Creating a Digital Strategy for Higher Ed Institutions

Introduction

Digital Transformation is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.

– Wikipedia

The pandemic has pushed every educational institution to consider digital transformation seriously.

In the face of this imperative, most have quickly adopted free, readily available tools such as Zoom, WhatsApp, and Google Classroom – only to realize that more comprehensive solutions are required to deliver education effectively online. They realized they need a digital strategy.

So, here’s some help – a step-by-step guide to creating a digital strategy for your institution.

Define the Goals

A majority of the digital systems in Higher Ed address the enrolment management and administration aspects of the institutions. Learning Design and Learning Experience have predominantly focused on physical classroom delivery. The pandemic has forced institutions to move online – to teach, learn, and test online. Learning Design and Experience have thus moved to the center stage of Digital Strategy. Some components of the Learning Experience that you can take online:

  1. Create a digital library of learning assets – including e-books, PDFs, videos, reference sites, e-learning modules, and audio
  2. Enable synchronous and asynchronous online communication tools – including video conferencing, chat, and collaboration
  3. Enable online assessment – including quizzes and
  4. Support upload and grading of online assignments
  5. Generate reports automatically
  6. Provide personalized learning experiences to students
It is important to decide which of these are important for your institution or which need to be prioritized.

Identify a Learning Platform

You need to identify a learning platform that will support all your Learning Experience goals. Having multiple online tools leads to inefficiencies in the learning process. Here are things to look for in a good platform:

Single Integrated Platform

Faculty and students should be able to access learning assets,

conduct virtual classes, complete assignments, take exams, and report results through a single platform. Having multiple tools or platforms can be confusing and inefficient.

Branded Learning Portal

Each university/college should have a unique online identity – and should be able to authenticate students and faculty seamlessly.

Multi-format Content Support

Make sure the platform supports multiple types of content – including audio, video, e-learning, documents, HTML, and external links.

Reporting Capabilities

The platform should be able to generate user-, batch-, date- and content-wise reports automatically.

Tech Support

Ensure the platform has technical support available in the Indian time zone.

Define the Content Strategy

It is important to design and standardize a content strategy. Some things to think about:

  • Will the academic program be fully online, or will it be a blended program?
  • Will face-to-face sessions be substituted by virtual sessions or will faculty adopt the flipped classroom method?
  • What tools will be used to create the online content? What format will the content be in?
  • Will digital content be created or curated? Will the institution add off-the-shelf content to the mix?
  • How will assignments and projects be handled?

Define the Assessment Strategy

Assessment is an important part of any academic program. Whether it is a pop quiz or an end of term exam, institutions need to choose the right assessment tools and train both faculty and students to use them effectively.

Exam proctoring is an important aspect of the assessment strategy. There are several online exam proctoring tools/software that address aspects of conducting exams remotely – with students taking exams from their homes. But most of them broadly have these 5 features:

  1. Authentication of student identity – to prevent impersonation
  2. Setting up a controlled environment with no access to other applications and internet resources
  3. Real-time monitoring of student activity – through webcam and activity monitors and live proctors
  4. Delivering the assessment/exam questions
  5. Accepting user input – either as choices on an online test form or scanned images of handwritten answer sheets

It is important to understand the features available and how they map to the institution’s requirements.

Train Faculty and Staff

Whatever the tools or technology, any change will be effective only if people adopt and adapt. Going digital is not any different. Senior management along with the faculty, IT staff and administrators will have to work together to ensure the implementation process is smooth and hassle-free. The approach to this process needs to be clear and unambiguous as there will be considerable changes in roles and responsibilities.

Here, we discuss some pointers:

Encourage Collaboration

Faculty, administrators should be encouraged to discuss the digital initiatives amongst themselves to give them a sense of ownership.

Adopt a Universal Approach

Institutions should design comprehensive training systems and ensure they are updated at regular intervals. A common plan and a well-defined set of standards should be implemented throughout the institution.

Focus Attention on Accessibility

Faculty members and administrators should be provided multiple avenues/routes to access the required training. It should be available in multiple formats to make the learning process easier since this is not a one-time activity.

Promote the use of Educational Technology

The institution should actively facilitate the use of educational technologies by providing assistance in designing, evaluating, and disseminating digital learning material.

Measuring ROI

To ensure that there is continuous improvement in this process, the effectiveness of the digital strategy needs to be measured at regular intervals. Measure tangible indicators such as student enrolments, student scores, placements, and operating costs.

A good digital strategy is an imperative for every higher education institution. If you need help crafting a digital strategy for your institution,

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