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How to Combat 'Digital Sprawl' on Your Campus

Episode 55

April 27, 2021 34 minutes


EAB’s Danielle Yardy and Anushka Mehta unpack the meaning of “digital transformation,” and its relevance for higher education. They trace the history of quirky, homegrown IT solutions that spread like weeds across college campuses for decades, and the many attempts that schools have made since to update and modernize those systems. Anushka and Danielle argue that the key drivers for these efforts should be to streamline operations and improve the student experience. They also offer tips on how to generate the biggest bang for your IT bucks and spur wider and quicker adoption of new technologies across campus.



0:00:13.1 Speaker 1: Hello, and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today, you’re going to hear about digital transformation, which is one of those catch phrases that sounds like it originated in a TED talk and kept getting repeated by people who wanted to sound like they were smart and tech savvy. Our guests today are going to dig into the meaning behind the catch phrase and explain what digital transformation actually means for colleges and universities. They’re also going to share tips on how to begin charting a path forward and bring order to the digital chaos of IT systems, data centers and applications that currently hold your university together. Thank you for listening and enjoy.


0:01:01.4 Danielle Yardy: Hi, everyone. My name is Danielle Yardy, and this is Office Hours with EAB. I’m excited to join the podcast today, to talk about a problem that plagues nearly every college campus in America, namely they all tend to suffer from digital sprawl, meaning they’ve accumulated hundreds of purpose-built applications, data centers and IT systems that don’t talk to one another very effectively, and they’re not inclined to give up their precious nugget of useful information to university leaders without a fight. I’m joined today, by my colleague Anushka Mehta, who’s gonna help me get to the root of the problem, and together we’re gonna share a set of recommendations and next steps that we hope will allow you all to usher forward your campuses digital transformation and bring forth a more unified coherent technology strategy, moving forward. Welcome to the podcast, Anushka.

0:01:46.1 Anushka Mehta: Thanks, Danielle. Excited to be here after a year of having conversations like this on Zoom. I think it’s about time to actually have conversations that digital change, so I’m happy to be here.

0:01:57.2 DY: Fantastic. And so, before we get into the weeds of this. I’ve used a phrase here, to get us started, that I think will have some folks rolling their eyes back in their heads, and that is the phrase, digital transformation. So it has some folks getting their hackles up, they get very defensive when you start to think about digital transformation in the education setting. So I just wanted to set some boundaries really, around what we’re talking about. So, what are we talking about, when we talk about digital transformation?

0:02:25.4 AM: Yeah, it’s interesting, ’cause it’s definitely one of those buzzy buzz words that everyone keeps talking about, but no one really has an agreed definition for, and I just wanna focus in on the idea that this phrase can really… There are lots of different terms that we could be using. People talk about agility, people talk about digital transformation, people talk about digital change, but these are all really catch-all terms for the same core issue or the same core challenge the institutions are facing. So typically, when we talk to people and we say the words, digital transformation, often, university leaders will pull out their laundry list of all their recent tech acquisitions to say, “Look what we’ve done with all of these tools and we think we’re doing great.” And while tech is definitely a piece of the puzzle, digital transformation is really about the process of using those tools and the data that sits behind it, to deliver value and drive change. So that’s often what makes it actually a harder conversation to have, because we’re really talking about cultural change, and not just tech change, and increasingly digital transformation or these digital agility and changes to the business model are no longer a differentiator. But during the past year, they’ve become really a core requirement for universities to be thinking about, which is another challenge we’ve been hearing.

0:03:41.8 DY: Yeah, I think that’s such a fascinating point, the process side of things, and it even makes me wanna take issue with the nomenclature, calling it digital transformation. To me, it sounds like there’s an end point, there’s an end goal. And really, it’s more of an evolution, I think, in my experience. People want to treat this as a project, they want to transform their institution as if they’re going from this caterpillar to a butterfly, and then that’s the end of it, but the reality is that, the technology will continue to change the needs of the students and the faculty that we said are going to continue to change as the world changes around us. And so I think maybe that terminology around evolution is potentially something that we can think about. And I sort of started moving us there, into this idea of the needs of different folks, and I know that from my experience, that’s always something that is driving some of this change.

