4 Strategic Shifts in Higher Education

Digital transformation remains high on the agenda for HE institutions around the world, bringing both challenges and opportunities.

Education Intelligence Unit

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October 22, 2021

Digital transformation efforts in Higher Education have been accelerating, driven by major shifts to online, blended and hybrid learning, new credentials, expanding partnership models, and closer ties between education and work.

Our recent Open Briefing for Higher Education leaders looked at major strategic shifts and trends impacting the sector. Over 600 of you registered for this interactive session where we were also joined by HolonIQ’s Academic-In-Residence, Emeritus Professor Martin Bean, CBE. Highlights of some of the key themes covered in the session are shared below.

Digital Transformation in practice

HolonIQ’s research in Higher Education is underpinned by the Higher Education Digital Capability (HEDC) Framework and continually enriched by our Global Higher Education Network. The HEDC Framework offers an overarching view for institutions to map and measure digital capabilities across the learner lifecycle, supporting practical and sustainable approaches to digital services and online learning.

Building on the digital transformation themes covered in our 2021 Higher Education webinar series, our new Global Case Studies go deeper into the process with snapshots of how institutions are building digital capabilities along the student lifecycle. To explore these and be first to see new case studies as they are released, join the Higher Ed Network.

Four strategic shifts for Higher Education

Whilst there are many drivers and forces impacting Higher Education, some are emerging as particularly dominant global themes. ‘New Credentials’ describes shorter, more flexible credentials, now offered by a range of providers and gaining credibility among learners, employers and governments. The ‘Education Work Nexus’ highlights how higher education, work and skills are increasingly interconnected and becoming integrated, whilst ‘Borderless Competition’ refers to new types of competitors and models, including public-private partnerships. Finally, ‘Omni-Channel Learning’ looks at the ways in which Higher Education is moving to online, blended and hybrid approaches to learning and the student experience.

1: New Credentials

New forms of credential are set to play a critical role in the reshaping post-secondary education landscape. Many industry providers, including large employers and global brands are delivering and endorsing alternative learning options in specific industry verticals. Governments are building national platforms and creating incentives for integration and recognition of micro-credentials across sectors and systems.
National qualifications frameworks are beginning to incorporate flexibility for new credentials. The re-shaping post-secondary education landscape creates an opportunity for traditional providers to reconsider what, how and for whom they offer education and training.

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2: Education-Work Nexus

Changes to work and a global imperative for upskilling and retraining will see a shift in adult learner profiles and greater ties between education and work. The need to refresh and update knowledge and skills throughout a career is now critical, and the ability to easily navigate such education offerings represents a global opportunity.

As the demand for ‘real world learning’ grows, traditional university learning models are challenged. Work integrated learning will likely shift from the periphery to a core component of program design. Companies are increasingly seeing education as a talent attraction and retention mechanism and are becoming a more powerful stakeholder in education, rather than merely a recipient of its output.
Governments globally are looking to their tertiary education systems to deliver fast solutions for areas of critical and persistent skills shortages and are seeking greater cooperation and integration with tertiary education providers. One of our most recent case studies demonstrates a fascinating example of how universities are re-imagining fundamental design elements of their degree programs. Join the Global Higher Education Network to read more about this and other global studies.

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3: Borderless Competition

Universities around the world are increasingly opting for partnerships to accelerate progress towards their institutional objectives, including pathways for international students and partnerships for Bootcamp programs, often in technology focused domains such as Coding, Data Science, and Digital Marketing.
Growth in OPM and OPM-like partnerships which focus on recruitment and delivery of degree and long-form certificate programs has been phenomenal in recent years, and shows no signs of slowing. New forms of competition and collaboration go even further, spanning geographic & industry boundaries, and introducing new models for learning.

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4: Omni Channel Learning

Online, hybrid and hyflex are shaping up to be the norm for existing students and new markets. Online learning can provide a route to new markets and new students for universities. Hybrid learning is likely to dominate post-COVID undergraduate offerings. Learner choice is less constrained in post-secondary education than ever before; in the ‘age of the consumer’, higher education, like many industries, must take heed of learner preferences and build an ’omni-channel’ approach to their education offering. Such an integrated approach to digital-physical course design and delivery poses many structural, philosophical and pedagogical challenges for most institutions of higher education.

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What's Next?

If you missed any of the webinars in our earlier Higher Education series, you can catch up on the recordings for all 6 sessions on our YouTube channel and read highlights on our website.

As we continue to focus on Higher Education and digital transformation in 2021, look out for further opportunities to get involved as we pick up some key themes from our deep dives and continue to explore global perspectives in practice. You can be first to find out what’s coming by joining the Global Higher Education Network.

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