The Latin term "Alma Mater" says it all: universities are generally highly traditional and proud of their history. For good reason. Yet it can also lead to resistance, often doggedly so, by some institutions of higher education when it comes to their processes for marketing, long-term pedagogical planning and even the matriculation process. That's a problem in the digital age.
Educating digital natives
The generation starting their university education today grew up in a networked world, and likely feels more comfortable in a Tweet chat at home than in a lecture hall. Their expectations reflect this -- after all, high school graduates want to expand their knowledge, not feel like they're stepping back into the previous century. For universities, a well-considered digital strategy can actually represent a major competitive advantage.
The pressure is growing, including from an unexpected corner. In recent years a new competitor has entered the educational arena: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have proven that the academics can live on the web. An internet connection, not access to a lecture hall, is all that's needed to participate in the learning. Lectures can be reviewed on demand on a tablet computer, supported by multimedia study materials. These systems also make it easy to communicate with fellow students. 'Social learning,' this has been dubbed. Even tests can be held on the web -- pass them to receive a digitally signed certificate by email. While the MOOC trend isn't new, it's really picked up speed of late. An increasing number of platforms have emerged, with high quality offerings and coveted degrees. Academy Cube helps participants expand their skills and then links them directly into an integrated job portal. In the words of ex-Google R&D Head Sebastian Thrun, Udacity aspires to someday become the "university of Silicon Valley, teaching soft skills as well." The Hasso-Plattner-Institut of Potsdam, Germany offers openHPI , training the next generation of coveted specialists. In this changed educational market, universities need to consider and reconsider their roles -- and move towards acting as a kind of service provider.
Technology as Key
Well-known universities are drawing inspiration from MOOC offerings -- from their flexibility, accessibility of the learning materials on all end devices and ease of consumption. But the practical designs they're copying actually come from business: integrated IT systems have long been the standard there. Many universities are still lacking that type of start-to-finish infrastructures; student data is stored in a multitude of isolated systems. How can a student maintain an overview of his or her grades with a system like that in place? And that's really just one of the most basic expectations.
What really matters to the students of the future -- and how can innovative IT help universities fulfill those expectations? For example, what opportunities can techniques developed for IT-based omnichannel marketing provide in the effort to connect with students?
Discuss these and other questions at the Public Sector Parc (Hall 6) and the job and career (Hall 11) section at the CeBIT 2016, or visit the universities in the Research & Innovation exhibit in Hall 6.