0:04:31.3 DY: I don’t know if you’ve come across anything in particular, that you think is driving the need now. You mentioned COVID, and obviously, that was something that everyone had to wake up and pivot around. But is there anything else that you think is really sort of forcing institutions to pay attention to this issue, either sort of pre-COVID or post?

0:04:48.1 AM: Yeah, I’d be curious to hear your take on this as well, but from my perspective, about 10 years ago, if you talked to university leaders about digital change, there was sort of this happy, “We’re quirky and different, and we like to stay embedded in our archaic solutions.” They might not have to used the word archaic, but I think generally speaking, there was this appetite for staying in these analog modes because that’s just where higher education has been for so long, and a little bit of pride in that quirkiness and that quirky reality about universities. But there’s no longer willingness from the different consumers that our universities are really serving to embrace that digital change will end at the campus store.

0:05:29.8 AM: We’re living in a world where students, academics, administrative staff, they all live in the same world as you or I. They’re waking up, they realize they need more coffee, and they place an order on Amazon Fresh on their phones, and then they continue listening to last night’s podcast as they get ready for their workday, and they’re not expecting to then get to the office for all of that to suddenly end anymore. So our consumers are bringing with them a demand for digital first, omni-present, hyper-personalized experiences because that’s now they’re baseline in everyday life, and so they want that to be a seamless transition between their work life and their personal life. But I’m curious to hear a little bit from your perspective as well. I think there’s a lot of conversation about all of the new technology that we have, but there’s also this idea of digital poverty and the digital divides, I’m curious, how do universities start grappling with this idea of serving consumers, but also meeting some of our different consumer groups where they are and with the technology tools that they have access to?

0:06:30.7 DY: Yeah, I think it’s a really great question, and I think that, for me, is just something that really differentiates the conversation that we need to have in education. Now, I feel very strongly, coming from academia, that the academy is not Amazon, it is not Netflix, and it’s not any of these big global giants that we can point to and say that we just want to be a streaming service, that’s not the mission of our organizations. But if you need to be coalescing around a real purpose in order to drive change, and I really do think that’s a key part of the cultural side of this, there has to be a purpose driving what you’re doing. We can’t center around profit in higher education, it just does not sit well with what we’re looking to serve for our students, for our faculty, for our staff. And so, for me, we need to start thinking, “Then, well, what do we do?” as an industry, as a set of organizations, and that’s actually a really difficult question. Depending on the type of institution that folks are sitting within, student service is obviously gonna be a core part of that.

0:07:31.6 DY: But some of these institutions, they are quasi-governmental organizations, the administrative side of what an institution does is absolutely vast. Then there’s the research side of things, and all one institution is gonna be primarily focused on, “How do we improve ground writing? How do we bring in more revenue to help support the boundary-pushing innovation that we’re doing in our research?” And that makes it very, very difficult to optimize for transformation, to get everybody’s energy pushing in one single direction, and then even when you start to peel back the layers there and you start to think, “Well, okay, something that most higher institutions have in common is they need to be student-centric. Well, who are our students?” That’s changing, and I think that gets to some of what you were saying about the need to think about the diversity that we’re serving there.

0:08:18.0 DY: Our institutions are increasingly serving non-traditional “learners”, these folks who don’t look like your average post high school degree seeker. They are looking for different things, and the things that they are looking for from your institution to serve that, are very different. So it puts us in a difficult spot. And I would encourage, certainly anyone listening to the podcast today, who is thinking about how do they push their institution forward and build consensus for change, for driving towards something that is a little bit more digital first, Anushka, as you were saying, they might wanna think about, what is key to the mission of their institution? How is their institution different and what’s important for them as an organization, to really distill and deliver to their constituents? Because that’s gonna really help them come together around things that they actually need to invest in, things that they actually wanna drive forward. And so, if we think about things that are driving forward, I know that you have had just hundreds of conversations and international conversations as well, around where institutions are actually spending their pennies right here, where are they actually putting their money into investing in efforts towards change. What have you seen come up as something that’s been prioritized?

