Whenever technology leaps forward, it changes how people communicate, do their jobs, and work towards an education. In the modern era, we have watched as the capacity for digital transformation has shifted industry around the world. We have also seen these new capabilities become increasingly prevalent in the education sector, presenting challenges but also setting the stage for an incredible opportunity.

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the adoption of digital technology across a particular industry, changing how people complete certain tasks. It has had a tremendous impact on how people communicate and engage with each other. In particular, we have seen growing interest in a digital transformation within the education sector. 


Digital transformation and education

Even prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the digital transformation had begun to take hold in schools, and education as a whole. Back in 2018, an estimated 35.3 percent of college students reported taking at least one class online during their degree programs. Additionally, technology had begun to play an essential role in the classroom. Teachers learned how to incorporate computers into their lessons and teaching how to use technology, while also being a responsible digital citizen, became increasingly critical topics for schools to address. For students themselves, social media platforms become a crucial part of socialization and engaging with peers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, it only accelerated many of these trends. As countries introduced laws that limited large groups of people to gather for any reason, including education, schools found themselves looking for digital means to keep students learning when they couldn't be together in person. Technology became an important part of the solution. 

With the pandemic, schools were forced to accelerate their adoption of technology, highlighting not only the value that these tools can offer schools but also the challenges that remain in the digital transformation of education. 

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Digital transformation of educational challenges

1. People are used to the status quo

People, generally speaking, like to continue to do things the way that they have always done them. It can be a challenge to convince people to adopt entirely new methodologies to complete tasks that they felt they have always done well before. This is particularly true in education.

When asking people to adopt new technology within education, they must understand how these capabilities complement and improve their existing methods. They must be shown how the new technology will make certain areas of their jobs easier. Otherwise, people often feel reluctant to take critical steps towards a complete digital transformation. This point remains true both for the heads of educational organizations, such as universities, and for individual teachers faced with the question of transforming their classroom. 

Educating people on digital transformation, teaching them the skills needed in easily digestible chunks, and helping them understand the benefits for them and their students by completing this transformation remains the key to earning their buy-in.


2. A lack of a clear strategy or direction for the digital adoption

A lack of a strategy with any new technology adoption can be a challenge. When a large school is faced with the vague task of completing a digital transformation, it can be a challenge to know how to achieve this goal and the projected outcomes if a stated direction and desired outcomes are not outlined from the beginning.

A transformation of this size can feel intimidating for many within the institution. Leading the educators and administrators forward, however, will see the best success when a solid strategy can make it clear what the school wants to accomplish and the major points and steps they will focus on to achieve this objective.

Outline for everyone at the school a strategy that includes:

  • What the school wants to accomplish by the end of this digital transformation and why,
  • The steps that the school will take to reach this objective.
  • The support that will be offered to educators throughout the process to help them make the switch.

This will help everyone feel more comfortable with the process and know what is expected of them throughout the journey. It will also provide the school with measurable objectives that they can use to measure their progress throughout their transformation. Use these points to make sure the process remains on track and accomplishes the goals you set out to achieve. 

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3. Incomplete knowledge of the skills needed to achieve meaningful digital adoption

For people to confidently and competently adapt to a digital transformation within the education sector, they must also have the skills needed to effectively use the technology. However, many skills gaps plague people across industries in sectors. In the United States, about 1 in 3 workers have limited or no digital skills, and in the UK, about 43 percent of STEM vacancies go unfilled because workers do not have the competent skills needed to fill them. 

In other words, the skills gaps remain an important consideration when trying to successfully transform educational institutions.

Therefore, schools need to find ways to incorporate key learning opportunities into their digital transformation plan. Including workshops and seminars that will empower educators and administrators to take advantage of the full potential of education will play a vital role. Create an environment where continuous learning is expected and appreciated within the institution. Help educators continue to modernize and build technological skills so that they can serve the modern student.

4. Unclear data pictures for the institution

Thanks to the sheer amount of data available online, educational institutions do not have to worry about a lack of information about their students, their classes, or the school as a whole. Unfortunately, many institutions lack the capabilities to fully integrate this wealth of data. They often collect it in silos, for example with the marketing team capturing information about website engagement and the admissions office collecting information on applications, acceptance rates, and degrees completed, but the different departments fail to bring their information into a single localized source. This leads to a lack of critical knowledge concerning prospective users, how students engage with the institution as a whole, and the ability of the school to engage the student from their first visit to the website until the conferring of their diploma.

Not collecting and integrating this information then places the school at a disadvantage. Without a clear picture of the school and students, the institution will make decisions regarding everything from marketing to the creation of their classes based on incomplete and inaccurate data.

A key part of any digital transformation needs to include breaking down these data silos to gain a complete understanding of how students interact with the school. This data and the available technology creates an opportunity for schools to create a more enriching and rewarding educational experience, so find the tools that will help analyze this critical data correctly to enhance capabilities moving forward. 


5. The capability of existing systems

Since technology has already begun to infiltrate the world of education over the past two decades, many educational institutions already had a variety of different tools and systems that they used to employ some limited forms of technology. Unfortunately, since these systems were not used as an integrated system, many of the systems do not work well with each other, which creates a mismatched system across the institution.

With systems that cannot integrate, the school finds itself facing the challenging dilemma of either upgrading much of their equipment, which can be a large and overwhelming expense, or trying to use disjointed systems. Unfortunately, continuing with disjointed systems often only makes the problem with data silos even worse and pushes the need to integrate the system further into the future.

Therefore, schools usually need to find that the best path toward will be to upgrade or otherwise adapt their current systems to enhance their compatibility and make it possible for the system to work together.

Written by

Consultant - EHL Education Consulting

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