Despite high usage of digital sources during the Covid-19 crisis, mixed student feedback has indicated a need to improve student experience, engagement and outcomes, according to a survey of 17,000 students organised by L.E.K. Consulting.

“Folks just think that digital transformation is about getting your content online”

Ashwin Assomull, who is a partner in Global Education Practice for the management consultancy firm, reemphasised at the IFC Education webinar that the education sector has been a lot slower at embracing technology than other sectors such as retail and healthcare.

Digital transformation can benefit multiple spheres of international education including student recruitment – by generating leads and increasing enrolments and reach – and student experience academically, through blended learning and learning management system tools, in addition to student life and services.

“Folks just think that digital transformation is about getting your content online and delivering lessons over a video call, that’s very passé,” he said.

“There’s a lot more that needs to be invested in terms of helping with organisational change, training teachers, training students, getting them to embrace the technology.”

Further, digital transformation can boost student employment outcomes through Job Aggregation and Employer/Alumni Relationship Management. However, student responses indicated that digitised career services could be improved.

While students rated student recruitment, student life services and assessments and examinations as reasonably satisfactory, a higher proportion indicated digital career services could be improved.

Photo: L.E.K.

Assomull placed a big emphasis on the importance of investing in training of organisations’ staff and students to comfortably use the new technologies, rather than just simply paying for the programs.

Although common thought suggests that best practice would originate in the US and Europe, findings showed that emerging markets such as South Africa were where some of the best examples to replicate could be found.

Afya Education Group in Brazil and Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India are institutions leading the way when it comes to digital learning, he noted.

CEO of Honoris United Universities Luis Lopez – whose organisation focuses on the higher education of 45,000 students in Africa, with a strong footprint in southern Africa but also now in Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia – shared reasons for Honoris managing to come out of the overnight process of digital transformation relatively unscathed.

He revealed that the capability to respond well was partially due to luck but also to the strategy within its three-phase plan which included a mandate that called for ‘clarity and simplicity of purpose’.

Lopez said, “What is clear is that behind digital transformation are our human skills, the need for soft skills that we keep seeing across the board become very elevated and agility becomes very important.”

Sudeep Laad, also a partner in global education practice at L.E.K. Consulting, went into greater detail about the importance of digital transformation in higher education institutions.

Transformation improves student experience, engagement and outcomes in the form of operational efficiency and non-academic activities, future-proofs universities for a more tech-enabled world and allows brick and mortar universities to access new markets and new geographies.

Laad told the webinar that according to case studies 70% of students want some proportion of learning online, making it vital that institutions up their game.

“A big area that students are highlighting is around student engagement”

“There is more work to be done, [teachers and faculty] could be equipped much more in order to create a seamless, remote learning experience,” he said

“A big area that students are highlighting is around student engagement. This manifests itself in the form of quality of content, in the form of greater interactivity, as well as other forms, such as personalisation.”

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