0:09:35.2 AM: In response to that, I wanna latch onto that term, purpose, that you used earlier in this conversation as well. I think a lot of people, as I mentioned at the top of this conversation, a lot of people are starting to think about technologies for the sake of technologies, because they want to respond to this digital mandate. But really, at its core, transformation is about responding to the changing consumer expectations, but also only when it’s serving the core institutional challenges. Every student wants their life to be easier, every student would love to be able to walk into a university door and leave with a degree, and if all they have to do is enter the classroom and sit there and listen to their instructors speak, but really that’s not what the university was set up to achieve. And so, we need to start thinking about the larger business of the university overall. As you were saying, there are all of these different parts of the organization, where additional transformation and digital tools can really drive change, but at the end of the day, students and academic staff should be thinking about protecting the core of their educational experiences, whether we’re talking about a class that’s delivered online or in person or hybrid.

0:10:42.4 AM: I know these are conversations that universities are actively having right now, especially on the heels of COVID. The content and the pedagogy are still expected to be challenging. So we want everything else outside of the classroom experience to become easier and more seamless, we want that student support because ecosystem, the student services, the campus experience, to be easier so that students aren’t walking into the bursar’s office to pay off a bill and then finding out that they actually have to travel to four or five other offices before they can manage that one little library fee, just to register for their classes next semester. That needs to become a lot easier, but they need to be entering their classrooms and continuing to be challenged in those spaces. So where we’ve seen digital transformation actually take off is, not where most universities think. People’s minds often go to tools like AR and VR and how that could completely change pedagogy and the classroom experience, and there are some campuses that are definitely using this to great effect, but it’s usually a siloed, one-off effort, maybe led by a teaching fellow who’s really passionate about it or trying to change the way students can travel the world, so to speak, in one single classroom setting.

0:11:57.4 AM: But if that teaching fellow leaves, that technology leaves. It’s not really a transformative change to the way a specific university is approaching teaching and learning. So, really where we’re seeing digital transformation is in these non-academic domains, where there are business problems or core challenges to solve, like in enrollment, in helping students think about career exploration, Student Services, business processes, and facilities operations, space management. So that’s really where we’re seeing a lot more of the innovation that’s actually driving change, and hoping our professional staff and our administrative staff do their jobs and serve students better, because they’re not caught up in some of these over-complicated paper-based processes.

0:12:44.0 DY: Now, the paper-based piece is an important part, I think, of that conversation. It’s interesting to me that you’re mentioning all of these non-academic parts of the institution. I do think that’s a place where change is more like what happens outside of higher education, but I think the tendency to shy away from those academic pieces, you mentioned augmented reality and virtual reality, the ability to bring things to life within the classroom, with new technology that allows us to do things that we had never been able to do before.

0:13:14.7 DY: Those really are difficult to scale. They’re costly, they’re not necessarily sort of something that can save the institution money, save the institution time. It’s really a sort of deep investment in being able to do more of that kind of work. And so, when you think about those non-academic domains, what you’re actually doing is focusing folks’ attention on places where you can lift investment out of things that have otherwise been costly and labor intensive and to your point, paper-based. [chuckle] So you went through this whole process, I think, in the 1990s, every institution must pull about 15 different platforms to digitize some of their processes, but inevitably, you have these processes that got left by the wayside and there’s still Sammy in the Registrar’s office, who has to print things out and cross things out with a red pen and then feed them into a fax machine to do X, Y, Z before they go to the next Cabinet meeting. Well, you still hear a lot of that in higher education and it’s pulling people’s attention away from, as you were saying, the things that matter, the things where we want to be focusing our people power, and that’s in the service and the pedagogy that we wanna be delivering for our students.

