*Internet of Things. Post is based on an article in University World News
Universities, and the role they play in society, are under threat from the impact of the ongoing pandemic. While not often being a sector in financial crisis, many universities now predict a fall in core national funding as a result of COVID-19, due to huge hits they have taken on rental and commercial services and contractual research.
Most universities see a fall in income from international students, with travel restrictions limiting student to study abroad. Estimates of losses to the UK university sector alone for example range from £3 billion to £19 billion per year as a result of the coronavirus. These financial challenges are a huge hit to university institutions. The higher education sector is one of the few that, before the pandemic, had not faced major digital transformation and has historically been slow to adapt. Now, however, universities must downsize their physical assets and look to where they can digitalise.
The financial benefits of a digital future
To streamline costs, universities need to adapt and digitalise across all departments. This will include investing in innovative technologies across artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, blockchain and mobile.
Such a transition, however, will require significant change towards a culture of data-driven decision-making. This transition could provide not merely cost-cutting benefits to universities longer term but would help create higher education institutions that are more accessible and inclusive than ever before.
Cloud computing is one of those key areas that universities must invest in; that way universities can focus budgets longer term on teaching programmes and research activities while reducing on-site IT infrastructure costs and decreasing IT support requirements, without needing to consider IT infrastructure.
Flexible, scalable cloud computing services can be used to provide software, hardware and storage on demand and be easily deployed when required.
Learning content management systems are another area where universities can ease budget burdens. Such systems can automate university workflows, saving an estimated US$500,000 and 20,000 hours of work per year.
Aside from these improvements, they also modernise and optimise the wider learning experience for students. They can be leveraged to track student learning via data analytics, better informing effective spending decisions for the universities themselves and ensuring students gain an improved learning experience.
Another aspect to digitalize is Student Recruitment, now even more due to cancelled local Student Fairs and accelerated by search behavior and mobile use. Webinars4you is a company that meets these needs by combining creative Digital Marketing methods to connect Universities with Students, through unique engaging Webinars.
Another important trend is Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve a number of challenges. A report on AI in higher education concludes that such technology could enable higher education services to become scalable at an unprecedented rate. Already, AI is beginning to be used by universities to provide personalised instruction and targeted academic interventions – this means teaching staff can dedicate more time to providing meaningful engagement with learners. For example, Georgia State University’s chatbot Pounce is being used to facilitate students’ post-admissions enrolment, answering students’ questions successfully and alleviating the burden on staff.
In regards to a step into the direction of AI, Webinars4you already implemented bots that answer simple searches from their website as well as finding Social media followers (both Facebook and Instagram) allowing them to provide useful content and study opportunities.
The Internet of Things is another example of where innovation can have significant benefits for the higher education sector. Infrastructure can be connected to the devices of researchers, students and professors so that university staff can better plan and use educational spaces.
For example, students could find out in advance if a study area is available or book a space in the library. Analytics can be built for parts of buildings to ensure space, savings and energy-reduction measures can be implemented.
Improving accessibility and inclusivity.
The large offering of new technologies available has the potential to transform the student experience, attracting students in greater numbers and boosting university finances. The key is to automate where possible, whilst still provide that human touch where needed. For example Webinars4you implemented Digital Marketing in combination with unique data-driven streamed Webinars, however still calling students to qualify them as well as making the in-event experience as humanly personal and engaging as possible.
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The current situation made it more than every evident that investment is needed to digitalize ASAP to ensure Higher education is accessible for everyone, wherever they are and financially viable for both the Institutes as well as the students. Only that way Education can keep being the most powerful weapon to change the world.