A New Approach to the Digital Future of Higher Education

A New Approach to the Digital Future of Higher Education

The future of technology in higher education has long been a hot topic of conversation, as universities continue to encounter increasingly tech-savvy generations of students. However, just because this group of people is used to working with technology in everyday life, does not necessarily mean that they are equipped with the necessary skills to work online – learning to use Instagram can be a different experience entirely when compared with learning to study and research online.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic meant that students were faced with a new, never-before-seen challenge: to master remote learning. Whilst many of these students will have been proficient social media and mobile app users, the need to shift all learning remotely was unprecedented. Enabling the delivery of remote learning, with a significant emphasis on time pressure, posed a herculean task for higher education IT staff up and down the country.

As the dust settles, what must higher education institutions consider going forward, such that they do not lose pace in such a rapidly changing digital environment?

A Newly Levelled Playing Field

One effect of the necessary shift towards remote learning is that, regardless of where institutions were on their digital journey previously, the field has now been levelled, as other organisations had no choice but to play catch-up.

Going forward, this has posed benefits to staff and students alike across the entire higher education sector, with increased flexibility and accessibility of classes and resources, leading to improved student engagement.

Unfortunately, however, the rapid nature of this shift to remote working has also posed challenges, such as digital poverty and varying digital capabilities.

Microsoft’s Partnership with UCISA

Microsoft recently partnered with UCISA, interviewing 14 CIOs and Heads of IT at Universities throughout the United Kingdom, in a bid to capture insights and perspectives on the future of technology in higher education as the sector continues to grapple with the lasting effects of the 2020 pandemic.

The key findings of these interviews were as follows:

  • IT staff enabled remote operations for just under 3 million students, lecturers, researchers, academic leaders, and support staff at a pace never before seen in the UK higher education sector.
  • Going forward, CIOs are largely in agreement that the institutions set to be most successful in this new era are those that are best able harness the benefits of remote learning when combined with the traditional elements of campus and on-site learning.
  • As the dust settles, CIOs are conscious of not wanting to accrue ‘technical debt’; having prioritised short-term solutions to address immediate needs, organisations must now address further digitalisation carefully and strategically in order to ensure interoperability and security is built in, whilst remaining cost-effective in the long term.

Seeking Advice From a Higher Education IT Consultant

The higher education sector contributes £95 billion in gross output for the UK economy, meaning that it is vital to get right the digital solutions that can support a hybrid delivery model as organisations slowly return to traditional means of learning.

Microsoft’s findings are of particular interest to 4C Strategies, who have been assisting higher education institutions in matters such as these for over two decades. The 4C Strategies team possesses a wealth of unrivalled expert knowledge on digital transformation in higher education, from needs analysis, to strategy creation and implementation, through to ongoing project management and constantly ensuring that all measures are cost-effective, best practice, sustainable and coherent with wider organisational strategy.

Any organisations that may require assistance moving on from 2020, whether that be advice on how best to combine last year’s incumbent remote-learning technology with traditional in-person learning, or how to seamlessly extend 2020’s short-term crisis management solutions into effective long-term digital strategy, should contact 4C Strategies today for a free consultation.

Call 4C Strategies on 01858 438938, or email webenquiries@4c.co.uk.

Alternatively, you can read more about our work with higher education here.