Voices from Accenture Public Service


It’s a new era – one that is increasingly changing how we interact with each other and the world around us. The internet is powering our physical world. Automation is replacing routine jobs. And coding is becoming a necessary skill. As key gateways to the workforce, what should higher education institutions do differently to prepare students for this new landscape?  

In my last blog, I discussed why higher education institutions should embrace innovation and technology to increase student engagement and redefine student success. It’s no longer a question of if they should embrace new technologies, but which ones to choose and how to best apply them. 

A new landscape in higher education

Close to 60 percent of today’s post-secondary students don’t fit the “traditional” student profile, meaning they are older, financially independent and work full time.  40 percent of ‘traditional’ students will not complete a degree within four years. Students are taking longer to graduate, if at all, as their expectation of what they want to achieve in higher education has expanded beyond just achieving a degree. However, there are not a wealth of highly flexible programs currently available to students today. For institutions that are in the business of educating and engaging students for life, this reality is alarming.

Colleges and universities have a tremendous opportunity to create personalized digital experiences and use advanced technologies to prepare students for a digital future. But with so many solutions, how do you decide which ones to invest in?

Reaching the horizon

There are five digital technologies that are changing the face of higher education: 

  • Artificial Intelligence can improve the efficiency and speed of service in as much as 85 percent of over 700 education-related processes. For example, by freeing advisors and administrators of tedious, time-consuming tasks, AI allows them to focus more time on helping students navigate the educational journey and achieve success
  • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality can enhance learning experiences, taking the student outside of the traditional classroom and into a larger world of possibilities. VR simulations of medical surgeries and Google field expeditions are just a few examples of providing students more interactive demonstrations of concepts and materials. 
  • Internet of Things changes the way that students, faculty and staff interact with each other and the campus itself. More and more smart buildings are allowing campuses to operate more efficiently by measuring energy usage and student traffic flow.
  • Machine learning captures large sets of information and can detect patterns in real time. It notices trends and inefficiencies, helping administrators predict and prevent incidences before they occur, a particularly important capability for campus safety and security.
  • Advanced analytics is a more sophisticated use of data that can further improve student experiences and outcomes. Over 60 percent of high-performing organizations invest more than a quarter of their technology budget in analytics, demonstrating its value in leading to better decision-making 

Higher education institutions have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace aging technologies with ones that can help equip the future workforce. To compete for today’s students and build lifelong engagement, institutions have to be smart about how they adapt to the digital age. That means thinking proactively and involving students and employers in the design of these digital, mobile, connected and automated campuses.  

My next blog will discuss how to use these emerging technologies to replicate the student experience for lifelong engagement and success.

I welcome your comments and other ideas – please feel free to weigh in below, and for additional perspectives on digital innovation in education, visit our content hub.

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