Barriers have long existed in education; proximity, access to resources, logistics, financial and social. Many of these barriers have been removed by forward-thinking institutions and individuals (that’s another conversation, but Sal Khan embodies it). The truth is “the student” changes with time and so should the institutions; the key is the pace of that change. Often, we (speaking from the institutions’ point of view) wait for time to pass before adjusting to this change. This lead time is beginning to shrink as institutions are beginning to implement a more rapid pace of change in order to remain competitive.
In Ontario, institutions have increased their investment into marketing strategies over the last 10 years in order to compete outside of their traditional catchment areas and expand their reach. Furthermore, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is now looking to institutions to create Strategic Mandate Agreements to focus their efforts and diversify the product offerings available in Ontario. Education is becoming less about geographic location and more about a desired product offering.
The worlds of business and education have collided; however, many organizations are still slow to react. Major change is on the horizon in Canada and it is being seen through the innovation around data driven business processes (from prospect management to alumni relations), predictive modelling and customized user experiences.
Technology is playing a major role in this change. The format of education has shifted from a “one to many” model towards a “many to many” model that increases lateral student interactions and decreases the reliance on professors to foster discussion. Predictive modelling can allow institutions to better predict student behaviours and needs.
Technology and business processes need to adapt accordingly in order to offer students seamless access to the information they desire, as well as customized products that build on their previous behaviours. Soon, educators will be able to rely on business processes to warn of potentially disengaged students through data driven analysis. For example, a student with higher risk factors (1st Generation, background or low grades) who visits your counselling services webpage may be afraid to send an email to book an appointment. However, these actions combined with their background may offer the institution the opportunity to allow that data to trigger an email to the student with information relevant to their needs.
In summary, education is shifting towards a more competitive landscape that can leverage technology to offer a better student experience. Creating these customized user experiences will separate the institutions that treat students like a number, versus those who treat them as individuals.