0:14:22.8 DY: So, it’s interesting, you have this two-sided view of what it means to transform the institution and…

0:14:32.2 AM: Yeah. Okay, it goes…

0:14:32.3 DY: The young… Oh, go on. Sorry, Anushka.

0:14:34.0 AM: Sorry. No, I was just gonna say, it goes back to this idea of what is the problem or the challenge that you’re trying to solve. If you are in a classroom-based environment where you are bringing AR or VR into the classroom just for the sake of it. You’re not really doing anything, you’re not really changing the way students are engaging with the content. But if you’re doing it in order to help students who couldn’t typically study archaeology because they can’t afford that required summer trip to some foreign country in order to go on a dig with all of their classmates and their faculty members, and if you’re enabling those students to suddenly major in something that wouldn’t have been possible before because they can do a VR dig, then that’s when we’re talking about something a little bit different. We’re talking about something… About a way to solve for an institutional challenge, or frankly, an access problem, where higher education has been inaccessible to students of different backgrounds for a long time, and digital really does have the opportunity to increase that accessibility and make the University a space for everyone.

0:15:35.2 DY: So I think that’s a great point, improving access using the tools available to us to scale. I think that’s just one way that many folks would think about what it means to be transformative. And I just… I wanna loop us back a little bit, to something that you had mentioned before, when we were talking about just the different ways that folks think about those processes, if they think about delivering things in a new way. We’re talking a lot here, about different technologies. We’ve mentioned AR and VR, people will want to think about artificial intelligence, people think about buying CRMS, they think about how to do relationship management for all of the different functions that you mentioned, to try and make that experience a little bit more seamless. And I think one thing that for me, is really important to try and take away in some of these conversations that we have is that, while we might look to technology as the future of the transformation that we’re trying to drive, very few folks think about the ways in which technology is actually preventing them from doing some of that work.

0:16:32.0 DY: So if we think back to your earlier point, about this being an issue of change management, about… Thinking about the way that things are today, and then looking for ways to make them better in the future, and thinking about how we can deliver different services to our students, the technology that’s in place today is actually a hindrance for many folks.

0:16:52.5 DY: Everyone is looking at what’s on the market, looking at the next cool tool to buy and to bring in, and how that’s gonna help them change everything they do and fundamentally shift the way that they serve their institutions. But when you look underneath the hood of an institution, it is a mess. We came in here talking about digital sprawl, talking about the ways that those investments have been connected in such a haphazard way, when it comes to deciding how you want to move forward, thinking about what makes sense for your institution or which pieces of your institutional processes are actually most complicated for your students right now, we hear talk of pain points, what’s difficult for students and faculty and staff to do today. It’s really hard to understand that because of the way that things are connected.

0:17:34.4 DY: So I would really be encouraging folks to not just be thinking about what new things can we bring in and how will that help us transform, but how can we look at what we’ve got and reconfigure that or change things in a little way or take things away even. Sometimes it’s actually sunsetting things that we have on our campus, to make things more seamless, to make things less fragmented. Thinking about technology as a hindrance, in addition to technology as an enabler, I think, is just something that is not necessarily a conversation that most campuses are having.

0:18:10.0 DY: I’m curious if in your conversations, if you’ve seen anyone not just making investments in the future, but really thinking about how they have to tidy up the past in order to make space for some of that innovation.

0:18:21.8 AM: That’s a great question, Danielle. And the way I’ve been thinking about it and hearing partners think about it as well, is in terms of having a larger digital strategy. There isn’t any point in having individual conversations over every specific tech vendor acquisition decision when you don’t have a larger mission-based strategy that you’re working towards. So a little cheat that I’ve heard from a couple of partners, that I’ve find really valuable is, if you’re looking at your overall digital strategy once you have one and you take out all mentions of specific vendors and technologies, does it still make sense or does it suddenly start looking very cloudy and unclear? And if your strategy suddenly doesn’t make sense anymore, because the vendors and the technologies that you’re thinking about, are key or critical to its success, then you’re not really thinking about digital transformation in a holistic way, and you are starting to fall into the trap of thinking about technology for technology’s sake, and maybe falling a little bit for those latest, greatest, vendor pitches rather than thinking more critically about where that technology is going to fit into your campus and what problems it’s solving.

