For years, technology professionals working in higher education tried to explain the role and impact possibilities their work could have on a campus. This drive to share ramped up as technology switched from gears and widgets to transformational solutions capable of dramatically shifting and improving every facet of academic business. Yet, somehow technology remained in the company of very basic operations; think toilet flush and light switch – level company.
There will likely be no other event in our lifetime that serves as a larger catalyst for technology awareness and appreciation than today’s Covid-19 pandemic. Eyes once blind to its capabilities, technology is now recognized as a business solution rather than a basic facility. And we keep diving deeper.
While technology will and should never replace those who teach and those who learn, we now know that technology is capable of smoothing any imaginable gap between those two important populations.
Today, as our world is seeped in anxiety and stress, technology is proving invaluable in easing those feelings and struggles on college campuses in several ways.
Empowering connectedness. The value of education is in the sharing of knowledge. Doubt reared its head last spring on higher education’s ability to deliver quality education, virtually, and in any equitable way. While the remainder of spring 2020 felt reactive, as the whole world in fact reacted to an unprecedented pandemic, today we are certainly stronger.
Today, classroom technologies support teaching and learning from everywhere. Robust, holistic wireless environments now facilitate connectedness within the classroom, on rolling campus lawns, in university parking lots and within even the most remote of dorms. Summertime was spent eliminating legacy wifi blackout spots and bolstering weak signals in aged housing facilities.
Perhaps Covid-19’s demand for remote options will once and for all lessen the notion that online learning is somehow less than face to face learning. Only time will tell, yet technology leadership tirelessly tackled these doubts to ensure that tomorrow’s leaders don’t need to lose their trajectory due to a gap year or years.
Contactless services. In an industry where high-touch, white-glove service appeared to serve as a significant differentiator for students and their families in the college selection process, the idea of pursuing contactless options during Covid-19 seemed damaging. However, technology has made this transition somehow even more high-touch without the – well – touch.
From mobile ordering options in campus dining to the choice of attending class from the comfort of your university apartment in jammies, we are learning communication and interaction has a different definition for today’s students.
In fact, online options for town halls and morning coffees with the college president are now easier, more schedule-friendly and result in higher attendance than ever before.
By implementing virtual options, we are delivering conveniences that students actually prefer.
Covid-19 has forced colleges to re-think legacy assumptions that will inevitably lead to higher student engagement and feelings of connectedness. And most rely on technology as the foundation.
Personal safety and wellness. From persistent pandemic-related health concerns to this week’s presidential election stress, campus users fear for their own personal safety and well-being in this new abnormal.
Current technologies alleviating these fears include mobile options to check-in on campus and log body temperatures, call for first aid with the press of a button and hold doctor appointments online. For physical safety and security, mobile app panic buttons and ‘if you see something, say something’ anonymous reporting options are being implemented more and more.
Students want more physical interaction with their friends and less with campus services and college leaders. It’s not a slight; it’s a reality. And it doesn’t mean they don’t want the services; students just don’t want to waste time physically interacting to receive them.
As a result…
Covid-19 is scary. Presidential election stress is real. Let’s face it, entering college without these additional layers of anxiety is tough enough. Higher education is listening and learning and making some very real changes in response to challenges throughout these atypical times.
While the technology facilitators for improved connectedness, contactless services and health/wellness support are important, the fall semester’s low-tech support deliverables are equally important. Therefore tech solutions need to remain intentional and complementary.
Technology needs to connect the dots, not necessarily be the dot. And this fall, amidst all the anxiety, those connections are facilitating response and lessening the worries of our most valuable assets.