To successfully reach these nontraditional students, administrators need to do more than simply expand their online learning opportunities.
“There’s a very big difference between moving things online—facilitating Zoom meetings or recording lectures—and developing and delivering a rich, robust online learning experience that includes broader support services,” says Joellen Shendy, product strategy director, Workday Student.
As part of this experience, institutions need to be able to assess student and program success in real time so they can identify issues and intervene early, before a disengaged student stops attending class.
Creating robust online learning experiences for nontraditional students will not only address the skills crisis but will also renew the public’s faith in higher ed’s ability to offer solid ROI. As such, institutions must deliver a personalized learning journey, with options around educational forum, pace, individual goals, and satisfaction levels.
“We need to make sure we’re getting more people through college and completing key outcomes rather than just focusing on getting learners to college,” says Shane Topping, senior director for Higher Education, Workday.
4. Learning Institutions Level Up Their Digital Experience to Meet Students Where They Are
A 2017 Accenture survey of full-time college students in the United States found that 85% said a high-quality digital experience is important to their satisfaction with their campus. Then came the pandemic. By 2021, that number increased to 96%.
Today’s tweens and teens, who have never known a time when news, entertainment, and communication were not available around-the-clock and on-demand, will be in college in the blink of an eye—and they won’t tolerate a paper-based learning experience that hasn’t changed much since the ’90s.
“Those are the folks coming our way,” said Miloš Topić, Ph.D., vice president of IT and chief digital officer of Grand Valley State University, at Workday Rising. “If we’re not prepared, they’re going to go seek other options. And the number of options is growing every single year.”
Building a great digital experience, then, is critical to recruiting students of all stripes by meeting them on their terms and their turf. A simple, intuitive system can, for example, guide first-generation students who may lack the support systems to navigate a complex college environment. Enhanced digital experiences can also help ESL students, those with disabilities or learning differences, and those struggling with their mental health connect with resources more easily.
The ability to optimize your people, business processes, and financial operations starts with the right technology, which includes an enterprise management cloud, designed with AI/ML at its core.
“Harnessing the power of AI can lead to significant improvements in applications many of us use every day,” says Kelly Trindel, head of machine learning trust at Workday. “Just think of your own experiences with your favorite navigation service, streaming service, or online shopping site. AI greatly improves results and provides you with a more meaningful, personalized experience.”
Digital transformation that mirrors real-life experiences is also a salve for first-year anxieties shared by nearly all students.
“More than ever, students expect a campus experience that mimics their life—how they order food, access their residence, communicate with peers and engage with faculty and the administration,” says Michael Hofherr, general manager of Workday Student and former CIO of Ohio State University. “All of those interactions need to evolve, and at the core of that evolution is digital transformation.”
5. Embracing Change, Not Just Technology, Will Be Key to Digital Transformation Goals
Colleges know they have a digital transformation problem. In a recent Workday study, “Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation,” 68% of higher ed organizations agreed that there’s a growing gap between where their business is and where it needs to be in order to compete. And just 5% of higher ed leaders say at least half of their daily operations are digitized—the lowest of any industry.