In a world where the use of technology has become commonplace, students are seeking to attend universities whose digital profile matches their own.

It’s critical that institutions of secondary education meet the needs and requirements of the modern student. Has your university undergone a digital transformation to fit these needs? In this blog, we are going to break down what it is that students are demanding, how universities across North America are undergoing digital transformations (Dx), and how AppsAnywhere can align a higher education digital transformation with their students’ digital lifestyles.

What do students want?

In a recent article published by Education News Canada (ENC), research has proven that four out of five students want their post-secondary education to mirror their modern, digital lifestyles. The generation of incoming and current higher ed students grew up in a high-tech world filled with social media, ride-sharing apps, and countless food delivery services. They’re familiar, rather conditioned, to having everything they need with the click of a button. It’s not surprising that they expect their post-secondary education to also be available on their own devices.

KPNG, a leader in delivering audit and advisory services across Canada, surveyed over 1,000 Canadian post-secondary students, aged 18-34 to learn how Higher Ed institutions can best provide for their students. Their findings were remarkable; however, in today’s day and age not surprising…

C.J. James, Partner and National Education Practice Leader of KPMG Canada says “Our poll research shows students want and expect more. Over the next decade, students will become even more diverse, digital, and deliberate in their decision-making, putting pressure on higher education institutions to design and deliver a more personalized experience that encompasses the student as a learner, a digitally savvy person, and a customer."

The first poll result that will catch your eye states that  80% of students  want “an educational experience that matches [their] digital lifestyle”. We live in an ever-changing, innovative world with new technologies to be found at every turn. Students, especially those who fall within the 18-34 age range are at the forefront of technology; therefore, it makes sense they want their educational experience to sit within the same playing field.

In March 2020 colleges and universities across North America made the initial switch to online learning, which also means it’s been 19-months of adaptation for students and HEIT. When campus doors closed in March 2020, colleges and universities needed to find a way to deliver the same educational experience online as they did in person. The world of Higher Education has proven it’s possible to not only undergo but thrive in a digital world. Online learning and virtual accessibility have instilled a new expectation from students…

78% of post-secondary students agree the pandemic has ‘fundamentally changed’ their higher education experience expectations. If colleges and universities can provide digital accessibility in the pinch and under pressure during the pandemic, they should have the capabilities to provide the same experience now and in the future. 

After a full year of remote learning, Canadian post-secondary students expect their college or university to up their game digitally.

-C.J. James, Partner and National Education Practice Leader, KPMG in Canada.

The results provided by KPMG demonstrate that higher education digital transformation (Dx) is a sink-or-swim situation. Universities can either get on board with the change or risk their enrollment numbers decreasing as years go on.

The university digital transformation

To start, the Higher Education digital transformation (Dx) “is a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts that enable new educational and operating models and transform an institution's business model, strategic directions, and value proposition” writes Malcolm Brown of the EDUCAUSE Review. To best understand Dx, it’s beneficial for CIOs to recognize the three D’s – digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation – and how they impact the student experience.

Digitization is the transition of analog information and resources to digital forms. No longer will students need to sift through disorganized binders looking for their syllabus or lug around a heavy-weight textbook to and from the library. Everything they need can now be kept organized online in a digital space.

Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to enhance individual institutional operations such as payroll, research, and the best one yet…course delivery.

Lastly, the higher education digital transformation is the institutional strategy to shift technology to enable new educational models and transform the strategic direction of the college or university.

The demand from students for Higher Ed to undergo Dx is at an all-time high. “Simply putting courses online or implementing a more modern enterprise system isn't digital transformation. To be considered Dx, those pieces would need to be included as part of a larger institutional transformation effort.” Dx is a holistic transition, one that needs to be implemented in all parts of the institution. The modern student expects their learning experience to replicate their everyday online user experience.

Aside from keeping your students happy, you may ask yourself: ‘what are some of the other benefits of undergoing a higher education digital transformation?’.

