Student-centric innovation means pulling in the right technology at the right time to deliver the most impactful experiences, touchpoints, and supports to guide our students on their individual journeys. For campus leadership, that means putting in place a comprehensive technology strategy that aligns with the need to support agile decision-making and changing services.
Once technology is out of the box, underpinning every corner of campus, digital strategy must in turn move from backstage to the spotlight, and leaders across campus must pick up this collective mandate. Today, every leader is a digital leader. For many, the learning curve will be steep, but it’s necessary as leaders across the campus community weigh in on technology decisions to help balance rational, considered investment with fast-cycle innovation. As you contemplate your role in your institution’s digital transformation, read on for three guiding principles of student-centered digital change.
1. Student service must drive technology investments
The adoption of technology should always be driven by campus strategy and the acute or emergent needs of higher education’s missions: teaching and learning, research, and community service. As our notions of “student” continue to be transformed by the economy and the industry shifts to deliver differentiated, student-centric experiences, the service models of higher education will shift in accordance. With changing needs come new priorities, and in turn, different strategies—all with different technology requirements.
2. Software is not strategy
While cloud availability means that software innovation will continue apace in response to emergent needs in every industry, software solutions are not, in themselves, strategic. Software may automate processes, help formalize and embed better practices, or even provide mission-critical functionality to the campus community—but while software will enable various campus strategies, it should not (and will not) guide them. As higher ed futurist Matt Alex put it, “Technology should not lead you to transformation. Transformation should lead you to the technology.”
3. Data is the institution’s most valuable tech asset
If software is utilitarian, data is characterized by its transferability. For the institution, the value of data remains, even as the software in use changes around it. It doesn't matter whether a campus business office uses PeopleSoft, Ellucian, Workday, or any other vendor solution to support campus financial processes (or a patchwork of different vendors across decades of operations and disparate schools or divisions). Instead, it's the maintenance of accurate, accessible financial data that will support the campus strategy today, as well as decisions that emerge at crossroads in the future. The same is true across any number of technologies in use today.
Strategy for sustainability
Tech giants like Amazon and Netflix are fueling the need for personalized digital experiences in every sector, including higher ed. But as student expectations are changing, technology is changing even faster. Given such high levels of digital innovation and technology flux, even the most rational and exhaustively considered investment decisions made today will seem redundant or irrational as the world changes around us. Today’s best-in-class application will always fall behind the innovators leading change tomorrow—and higher education’s slow pace of change has left many institutions dealing with the ongoing pains of technology stagnation.
Unless a broader strategy for integration and coordination is put in place and upheld by campus executives moving forward, the outcomes of fast-paced innovation and technology adoption will only exacerbate current growing pains while escalating campus costs.
Build your student-centric digital strategy
Download our new whitepaper, Sustaining Student-Centric Innovation, for tools to build a sustainable, future-focused digital strategy.