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September 09, 2016
Digital: It’s what’s "hot" on campus
By: Lydia Tallant

How does one best describe the increasing demand for digital tools and channels in higher education? Think of it like a hot new restaurant that’s just opened in your city. It may start out slowly, but then a "buzz" about the place develops. Soon, everyone wants to go there. Digital is kind of like that. Once you’ve "tasted" what it can offer in terms of more engaging and effective educational experiences, you don’t want anything else.

We saw this pent-up demand in Accenture’s "Global Value of Higher Education Survey." The vast majority of students and graduates surveyed (80 percent) said that digital capabilities were important when deciding which institution to attend. Yet only 13 percent of those same students felt that their institution provides appropriate digital tools. That disconnect suggests that many higher education institutions have yet to fully seize the potential for digital tools to transform learning.

Higher expectations

Meeting digital demand is especially urgent given the expectations of students now entering university. These young people—who might have been playing with cell phones and computers since they were toddlers—will hardly be satisfied with the traditional classroom. They expect learning now, in real time, not just in the lecture hall or the library.

Because they are so familiar with the immediacy and interactivity of online, mobile and social tools, today’s students expect on-demand, self-led learning and opportunities to learn from one another.

Higher education institutions must enable anytime-anywhere learning both inside and outside the classroom using mobile, social, video and interactive capabilities to make learning more engaging and effective. An important note: This does not mean abandoning in-person learning. Instead, it means blending digital and in-person training, using different techniques when they are most effective.

Making it happen

How can universities best ride the wave of digitally enabled learning? Here are a few ideas:

  • Build a digital ecosystem. On-demand, digital learning models require different educational delivery systems. Higher education institutions can build a digital ecosystem that extends beyond the campus. This means collaborating with other universities, the private sector and government to fill resource gaps and extend learning opportunities.
  • Think more holistically. Digital has an impact beyond the classroom. It’s not just about digitising what universities have done for hundreds of years. Rather, it’s about reinventing teaching, administration and student services and taking a holistic approach to digital engagement across the entire student journey. Using advanced analytics to leverage student behavioural data is key to providing customised personal experiences.
  • Don’t forget your alumni. By using digital tools, higher education institutions can extend and strengthen alumni relationships around the very thing that brought people to them in the first place—education. This can position a university as a graduate’s trusted continuing education resource.

No turning back

There is no turning back from digital in higher education. The digital demand is real, and higher education institutions must start making the grade or risk irrelevance in the digital era.

So embrace technological innovation and be instrumental in enriching the students’ learning experience. The speed at which you can evolve your "smart campus" and begin to leverage your students' behavioural insights will greatly influence how you provide a safer, more-productive and more sustainable university.

The digital disruption we are seeing in other industries is already happening in the Higher Education sector and to succeed UK universities must be competitive in a global market and continue to attract the best students

To find out more about Digital Disruption in the education sector take a look at this report on "How Big Data will Transform Higher Education" from Accenture and Reform.

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