“Dx can make institutions more resilient, flexible, and relevant as they face an array of increasingly difficult challenges that include declining student enrollment, increased public skepticism, and skyrocketing student debt” writes Brown in the EDUCAUSE Review article,Digital Transformation Signals: Is your Institution on the Journey?

While we know the increase of a matched digital lifestyle is a key factor for students when seeking post-secondary education, how many of these institutions are implementing a higher education digital strategy? In the EDUCAUSE Quick Poll, they found that “Today, a plurality of IT leaders (44%) report that their institutions are engaged in Dx, with another 27% reporting that they are developing a Dx strategy”. 

Pros & Cons of the Higher Education Digital Transformation

Higher education digital transformation benefits students, professors, and the institution as a whole in many ways. For students, a digital transformation will enhance the overall learning experience, show an improvement in educational outcomes, provide a balance between schoolwork and life, and increase equitable access. Kris Lindal, Operating Systems Manager of Information Technology at the College of Charleston recently spoke about the student experience in a webinar with University Business. Kris mentioned that “Overall, the GPA of the student body went up from the previous year”.

For professors, university digital transformation allows for their focus to be on the needs of the students, improves a work/life balance, encourages a collaborative classroom/faculty environment, and helps them support a variety of student learning styles.

Lastly, digital transformation in universities will inevitably increase the competitiveness of the institution, increase enrollment, and improve IT efficiency by reducing the time to make software available to students. The University of Vermont underwent a university digital transformation that began long before the pandemic forced the switch to online learning. Their higher education digital strategy has shown a 5-point increase in overall enrollment since Spring 2020.

With any big change comes a few challenges and the higher education digital transformation is no different. Some of these challenges include lack of strategy, budgetary funding, and outdated technology infrastructures. While these are all valid and important things to consider, there are solutions and simple steps to overcome them when implementing a higher education digital strategy. Defining the markers of success prior to the switch is crucial for a positive outcome. Developing a well-planned strategy with the IT team, CIO, and thought leaders on campus will keep you on target to reach your goals. Finding the budget for a higher education digital transformation may seem like a grueling task at first; however, it's important to frame your higher education digital transformation as an investment in your institution. As we’ve seen, a higher education digital transformation improves student experiences which turns into better educational outcomes, resulting in increased retention and enrollment rates. Lastly, it can be difficult to transition out of or integrate outdated technology infrastructures currently in place on campus. AppsAnywhere, however, was designed with this challenge in mind. AppsAnywhere is a software delivery platform that sits above the stack and improves your current infrastructure. We’ve done away with the ‘rip & replace’ method and designed a platform that integrates with the commonly-used tools in higher education, including delivery technologies, Cloud platforms, and EdTech solutions, to give you the flexibility and control when delivering academic apps.

How AppsAnywhere aligns with the higher education digital strategy

Students hate campus labs. The university digital transformation, as we mentioned, is very important to the modern student. They are demanding a way to access their course work how and when they want. The first step towards achieving a digital transformation in universities is to provide students with an online platform that they’re familiar with. Every current and incoming student knows how the app store on their phone works, can easily log into an online platform, and access Wi-Fi almost anywhere on campus. If there were a way to incorporate software applications and course work into this format, then you’d be one step in the right direction towards aligning an educational experience with their everyday, digital lifestyles.

AppsAnywhere provides a simplistic, familiar, one-stop-shop for students to launch software applications on any device they want, from anywhere on or off-campus, at any time. AppsAnywhere is an app store-style platform that gives students access to all the software they need. It provides Higher Ed IT with a way to deliver all their software from one place to any device, including Windows, Mac, and Chromebooks while meeting key strategic IT initiatives such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). As we’ve seen, providing equitable access to academic software for all students on any device is no longer a luxury but a standard. AppsAnywhere can be your first step in undergoing a university digital strategy to mimic students’ educational experience with their digital lifestyles..

Ready to try AppsAnywhere? Book a demo today to see how we’re providing students with what they want and enabling an environment fir for a higher education digital transformation.