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The Study Hall

Addressing the High Stakes in Higher Education

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenges across education as schools explore ways to evolve the learning experience and keep students engaged outside the physical classroom. These circumstances have fundamentally changed the way educators are leveraging technology and driving unprecedented usage of existing tools.

The pandemic has changed everything for schools, from decision-making processes and resource prioritization to short and long-term goal setting to empowering educators and engaging students with technology. Underlying it all is an evolving focus on student success; ensuring learners are able to meet their academic goals, empowering and enabling faculty, and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of all.

We recently hosted an executive forum focused on bringing together industry thought leaders, educators, and administrators to explore changes they’ve seen in their institutions, and the long- and short-term impacts they anticipate in education.

As part of the forum, I led a roundtable discussion with a panel of higher education leaders from across North America. It was interesting to identify the common themes across this diverse group, while still acknowledging the unique challenges they faced. Some of my key takeaways from the discussion:

  1. The pandemic has, by and large, allowed institutions to shrug off some of the traditional bureaucracies and streamline their decision-making processes. This has allowed a nimbleness in making strategic buying decisions not often endorsed within higher education institutions.
  2. Most colleges and universities quickly learned from the frenzied rush to remote learning in the spring of 2020, and have been able to lay solid plans for more well-designed blended and/or distance learning models in the fall. Most also have a clear focus on contingency planning to adapt to what could be a very turbulent beginning of the upcoming school year.
  3. Though addressing short-term needs, these changes and investments in technology are being viewed as long-term solutions rather than stop-gaps. Coming out of the pandemic, schools will be more prepared for whatever the future holds than ever before.
“With the pandemic, we’re being compelled to identify places where we might have had a patch over a problem both with the technology and other aspects within the university system. Now, we're hopefully going to address the root causes of some of the problems that were leading to some of the inequities that we've been seeing on our campuses.”

Glenn Davis
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Bowling Green State University

While COVID-19 has tested the resilience of many aspects of our society, what seems clear is that higher education is evolving to face these challenges as it has throughout history, as a creative and collaborative community focused on the wellbeing of every member.

Reflecting on the panel discussion, and the executive forum as a whole, what’s clear is the excitement and energy higher education leaders are bringing to solve these challenges. More than once we discussed how interesting looking back on the coming year will be, the insights we’ll have gained and the lessons learned. It’s a journey we’re all on together, and we’ll no doubt come through it much wiser.

I invite you to access the recorded sessions from all our presenters to draw on their insights and best practices, and see the strategic ways their institutions are adapting to meet the needs of every student.