The Other Side to Technology in Higher Education

September 25, 2012

Brian C. Mitchell
Huffington Post

With the concentration lately on educational delivery, we seem to be missing important innovations that are reshaping how American higher education conducts its business.

There has been substantial discussion in the past few years about how technology is beginning to move beyond older concepts of distance learning and technology-assisted education to new arrangements like Coursera and the MOOC innovations and experimentations at institutions like Harvard and MIT They signal that the delivery methods, learning approaches and increasingly global scale of products produced from new thinking are likely to reshape 21st century education in ways not yet imagined.

One of the worst kept secrets in higher education is that most colleges and universities behave as “mom and pop” shops, steeped in traditional thinking… Depending on the institution, some have begun to utilize technology and the tools it has to offer; like Blackboard and the integration of social media, but not quite effectively. In other words, how can technology help us integrate the business and practice of higher education to make the numbers work?

The answer is complex, multi layered and evolving… but the best place to begin is … on the economic factors that drive the higher education economy, starting with tuition from the prospective applicant.

The process of admissions is a strange and complex. [Some] institutions rely on a combination of snob appeal, traditional feeder schools, targeted zip codes, financial aid predictive models, … and a lot of luck to build an admissions class. In the end, it works more or less… But only recently have colleges and universities begun to scrap older approaches and keep the money once thrown into a net cast wide for prospective applicants. A few have begun to think more concretely and coherently about where students who might want to attend colleges actively live. The answer increasingly is that these prospective applicants live in and through social media.

Some companies and institutions are starting to put technology into practice. Inigral, high tech/high touch start up in San Francisco, offers a “Schools App” program to build a bridge between what students want out of a social network and what institutions need to meet their enrollment and retention goals. In short, they believe that social networks + student engagement = student success. Inigral uses social media to improve enrollment and retention with a private social network, now already in place at more than 85 colleges and universities.

The second example is National Media, an Alexandria, VA-based firm noted principally for work that links media and politics to deliver a targeted message. Quietly however, National Media has begun to imagine how the Edvance Foundation can use what social media can teach us about reaching millions of community college students who might be interested in graduating from the two-year institution and moving toward a four-year degree; leading to early identification, which if combined with informed mentorship and rigorous assessment from “cradle through career,” could dramatically enhances graduation rates for students in the pipeline.

These examples bring me to the point of my story. It’s not enough to drive system change through pedagogy and educational practices. System change is systemic. It starts with how we conduct our business, how nimble, creative and adaptive we choose to be, and how quickly we are able to modify what we do to take advantage of how to do what we do better…

To read the full article, you may view it here on Huffington Post.