Just about everyone is making a digital transformation, even colleges and universities. That’s because everyone is chasing the digital native with SMAC technology – social, mobile, analytics and cloud. The idea is to woo digital natives by making their lives safer, easier and more productive.
In this case, the term “digital native” means anyone whose work and personal lives mesh digitally. They can be employees, customers and students. College students are an important subset, because they arguably best express the digital native mindset and represent the future workforce.
For a college or university, they’re also the customer.
“Colleges and universities compete for students just like a company competes for clients,” says Adam Petrovsky, GovEd practice leader at Logicalis U.S., an international IT solutions and managed services provider. “Those who fail to adopt modern digital strategies will see enrollment and engagement drop.”
Logicalis helps colleges and universities digitally transform their campuses and the learning experience in a way that appeals to digital natives. In so doing, Logicalis has learned a lot about digital natives’ expectations and desires, which, in turn, informs its business services practice.
In other words, companies should adapt and adopt Logicalis’ digital native lessons in the classroom when managing their workforces. “Companies can learn from this by digitizing how their employees learn, work and achieve their business goals,” Petrovsky says. “Today, many companies still use a manual, subjective process for these types of critical skill-building opportunities.”
Logicalis has found that students want a single app for all things in their college life. They don’t want to navigate a maze of coursework material. They don’t want to log into multiple sites to check grades and homework assignments, register for classes, pay tuition and housing fees. They don’t want what they consider unnecessary complexity in a digital world where everything is as easy as an iPhone app.
“In terms of the hottest tech, one of the most significant goals today in higher education is to provide the student body with a single app that can be a digital window into all of the things that make up college life,” Petrovsky says. “Remember, today’s students are digital natives. They grew up being surrounded by tech. Students are demanding application integration and a single pane of glass to interact with.”
This means colleges and universities – and, by extension, companies – will need to prep their data centers, install automated IT service management tools and integrate applications, Logicalis says.
Online collaboration with professors is another must-have. In the old days, college students had to make an appointment during office hours and patiently wait to see the overbooked professor. With online video collaboration, however, today’s digital native can schedule a session beyond office hours or simply text the professor and meet in a digital collaboration room, Logicalis says. They can share screens, whiteboards, and view recorded lectures.
It’s all about merging the physical and digital worlds. For instance, physical security is so important to digital natives that they want the watchful eye of video surveillance cameras monitoring their movements. Some colleges have even put security features on a student’s cell phone, such as an emergency button that alerts campus security to the student’s exact location.
In the classroom, students don’t want to be hindered by physical boundaries. Instead, they want lecture halls tricked out with audio and video support. A professor should be able to invite a guest lecturer anywhere in the world via a video feed, while a student should be able to review a recorded class lecture. Foreign language translations should happen quickly and digitally.
“As digital learning continues to evolve and data streams are used to provide active feedback to faculty, we will see another huge transformation into personalized learning,” Petrovsky says, adding, “The digital transformation happening today regarding how students learn and how we assess students is really in its infancy.”
To be fair, many colleges and universities still aren’t aboard the digital transformation train. Others find digital transformation technically difficult. Petrovsky says they grapple with integrating disparate data types from different systems, such as the learning management system and student information system.
But colleges can learn something from companies, too, especially ones that have had their businesses digitally disrupted or struggle to attract digital native workers. The lesson: It’s better to commit to digital transformation sooner rather than later.
“There are some higher education organizations that are resisting the digital era,” Petrovsky says. “This won’t happen for long. We are being pulled by the digital process.”
Based in Silicon Valley, Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is eager to hear how digital transformation is impacting your business. You can reach him at [email protected]