The higher education industry continues to reel from the repercussions of the global pandemic that has affected so many institutional goals for 2020. With the new year right around the corner, it will take innovation for institutions to thrive in 2021. Collegis Education experts have always had their eyes set on emerging trends that will drive our industry forward, with a focus on new opportunities to engage and support the students of tomorrow.

Read on to learn our perspective on how the pandemic has accelerated and refined key growth trends in higher education for 2021.

The power of transformative technology

The post-pandemic world is one that will rely on technology to empower learning. Colleges and universities can no longer afford to look at their technology systems as a means to just “keep the lights on.” Rather, technology must evolve to enable quality learning experiences and ensure business continuity, according to Kim Fahey, executive vice president and CIO at Collegis Education. Digital transformation has been a hot topic for years – the global pandemic has only served to accelerate its importance. Students and faculty are acclimating to remote learning environments, and they rely on superior, reliable technology systems to meet their needs.

The digital transformation we’re seeing in higher ed, coupled with the increase in expectations from students, has created a paradigm shift from viewing IT as back office functions to a strategic growth enabler. If you don’t have the systems to support digital transformation that allow you to meet students where they are, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose those students.

Kim Fahey

The institutions that thrive will be the ones that invest in technology to deliver a seamless, high-quality academic experience. In 2021, university presidents and technology leaders alike will need to develop a technology ecosystem that is reliable, cloud-based, data-integrated and learning-focused. This doesn’t always require more investment but does necessitate a strategic plan and decisions that enable the institution to get the most strategic value from its investments.

HyFlex as the next generation of learning 

The trending model of HyFlex learning blurs the lines between online and residential to the point that it is no longer a question of one or the other. The traditional method of delivering online learning is adapting to meet the needs and demands of students. In 2021 and beyond, the college campus will be anytime, anywhere. Innovative institutional leaders will no longer focus exclusively on growing online programs, but rather extending their campus reach through quality, accessible and flexible learning models.

“Presidents are asking themselves ‘How do we transition our online learning model?’” says John Endrud, executive vice president and chief development officer at Collegis Education.

The pandemic has created an opportunity for institutions to rethink how learning can be adapted to meet the needs of students and also provide campus resiliency. How does the school forever extend beyond the campus for more students? Whether it is an ice storm in the Midwest, a hurricane in Louisiana or a global pandemic, the ‘campus’ should never close again.

John Endrud

Transitioning to HyFlex learning is not easy, and institutions will need to balance finding the right technologies and resources to support faculty and staff through change management. Having the right technology sets the foundation, but other considerations such as faculty training and development, curriculum and course design, and classroom and student support will be crucial in implementing next-generation learning models.

Influential insights from data integration

In 2019, three national higher education associations called on their members to commit to using data and analytics to inform strategic decision-making. As we enter 2021, integrated data to produce cohesive insights remains a critical need, according to Dan Antonson, associate director of marketing technology at Collegis Education. The integration of data sources allows institutions to break down silos and enables analysis to make more informed decisions that can increase marketing return on investment and student success.

If you want better answers, you need to ask better questions. But to ask better questions, institutions need an integrated data foundation. Optimizing and focusing on your marketing technology stack is critical to gaining the insights needed to meet your objectives.

Dan Antonson

Institutions can start by visualizing their technology stack and mapping all the data sources available. From there, they can find a solution that helps bring together the disparate data, connected to a robust reporting solution, to begin optimizing the utilization of your data.

Simulation for learning and assessment 

2020 was a unique phenomenon that accelerated the shift toward technology-enhanced learning. While the simulation space has been around for decades in certain industries, higher education is just scratching the surface. Immersive, high-intensity environments will be critical to achieving successful simulation for learning and assessment, says Lynn Welch, vice president of business development and marketing at Education Management Solutions.

The limitations placed on institutions by COVID-19 forced on-ground simulation centers to shut down. Now, the education simulation world will begin to focus on accessibility and scalability across the sector.

Scalability has always been an issue that shows so much promise, and where I really see COVID-19 changing the game. It’s accelerating our sector ahead five years. We have the ability to knit together HyFlex environments with interactive course curriculum and simulation technologies to increase capacity and deliver quality remote experiences.

Lynn Welch

The future of higher ed is here

The challenges of 2020 reinforced the need for agility, transformation and innovation. At Collegis, we believe that 2021 will bring about the rise of the University of Tomorrow – institutions prepared to deliver high-quality, technology-infused learning experiences that transcend geographic limitations and put the focus on student needs and demands.

Reach out to us to learn how to take the first steps toward becoming the University of Tomorrow.

Let our team of experts help you navigate the changes ahead.

Author: Kristina James