Online learnings rite of passage
Email, social media, and even the telephone all faced resistance when they were introduced to the market; but convenience and necessity soon trumped concerns around security and the detriment of human interactivity. Online learning faces similar arguments. We expect that opposition will subside in the near future as learning evolves with student demand, not through mandates from budget-minded administrators. Change is inevitable, and not even slow-moving higher education has been impervious to market forces. For example, with more students entering college with their own laptops, institutions are reducing the number of computer labs and investing instead in broader Wi-Fi coverage on campus.
The silver lining of the economic downturn is that it made higher education institutions more efficient, or at least aware of the need to be efficient. Consequently, they are now eager to invest in technology. Moreover, the success of for-profit and online-only institutions has whetted the appetites of traditional institutions. Nevertheless, we warn institutions against making dramatic leaps into the digital learning space without understanding how students will respond or how technology complements, instead of merely replaces, teaching.
In the meantime, higher educations efforts toward efficiency can also be directed toward streamlining the back office, which has more metric-based goals. The City University of New York, which currently has 250,000 students enrolled, announced its plans to integrate all 22 campuses onto a single administrative system, in a long-term project that aims to improve processes and eliminate vendors and workflow redundancies. By reducing waste there, institutions are uncovering funds and realigning resources to support more student-facing courses and programs.
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