Covid is nudging universities to develop a holistic view of their own digital transformation journey
Covid-19 has propelled academic institutions towards online learning overnight and we are finding Indian higher education institutions also embark on this journey with varying degrees of preparedness. In this context, having experienced mostly the collaborative platforms aimed at bringing communities together for interactions—Zoom, Google Hangout, Cisco’s Webex and the likes—many educational institutions are now beginning to tap their potential for interactive learning and at the same time, are recognising the need for other key academic parameters to be addressed so as to make the learning outcomes purposeful.
While several universities have invested in technology infrastructure, the approach to digitisation has so far been selective and incremental, resulting in limited benefits. Covid is nudging universities to develop a holistic view of their own digital transformation journey and develop a strategy to prioritise and focus their efforts and investments to redefine their positioning for post-Covid realities. A four-pronged approach of attract, retain, engage and preserve should be the underlying philosophy for the transformation journey of universities.
The ‘Attract’ dimension has assumed significance due to the uncertainties in student admissions caused by Covid-19 and the difficulties faced by the government and the universities in funding education. Hence universities should be using digital methods to slice and dice student data to attract the right profiles by offering the right programmes to them. The second area that would require the attention of the faculty and the university administration is to ensure ‘retention’ of students and avoid student dropouts. Universities could take advantage of mass customisation possibilities that virtual education offers to make the learning journey individualised to a great extent. This would call for rethinking how content is assembled and delivered. Sound instruction design for virtual education would be necessary.
In the absence of the ability to confirm student attention and interest, it would be useful to deploy AI enabled tools to monitor student ‘engagement’ and use analytics to help faculty reorient their content or assessment techniques and proactively alert learners about the progress they are making in acquiring skills and knowledge related to the course. With the employment scenario likely to be difficult in the near term, universities should map student aspiration as well as their strengths to recommend additional employability related courses in order to help them reinvent their future. Skills Alpha is one such digital learning platform which is enabling learners identify the skill gap and ready themselves in areas that could fetch them jobs when they complete their education. With respect to ‘preserve’, universities need to plan for cyber security measures to protect the data, content and IP of the university and at the same time implement methods of capturing explicit and implicit data from the social interactions.
Digital transformation is the need of the hour for universities. With the deployment of AI and analytics coupledwith a design thinking approach to map the student journey, universities would be able to get deeper insights into their student profiles, efficacy of teaching methods and opportunities for promoting lifelong learning.
The writer is executive chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company