Digital transformation is becoming an all-too-familiar concept for organizations spanning from the business world to academia. As digital technology evolves, clients and consumers expect their institutions to keep pace, providing up-to-date experiences at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, upgrading IT infrastructure and services is non-trivial, both in terms of time and expense. This forces these organizations to carefully consider how to innovate in ways that are cost-effective, but still nimble in a constantly evolving environment.
Today’s IT expectations in the educational arena
In the academic world and beyond, IT has traditionally been a centralized service, allowing for a focused and consistent experience across the organization. And there was a time when it made sense for technical decisions to fall in the hands of a specialized team. Tools were often too complex for layman use and small changes in settings could knock the entire system offline. In today’s IT space, however, this centralized model introduces a number of challenges, including:
- Slow response to requests for change
- Decision-makers who are too far removed from their user base
- A one-size-fits-all methodology for technology implementation
- Front-line users (educators, learning managers, etc.) with little say in their tools
In response to these concerns, we’ve seen the rise of “Shadow IT,” or the implementation of IT strategies on a more granular level. Various department heads may be researching and using their own IT solutions without any greater approval or support. And while this can give individual teams better access to the tools they need, this decentralized system can cause other infrastructure issues due to the lack of bigger-picture planning and coordination.
The role of the modern learning partner
With the pressure to adapt and evolve, limited budgets, and decentralized IT decision-making, how can organizations adapt? How can they efficiently meet the needs of a savvy clientele? The answer may be to partner with an external learning partner who can consult on IT requirements, as well as help set up new systems and content that allow learning managers to better support the diverse needs of the organization.
A nimble learning partner can:
- Listen to organizational requests and experiences
- Examine existing infrastructure investments such as LMS systems and other learning platforms
- Build and deploy a rapid cloud-based system leveraging existing systems
- Assist in the building of new learning content, including MOOCs (massively open online courses)
These changes provide a number of benefits to learning managers, the largest of which is the freedom to experiment. They may explore different models of engagement, such as subscription-based or usage-based content modes. They might play around with new formats like MOOCs deployed on a cloud infrastructure. And while they experiment, cloud-based learning systems can provide instant reporting and analytics on learning outcomes. This real-time feedback allows for quick edits to content and delivery process, ensuring the best learning situation possible.
What to look for in a quality learning partner
As learning content is at the core of any academic institution, finding a quality learning partner is essential. First and foremost, a learning partner should be willing to take the time to learn about organizational needs. Beyond that, a quality learning partner should have:
- the capability to rapidly deploy a cloud-based learning solution
- a strategic mindset in learning design and learning frameworks
- the knowledge and skills in creative content development to provide support in porting existing content into modern blended or hybrid learning models
- the ability to operate in a pilot and/or prototyping phase to allow for experimentation with various ideas and models
- on-board resources for building rich media, video-based, and interactive course that engage learners and deliver high learning outcomes
- strong analytic and reporting tools for collecting meaningful feedback
- a willingness and ability to serve in a consulting role to usher the organization forward through the digital transformation process
Digital transformation doesn’t need to be a pain point for an organization. A strong learning partner can serve as a guide to a smooth transition while also sharing information on current and best practices. And ideally, with a cloud-based learning solution, the organization will be well-situated to stay ahead of the modern learning movement into the future.