0:19:29.0 DY: I think digital strategy is a great direction for us to take it, because I think that no matter who is listening to us talking today, everybody has a role to play in that, and I find myself evangelizing this day-in, day-out, when I’m talking to our partners, it’s that this is not an IT issue, this is not a data officer issue, this is something that really has to be lifted up by everybody on campus, to make sure that everyone understands, one, their part in the boarder strategy, and then two, their role in ensuring that those technology pieces, the data pieces are all fitting together to drive front forward in that holistic way, as you were saying. I know that leadership plays a key role, but I’m curious, especially because I hear so often that change is difficult, and not everybody is digitally literate on a campus. Have you seen anything that folks can do to try and help their institution rise up to this challenge at every level, not just the leadership and not just the front lines?

0:20:26.0 AM: Yeah, the way that I think about this as well is, there’s no point in having a digital strategy and buying all of the technology if three years later, nobody is using it and no one’s willing to consider it. So it is definitely a campus-wide conversation and you do need to think about faculty, staff and even students, and all of the people who will be interacting with and engaging with the technology or the digital change that you’re thinking about or that your institution is embracing.

0:20:51.4 AM: So the way that I’ve typically thought about the split of digital stakeholders on campus is that, there are these three broad personas, and every campus has them. Every campus has a digital skeptic. Every campus has someone who’s digitally curious. They’re interested, but they don’t know that much, or they don’t trust themselves, and they don’t think that they have the skills to engage with the technology. And then there are those who are digital champions, they’re really the ones who are probably raising their hand to trial and pilot new innovations and new technologies, and they’re the ones who are sometimes possibly even pushing leadership for change, proactively. And so, there are different ways you can engage each of these stakeholders. But the key thing to keep in mind is, you’re not ever gonna get to a point where your whole campus is full of digital champions. The point is really, to just bring everyone along on this journey to get to a point where you have a baseline digital literacy, and by that, I mean a baseline understanding of where the university is going and the digital change that they’re seeking to implement, so that people actually have the tools and understanding to engage with that.

0:21:58.8 AM: So there are different ways to think about this one. The easiest, just making it required, you can just link it to professional development schemes. If faculty and staff have to do this in order to get recognition, to get a certificate, to get a badge, they’re going to do it. And then the other thing is to make it easy, everyone has so much on their plates, especially right now, and they have busy schedules, and you really wanna start thinking about, “How can you create training to get people who are interested but feel like they don’t have the time to engage, to start engaging?” And it could be as simple as just creating five-minute podcast episodes like… This is obviously not five minutes, but an educational tool that people can plug into their busy schedules and listen to, on the metro or on the subway, on their way to work for a few minutes every day, just to start thinking about that.

0:22:48.2 AM: But the other thing that I wanted to really talk about here, to your point about digital strategies, of needing to be campus-wide and a whole campus approach, is that sometimes I have seen leaders use that as an excuse to not drive digital change. “Oh, everyone is not on board, so now it’s not the time, let’s delay this conversation five to 10 years.” And my piece of advice for my guiding star here is, you can always start somewhere, make it part of your core planning. If you can’t do that, partner with that one department in the middle of campus that’s excited about innovating and transforming their practice, but doesn’t have any support and doesn’t know how to do it. You can always start with one unit or one decrement, and that also becomes a proof of concept. When one department or unit is actually doing this and doing it well, it has results and outcomes that they can share with the wider campus community, that’s how you slowly start sowing the seeds for change, so to speak.

