Notes from the Field: Higher Education

What does digital transformation look like for higher education?

For years, the world of higher education leveraged the internet more as a one-direction communication system, only pushing content out to their audience. But the field is undergoing a shift to a more bi-directional model. Today, education views the internet as an invaluable marketing asset for data collection, communication, and a deeper understanding of who, where, and what an audience is interested in.

College search, transformed.

In the pre-internet world, a prospective student would begin a college search by reviewing information sent in the mail, and then follow up with a visit to a select group of schools. Today, schools are working to better understand prospective students in real time, and bring the campus to them via engaging digital experiences. As with every other industry, digital has transformed education extremely quickly, leaving many schools lagging behind in their own technological evolutions, struggling to remain in the consideration set. 

Many higher education institutions are still in the exploratory phase of their digital transformations. They’re generally aware that the coming generation expects a highly personalized online experience, and are working to ensure they can deliver Currently, many schools are collecting data on potential digital persona targets, and planning an experience that will help drive conversions.

A test for higher education institutions.

As schools continue their transformations, challenges surface. Budgets are tighter, and every project must demonstrate ROI. (The Acquia marketing suite provides one of the best ROI use cases in the industry.) Education also faces a unique challenge in on-campus politics, which can hamper progress. Marketing and IT staff are now forced to work more closely together toward shared goals, rather than siloed in separate efforts.

Along with personalization, data collection, data security, and accessibility are priorities. There’s also an increasing push for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Institutions are beginning to utilize a business model, rather than a traditional education model, giving rise to a clear understanding of the urgent need for a proper digital experience. Many institutions are working to adjust their budgets and staffing to meet the requirements of a new digital emphasis.

The focus is personal.

The power of personalization still offers the greatest benefits for higher education. The ability to target a prospective or current student, alumni, or other very specific segment with personalized content, leading them directly to the next action item via machine learning and AI, holds astounding potential.

Sean Crowley

Sean Crowley

Area Vice President Acquia

Sean has worked in the digital space for over 9 years, working closely with hundreds of Higher Ed Institutions, non-profits, and enterprise organizations with their Digital Transformation roadmaps. From helping define programatic changes, to unlocking new ways to to engage prospective, current, and past audiences via technology, he's helped many institutions, organizations, and enterprises successfully evolve into a new age of digital engagement.