Digital transformation in Higher Education

Higher education is Australia’s third biggest export earner, worth up to $28b to the Australian economy.[1] It is also an industry that is continually going through major change and regeneration.

Increasing global competition, the changing needs of learners, and outdated learning practices are all issues Australian universities face. To withstand these factors and to continue to attract talent, Australian universities need to undertake major change.

Western Sydney University (WSU), has undertaken a major digital transformation to improve customer experience. From a brand relaunch in 2015, to a new student portal and revamped website, these initiatives are all aimed at improving the university's end-to-end student engagement and lifecycle approach.

The proposition for WSU is to provide for the diverse needs of staff and students through the delivery of dynamic learning and research experiences, whether on or off campus.

A lot of change in the university sector driven by government legislation increased competition and changing society expectations. Marketing Chief of WSU Glenis Carroll said a key challenge for WSU, like many university organisations, is to keep pace with the students it wants to serve.

“One of our strategic initiatives is to be student-centred. It is really important we are operating in the channels that our prospective students, and our existing students, use all of the time in their daily lives, and that we are operating in a manner they are used to with all of the other platforms that they engage with,” she said.[2]

Data Driven Course Design

WSU is moving away from promoting its courses along faculty lines to broader ideas that it’s calling “meta-themes” in a bid to appeal to a wider domestic and international audience. The university is using data to determine the lifecycle of a course based on enrolment, student satisfaction, and demands of professions and the community.

WSU is using the Adobe platform to conduct A/B tests on content and provide feedback to faculties. Google search data is also being used to explore new course possibilities. [3]

Multi-Campus Smart Design

Analytics plays a role in monitoring usage of the university’s physical assets as well.

Recently opening a new $220.5 million flagship campus in the Parramatta CBD, analytics are being used to understand how students are using the building

IT Supporting the Digital Transformation of WSU

Virtually no section of the university has remained untouched by the university wide digital transformation.

To ensure the systems themselves could keep up with the changes, the University moved 75 per cent of its tech service to the cloud as part of their digital services strategy. This was done to accommodate a shift in the style of learning where students were taking part in classes through digital platforms, and also an increase in online content being an integral part of curriculum.[4]

“How you make life easy for students and how you enhance their university life through digital tools and experiences is a very significant process for a number of universities, and in investing and developing that. If they don’t, they will get left behind. People will want to start going to universities that give them a better experience - not just a degree,” concluded Carroll.

 

[1] http://www.afr.com/leadership/education-exports-are-worth-28-billion-a-year-nearly-20pc-more-than-we-thought-20171005-gyvc8v

[2] https://www.cmo.com.au/article/640466/western-sydney-university-ramps-up-digital-transformation-push/

[3] https://which-50.com/becoming-irrelevant-biggest-threat-higher-education/

[4] https://www.cio.com.au/article/625497/western-sydney-university-cloud-push/