0:23:43.7 DY: Now, I feel like I’m seeing a theme emerge here, which is that simplicity and ease of use is something that not only ties together the boring conversation that we’re having around digital transformation and the reasons that that has to come into being, but if you want to actually move your campus forward and you want folks to be coming together and moving forward in this way, then ease of inclusion, pushing folks towards things that are actually gonna make their lives easier and to make sure that all of the change that you’re working towards is something that is additive to the lives of the people that you’re looking to serve and not just change for the sake of change, technology for the sake of technology. I think it really is just symptomatic of the world that we live in today. We have all become accustomed to something that is a little bit simpler, a little bit more seamless in our experience, and I think that really is right, the pathway towards transformation.

0:24:35.8 DY: We’ve been talking still, as well, around technology. I know there is one thing that I really wanted to pull forward today in our conversation, and that is a conversation around data. So I know that you’ve mentioned in the past, that it always seems like data and technology are used interchangeably. Those are terms that folks throw out there, that aren’t necessarily broadly understood as separable, and I think it’s a complicated thing to be dealing with. But are there any specific questions you hear coming up around that? Where do you see that confusion sort of surging most?

0:25:08.6 AM: Yeah. I think the perspective I hear from a lot of people, especially those who are less comfortable with tech or tech savvy, is this idea of, “Oh, I don’t know really how to implement this tech solution,” or, “I need to have good data to do this.” And there’s always this question about what is good data? How much data do you need for some of these technological solutions that we’re thinking about? And they’re often used interchangeably, and they’re obviously very interlinked for one to, for a technology solution to work really well on a campus, there is a certain level of good, clean data you want to be putting into it. But as someone who myself uses these terms interchangeably, I think throughout this conversation, I’ve said, “Oh, I’m doing a couple of times,” but I wanna get from you the data for dummies version on how and why I should care about data. Shouldn’t the tech just be running in the background on its own? Why do I need to be concerned with that? And what impact could bad data have on my everyday life? Why is this something I should be caring about?

0:26:13.6 DY: Yeah. Well, for me, I think is… It ties back to experience. And so if you think about that Amazon experience that we started our conversation on today, if you think about the Netflix experience and the recommendation engines that sit behind some of our favorite technology tools that seem to know us inside out and can personalize their recommendations to us at the drop of a hat. They are fueled by data, but they are not in and of themselves, sort of able to do that without the quality of the information that we put in. So if you think about something like a CRM, if you think about something like any kind of experience that you’re looking to build for your students on campus, if you put bad data in, you’re gonna get bad experiences out. That is just the true, tried and tested truism of working with information.

0:27:00.1 DY: So we can use systems to collect information, I think it’s something like 50% of new data that is created has some kind of error. And so, as you start to think about transforming your institution and you think that data is gonna drive that strategy, it’s gonna underpin the nuance, that outreach, the personalization of everything that you wanna do to connect with your campus partners, if the data is bad, it’s all gonna go wrong. And to your point about the mechanisms of change, the way that we get people to be interested in some of this work, if you step wrong, you can lose people’s trust. You can increase the power of the skeptics on your campus, rather than helping yourself with those champions that you mentioned, who might wanna be your coalition of the willing, to drive some of these things forward.

0:27:47.2 DY: And so for me, it’s, again, just another one of those areas that really touches every aspect of the institution. Everybody in a digital institution is inputting information, everybody in a digital institution is using data and information in whatever tool they use, to do their work. And so, it’s a sort of collective good, to be able to start thinking about the quality of that information and how you can look after that information as a camper. So for me, it’s one of the core assets, it’s a core tenet of transformation, not just which tools, which technologies are gonna help us deliver experiences, but how are we gonna ensure that they are fed with information that is relevant, that is timely, that is appropriate to the experiences that we’re looking to build. But the two core pieces to building a solution, when you put it underneath the broad umbrella of what is the problem that we’re trying to solve. Hopefully, that wasn’t too for dummies for you, Anushka, but I’m hoping it shed a little bit of like there, on what we were thinking and talking about.

