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Executive Education Vertical Director
According to research performed by the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate enrollment has fallen by 662,000 students since Spring 2021, and by nearly 1.4 million students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. These statistics suggest that Americans are beginning to question the value of a college education. Many universities are suffering from this declining enrollment and loss of revenue.
Now that the world is emerging on the other side of the pandemic, it’s important that higher education institutions switch out of a reactive “emergency” mode and into strategizing how to attract and retain students who expect unique and flexible learning experiences in the “new normal”. The decline in university enrollment has created a renewed focus on affordability, retention, and the creation of new types of learning opportunities.
Students are clients and universities must implement new technology that provides them with engaging opportunities to prepare for moving into the workforce. Higher education institutions must look at how they can improve their processes with digital transformation, create innovative opportunities for students, and support them in ways they haven’t been supported before. At the same time, educational institutions need to be agile, technologically advanced, and profitable.
While digital transformation looks different for every educational institution, these emerging trends offer several ways universities can maintain a competitive edge and provide students with individualized experiences in the future.
Four years and thousands of dollars in tuition is a daunting commitment for many students and families. On top of that, several major corporations including Google, Tesla, and Apple have announced in recent years that they no longer look for college degrees during the hiring process. In fact, Google has launched a fast-track to in-demand jobs in under six months with affordable Google Career Certificates. In a world where the benefits of a traditional college degree are beginning to lose impact competing with these types of other learning opportunities, what can universities do to create value for students and convince them to enroll?
Microcredentialing, or the concept of offering non-degree certifications in a specific skill area, usually within a shorter timeframe than the typical degree program, is on the rise. Certificate programs offer an alternative to traditional college degrees. It’s vital for universities to begin leveraging the growth of online and hybrid learning and offer shorter certificate programs that can be earned from anywhere, anytime. This robust content learning option can help students to upskill, showing them the practical value of their tuition dollars. By offering specific badges for university course content, this could also give the students a competitive edge as they display their learning accomplishments via LinkedIn.
Once a student decides to attend a university, they are immediately met with an onslaught of new and difficult tasks to navigate, such as making tuition deposits, choosing a major, and scheduling classes. In addition, now that many students are opting for online or hybrid learning, they may need support outside of normal business hours.
Universities can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to meet a variety of needs, creating a next generation contact center with 24/7 chatbots or virtual agents to help shepherd students all the way from the enrollment process to graduation and beyond. This same technology can also be used to help students navigate the campus, create online mental health support services, and track assignments and deadlines throughout the semester, whether online or in-person. By decreasing the number of frustrating roadblocks for students while simultaneously offering customized and personalized support, students will positively connect with their university.
COVID-19 has forced us as a nation to grow in digital literacy, and it’s going to be important for universities to tap into that to attract and retain the digitally savvy student. The idea is to leverage technology to create efficiencies and engaging learning environments and experiences, improve communication and collaboration, while reducing costs and providing support structures to ensure that technology is enhancing the learning process.
Many corporations are beginning to shift their approach to the hiring process and the qualities they are looking for in an ideal candidate. Universities can create a major value-add in this area by building programs that create pathways to employment by creating or strengthening partnerships with major companies, non-profits, start-ups, and other organizations. If students know that they are investing in a university that is committed to guiding and assisting them into the types of jobs they’re looking for, a college degree appears significantly more valuable.
This small handful of examples does not begin to scratch the surface of why digital transformation is so crucial for institutions to engage in. What students need and want is an experiential learning environment that is available in the cloud. Students want to work from anywhere, anytime, and they want a seamless environment. Cloud solutions can provide an easy to navigate, all-in-one solution that is composable enough to embed all the adopted digital learning tools. Students also want technologies that can create more of an experiential learning environment including extended reality (XR), augmented reality (AR), and machine learning (ML), to name a few.
In 2020, hybrid classrooms were reactively created to quickly respond to the need. Now that we are no longer in a state of emergency, it’s time for schools to strategically design their digital learning experience. Higher quality cameras that pan, tilt, and zoom to show the entire classroom, enhanced connections using cloud and mobile apps, and high-definition video conferencing are just a few of the ways in which Avaya can help transform universities in this highly competitive market. We intend to change America’s perception of higher education from a not-so-necessary evil to a high-value commodity that will pay dividends for years to come.
Higher education innovation and this culture shift has never been so important! Avaya is the “go-to” partner to help higher education institutions brainstorm, strategize, and implement a quality digital ecosystem. Our team of professionals will assist with creative “out of the box” thinking and guide universities in their digital transformation journey. Learn more about how Avaya can provide personalized best-in-classroom experiences.