It’s a cliché to say that COVID-19 is catalysing technological transformation. But clichés exist for a reason, and nowhere is this narrative more apparent than in the higher education sector.
Since lockdown measures were brought in, the way that universities and other higher education providers have gone about onboarding, teaching and supporting students has changed beyond recognition. Gone are face-to-face interviews, lecture halls and tutorials. In their place, universities are adopting technology to ensure continuity in the face of massive disruption.
This feels like more than a stopgap – it represents a structural change in the student experience. The digitization of higher education has profound implications for student recruitment, tuition and pastoral care.
The new reality
The higher education sector is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But the timing of the crisis and the ensuing lockdown measures – beginning in March and (hopefully) abating over the coming weeks and months – has at least given administrators time to adapt and develop new strategies for ensuring continuity. Technology is the core means by which this is possible, and at universities up and down the land, the race is on to procure and implement the right technological infrastructure before the onset of the 2020/2021 academic year.
For many centres of learning, the transition to video communication has been sudden and bewildering. That’s understandable since the wholesale change on the scale we are seeing is unsettling. Administrators are faced with tough decisions on a daily basis, and fire-fighting is the order of the day. This makes it difficult to think strategically about what the future might look like.
The wider picture
This uncertainty is equally true for applicants and students, who have been forced to adapt to the new reality of studying from home. COVID-19 comes at a pivotal time in their educational journey, and indeed, their passage into adulthood.
Having finished school, many young people are eager to assert their independence and spend less time with their families, not more. So it comes as no surprise that many are struggling to cope with transitioning to the next chapter of their lives whilst living under lockdown.
For so many of us, video calling has made lockdown bearable. It’s enabled us to connect with family, friends and colleagues, offering us a chance to continue making a living and indeed, get on with our lives. But the benefits of video communication go beyond social and work domains – they extend to an entire host of traditional industries that have been slow to embrace technology.
Time to embrace technology
The higher education sector faces huge challenges. But opportunities await forward-thinking institutions who embrace technology in order to improve the student experience.
Video is a communication channel that enables universities to communicate seamlessly with students from all over the world. Not only is it cheaper and more environmentally sustainable than face-to-face interviews, tuition and pastoral care, it’s also more scalable, enabling educators to reach greater numbers of students. The cost-effectiveness and ubiquity of video offer universities an opportunity to drive inclusion and diversity by giving access to those who don’t fit the typical student profile.
For years, people have been saying that the higher education model is broken. Universities have been criticised for charging high fees, failing to deliver value for money, and not moving with the times. This narrative has been simplified and distorted over time, failing to fully appreciate the challenges facing universities and colleges.
The truth is that expectations have changed. As people have become more sophisticated and demanding in their everyday lives as consumers – accessing on-demand content in the form of Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and other highly immersive social platforms – their expectations have been elevated. The same goes for higher education. Young people expect great things from universities. They want them to leverage technology to deliver compelling learning experiences. And they demand value for money.
Much has been written about the deflationary influence of technological innovation, driving down prices over time. Indeed, in recent years startups like Amazon, Google and Skype have disrupted and deflated significant parts of the economy. The education sector is not immune from this disruption. Online learning providers like SkillShare, Udemy and even YouTube have encouraged students to save time and money by skipping traditional education channels and “learning from home”. And many tuition providers have created hybrid models that integrate face-to-face tuition and online learning.
The next chapter
The world of higher education was undergoing significant change long before COVID-19 showed up. Digital transformation has been on the radar for years. But the crisis has brought the need to adapt into sharp focus. Now universities and colleges the world over are racing to formalise their approaches to video communication and how this will work seamlessly and at scale across their student-teacher populations.
Mass market teleconferencing solutions like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype are impressive products, but they fail to address the unique needs of the higher education sector. Universities need a robust video communication platform built for the business of onboarding, teaching and supporting their students – this specialised domain expertise is critical if they are to retain customers and pursue growth in the years ahead.
Video communication offers a chance to respond to these demands and carve out a role in a post-COVID world defined by compelling, cost-effective digital experiences. In the near term, video can help with interviewing and onboarding students, delivering tuition and providing pastoral support. And in the long run, it can help universities to remain relevant in a hyper-competitive, content-led online world.
If you’d like to explore how video can help you to navigate the Coronavirus crisis and improve the student experience over the long run, then please do get in touch.
Alternatively, if your organisation would like to arrange a demo of the Inzite platform, then please book a call below: