Vincent MartinezNovember 18, 2021

Reinventing Higher Education for a Post-Pandemic Future

Declining enrollments, equity gaps, and digital expectations are just some of the challenges higher education institutions are grappling with as the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions were facing these and many more challenges before the pandemic, but the effects of COVID magnified them.

Meeting these challenges will require campus leaders to break down siloes and work together across departments to define institutional needs and goals.  Education leaders must enhance the student experience, creating flexible learning and working environments.  They must nurture relationships throughout the student lifecycle while also keeping the campus community safe. Strategic communication is critical to their success.

Avaya, a worldwide leader in enterprise communications, offers solutions that can help colleges and universities connect various student and staff experiences through seamless communication and collaboration across multiple platforms and channels.

Campus Technology published a three-part white paper series, sponsored by Avaya, that explores challenges and opportunities in higher education today. According to Part 1 of the series, 4 Post-Pandemic Challenges Facing Higher Education, these post-pandemic trends will require innovation and institutional change:

THE TRENDS

Enrolling and Retaining Students

Declining enrollment could put a big strain on higher education budgets because colleges and universities must compete more aggressively for a shrinking pool of students. To that end, campus leaders will have to rethink their enrollment practices, using analytics to target prospective students. They will also have to reach out to a new population of students and provide all students with an exceptional experience.

Ensuring Student Success and Completion

Higher-learning institutions were struggling to ensure that all students left college with a degree or certification before COVID-19, but the effects of the pandemic have challenged that goal. The move to online learning offered flexibility to students as the world shifted to remote work and learning. But virtual learning also introduced key hurdles.  For instance, The Brookings Institution observed that low-income students are more likely to struggle when learning in an online setting, widening existing achievement gaps. Some obstacles they might face include trying to study in a stressful home environment or a lack of reliable internet access. Educational leaders will have to think creatively about how to implement the right mix of programs and technology to offset these gaps.

Meeting the Evolving Expectations of Students and Staff

The pandemic accelerated consumer expectations for an all-digital experience. Having now experienced working and learning remotely from home, many students and instructors don’t want to return to the old way of doing things. Campuses will need to create flexible working and learning environments that enable real-time communication and collaboration from anywhere while maintaining their respective culture and pedagogical strategy.

Expanding (and Reimagining) Student Support Services

And finally, campus health professionals report a growing crisis among young adults who are struggling with mental health problems related to the pandemic, including suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression. Education leaders must connect students with the mental and emotional assistance they need.  As a result, higher education institutions must reinvent student support services to meet the needs of a new era.

THE STRATEGIES PLAYBOOK

Part 2 of the Campus Technology series, 5 Strategies to Help Colleges Succeed in a New Era, addresses the challenging trends that are facing higher education institutions today with these five strategies:

Delivering an Exceptional Student Experience

For colleges and universities, enhancing the customer experience involves making it easy for students to register for courses, pay tuition and fees, reserve course materials, and complete other functions from any device or location. To realize this vision, institutions need the ability to communicate with students effortlessly through multiple channels.

Creating Flexible Working and Learning Environments

Students have come to expect a flexible learning experience that takes advantage of digital tools and methods, and employees are also asking for more latitude in where they’re allowed to work. There is no turning back now. Institutions must create flexible working and learning environments that enable real-time communication and collaboration from anywhere.

Nurturing Relationships with Students

When students feel connected to a college or university, they are more likely to continue their studies. Institutions must do better with job relationship-building to communicate strategically with students, prospects, and alumni – from pre-enrollment through graduation and beyond – across multiple channels.

Making Support Services Available to Students

Campus leaders need to rethink the delivery of support services to meet students' needs in a more timely and effective manner.  For instance, “social listening” – the concept of listening to what is being posted on social media using artificial intelligence – can help prevent a suicide or some other unfortunate incident.

Ensuring Health and Safety for Students and Staff

Higher education officials must implement tools and strategies to keep campuses safe from viruses and diseases, as well as have a modern communications infrastructure in place for notifying first responders in the event of an emergency.

THE COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTION

With the right combination of tools and tactics, colleges and universities can emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. Communication is what allows organizations to provide exceptional customer experiences, according to Part 3 of the Campus Technology series, Expert Outlook: Improving the College Experience Through Better Communication.

The Avaya OneCloud platform supports very robust communication. OneCloud includes capabilities such as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), which allows users to communicate in the cloud using any device or messaging channel; Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), which tracks customer interactions across multiple channels; and Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), which enables users to embed voice, video and messaging capabilities into existing applications.

Educational institutions can now layer in different technologies to create the student and faculty experiences they’re hoping to achieve, such as integration with Learning Management Systems or Enterprise Resource Planning systems. It’s a fully composable platform. We also offer Avaya Spaces, which is a robust collaboration platform that can also be integrated into an LMS or other external applications.

With enrollment projected to drop in the coming years, that means there will be less revenue for institutions in the future. We can help you meet your goals by providing a lower cost, more highly efficient way of communicating and collaborating.

To learn more about the Avaya OneCloud ecosystem and other solutions, register for Avaya ENGAGE.

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Reinventing Higher Education for a Post-Pandemic Future

Vincent Martinez

Vincent Martinez brings 25 years of experience working in information technology to the role of Executive Government Advisor at Avaya. He has a unique combination of working as a state government executive, a small-business owner, a sales leader in the technology sector, and serving as a state legislator.

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