Digital Solutions for Higher Education: Balancing Budget with Strategic Priorities for Change
COVID-19 is close to bursting the bubble that has been growing in higher education as a result of inflating tuition prices, declining student enrollment, and insufficient staffing. The crisis offers a massive opportunity for improvement using new digital technologies. However, there remains a complex web of purchasing influencers and decision-makers, as well as major financial losses that institutions are working to recover from as a result of the pandemic. These decision-makers need to maintain a high degree of innovation to engage with stakeholders and compete with emerging college alternatives while balancing the reality of budgets.
Here’s how we can move forward in 2021 - specifically with a cost-effective, all-in-one, cloud-based communications solution:
Higher education is no different than K-12 schools in their need to address differentiation - tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of students - perhaps even more so given the wide variation in background and ability of students coming from all across the globe. If a professor tries to direct everything to the brightest and best-prepared students, many others get left behind. If they try to target everything at a lower level, other students become disengaged.
A cloud communications solution can be used in many ways to promote individualized learning in higher ed. For example, professors can create student groups to collaborate and complete projects based on similar interests, abilities, and paces of learning (students who need quiet space or extended time can have their own separate meeting space to do work independently, where the professor can hop in and assist as needed). Outside of scheduled classes, professors can maintain one-on-one meetings and virtual office hours regardless of where students are or what they’re doing.
Maintaining/Increasing Academic Standards
Just as important as enrollment and graduation rates are the quality of education students are receiving; especially now, with heightened competition and pandemic-driven disruption. Research shows that employers are worried about graduates being deficient in basic skills like writing, problem-solving, and critical thinking that institutions rank among the most important goals of undergraduate education (and often tout themselves having as a leading college or university).
A cloud communications solution can help address key issues that directly improve the quality of higher education. Some of these we have already discussed (ex: students not getting the attention or personalization they require, leading to loss of interest and even dropping out). A cloud communications solution can also improve the experience for professors who are often spread thin (more on this below) and whose own standards may need to be raised. Avaya’s cloud communications solution, Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral, can accommodate large-scale staff training and engagements with the ability to host up to 200 attendees in one session.
All on-campus resources must be made easily accessible as institutions move to a fully virtual model. It can be argued that even when campuses reopen, the online accessibility we have seen as a result of COVID-19 will stay to increase student retention and future enrollment. A cloud communications solution ensures students and faculty - from professors to administrative workers to counselors - get connected to the right person at the right time, despite being highly distributed and off-campus.
For faculty, all phone calls, faxes, texts, and multimedia messages (videos, photos, etc.) go through one single number, and all unanswered messages filter into one voicemail box that’s easily accessible from any device. There are also important features like call forwarding and multi-level auto attendant, which answers calls automatically with custom greetings and makes sure every call is directed to the right person or department. Meanwhile, as a cloud-based solution, buy decision-makers can rest assured that their institution will only ever pay for services that are used. There are no surprises or hassles, and the solution will always be up to date.
Every worker within higher ed is feeling the pressure right now, from the professor shifting to remote learning, to the financial-aid staffer who makes sure students get their loans and grants. Tasks are being delegated left and right with little monitoring or management. People aren’t answering their phones. It’s hard to tell who is doing what, and how to best reach them. Faculty members cannot do their best work (the kind of work students are paying an arm and a leg for) when they feel overwhelmed and overworked.
An all-in-one cloud communications solution eases anxiety, reduces staff burnout, and ensures loyalty at a time when it’s most needed. Users can chat, screen-share, assign tasks, store documents, and more - all from one simple app, available on any device. Avaya Cloud Office also supports seamless integration with hundreds of ready-to-use business and communication apps like Office 365 and Google G-Suite, giving faculty more flexibility to work how they prefer. Our solution also helps take the guesswork out of understanding how an institution’s communications are performing by providing built-in reports or by letting users easily create their dashboards with over 30 KPIs. IT staff can better understand metrics like utilization, missed calls, time to answer, refused calls, meeting frequency, and system Quality of Service (QoS) - all at no additional cost.
The Bottom Line
The disruption we’re seeing in higher education can be harnessed to drive substantial and lasting change. A cloud-based communications solution like Avaya Cloud Office offers a win-win for students and faculty as well as those who make technology buy decisions. Professors and students have very real needs that can be improved. All the while, there’s a compelling ROI story for key decision-makers: less communication sprawl, a flexible pay-as-you-go model, and one single bill for a unified solution versus several bills from multiple vendors.
If you’d like to see what Avaya Cloud Office could do for your school or college on a daily basis, join us on 25 February at 11:00 EST for our webinar: Education Enabled! A Day in Your Life, Connected with Avaya Cloud Office. We’ll take a look at a typical “day in the life” of educators and how they can efficiently tackle their everyday tasks with an intuitive platform that enables all your communications needs from calls to video.