0:28:47.8 AM: No, it’s a great way to actually visualize it. So I do get those personalized Amazon recommendations every day, and it’s helpful, to actually put it in perspective and think about the data that I’m putting into that, that even allows that to be possible, and what possibilities that opens up for higher education. Another thing that I wanted to touch on, though, is clean data, good data technology, all of these things that we’re talking about, are really expensive, and they’re also going to require a lot of time, intensity from staff putting in the effort, to start getting all of this off the ground. So I wanted to get your perspective on what you would tell a campus leader on why this investment is worth it, why… Today, there are so many different directions that we can go in, with the few dollars that we have at our disposal. Why should we be putting them here and in this conversation?

0:29:44.8 DY: Yeah. Well, I would probably sort of ask folks to think about whether they do have dollars at their disposal. I’m sure folks are feeling pretty flush right now, with the injection of funds that we’ve seen through the various acts that are supporting at least institutions here in the US. But the general truth of technology has been that it’s a cost center. We think, prior to these conversations around transformation, that technology is an area where we want to reduce our spend, we wanna make it as cheap as possible, so that we can liberate those funds and spend them on things that matter directly for our students. And the work of digital transformation really blurs the line that’s sits there? Is it a cost center or is it a strategic enabler?

0:30:29.0 DY: And I think it’s that duality that leaders have to really try and sit within and to say, “Which pieces of our technology infrastructure are part of a cost center? Which are non-negotiable fundamental requirements of operating a business in the 21st century? And then which are the strategic enablers? Which are the ones, to your point about augmented reality, that will help us deliver a differentiated pedagogical experience? Which are the ones that will help us be more personalized in our course recommendations or in our course pathways or in the way that our students experience the physical presence of our campus?” Those are very different buckets of thinking about technology spend and it’s very very difficult to balance them right now, given the amount that is being spent on the purely infrastructural.

0:31:18.0 DY: So I would really push leaders to be thinking about where they can start making shifts, when can we start divesting from things that don’t differentiate us, that aren’t transformative, that aren’t tied to our mission, and keep our costs down in that domain, then use that money to spend into things that are gonna make people excited to come to our institution, that’s gonna make us stand out among the hundreds of liberal arts colleges that are out there, or all of the different colleges in our region. What’s special about us, and how do we spend into a digital version of what that looks like? And by digital version, I don’t mean online, I just mean augmented with all of the capabilities that have advanced in the last decade, when we look at the technology ecosystem around us.

0:32:02.5 DY: So, absolutely worth spending into. But I think the main point there is, you’ve gotta find the funds first, in an ongoing operational model. You’ve got to look at what’s important and what’s not.

0:32:16.5 AM: I actually think that’s a great summary of the conversation here. Since we’re talking about cultural change, and we’ve mentioned that a lot in this conversation, but really what that comes down to is, institutions all have something that they’re proud of, that makes them different. There’s a specific identity that universities really care about, and that’s usually their selling point to students, that, “Come to us,” and not only because we want more students, but because we are better serving our communities, we are better achieving our role as a university, by doing X, Y, Z. And I think that that identity that institutions have, is where they should be capitalizing when it comes to digital transformation and tech change. They want to further that identity, not become like any other university that is buying this technological tool in order to attract students for X reason, or to enable research in this particular domain if it has nothing to do with where your faculty interests are. So yeah, I think that’s a great note.

0:33:14.6 DY: That’s a great point, Anushka. And so I think, with that, we have covered a lot of ground, and I know that you and I could talk about this for hours or even days if we had the time, but I think I will leave it there. And we can come back another day to have more conversations with Office Hours at EAB.


0:33:36.7 Speaker 1: Thanks for listening. Please join us next week, when our experts share their thoughts on how to reverse enrollment declines in one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, community colleges. Until then, thanks for listening to Office Hours with EAB.