit for the digital age."
For universities to survive in the digital age, they need to adopt the same approach as any large corporation. Drive a digital transformation forward with senior managers supported by academic departments and student representatives. It is a slow and steady project, not a race, with small wins easier to aim for than a massive overhaul in one or two years.
Another challenge, one that is harder to overcome, is the cost of higher education. In the U.S., annual tuition for an out of state student at a public college is around $25,000 per year. At private, non-profit four-year institutions, the price is around $33,000 - and that isn't including textbooks and cost of living.
Can universities compete with cheaper eLearning providers?
Because students are increasingly looking at university as a way into employment, many are starting to take the view that enormous student loans aren't worth the investment. Instead, opting for cheaper colleges, online courses, and private eLearning providers. How can universities combat this challenge?
Take Lecturio, for example, it provides over 200,000 medical students with online videos that contribute to medical qualifications. With professors - acting as independent production partners - from 6 of the world's top 11 medical schools, including Harvard Medical School, Yale School of Medicine, University College London, and many more, they can claim enormous credibility.
However, for those wanting complete accredited qualifications, eLearning is often going to fall short in sectors such as medicine, law and engineering. Not only that, but the experience and friendships gained at university are always going to compete effectively against online equivalents.
What universities need to do is use digital technology to add more value before, during and after the three or four years and undergraduate spends at an institution. Ideas such as a 'digital campus', whereby digital apps augment and support service provisions. Making it easier for tutors and professors to be more effective. Improving the student experience. Making a campus safer for everyone, providing more information to guests and business partners.
Universities and schools hold great potential, which can be unlocked with the use of digital transformation and smart digital strategy. Once they leverage the potential of digital platforms and custom-built applications to engage students in the learning process, they will be able to compete effectively against online learning options.
About author: Dariya Lopukhina is an online marketer, tech enthusiast and writer. She is a part of the Anadea team where we help entrepreneurs, startups and companies digitally transform and grow. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.