Digital transformation 2019: Advances and challenges

Juan Pablo Mena Success
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Digital transformation is a process that is increasing by leaps and bounds. Machines will perform 42% of task hours in the workplace by 2022, compared to current 29%, according to the World Economic Forum. And though 75 million jobs will be displaced, another 133 million new roles will emerge. And our Higher Education must be prepared for it.

Curricula in Higher Education Institutions should be on the cutting edge of these changes through comprehensive strategic planning, to meet the demands that society and new students will be requiring. Technology will help turn innovation into a constant. Yet, in what scenario are universities experiencing this change? And what are the main technologies available?

Below we will let you in on the challenges and breakthroughs of Higher Education transformation in current 2019.

Three Great Challenges


The scenery for higher education financing is changing- More enrollments, more dropouts, and less state funds available for financing! As a result of this impact, US universities are reacting with the pursuit of private funds.

Donations are on the rise. Education Dive reported that the University of Michigan completed a record USD $5 billion fund-raising campaign last year, just like the University of Washington, followed by the University of North Carolina and its USD $ 4.25 billion; while the University of Florida raised USD $ 3 billion.

The situation in Chile is variable, and half of all resources reported as subject to the law of donations  were awarded to two universities, namely, Universidad de los Andes and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.

Quality Assessment

How to prove that professionals educated in a certain institution are suitable for the market needs? Higher Education Institutions are implementing new measures to prevent their training from becoming obsolete by means of short-term diplomas taught as part of their curricula or through direct partnerships with the industry, with a view to designing specific curricula based on that feedback. A good assessmentwould allow for the achievement of skills needed by students to be checked in either case.

On the other hand, the internationalization of Higher Education sets high standards on schools, which turn to accreditation organizations to be quality certified. ABET is a case in point, with approximately 85,000 students graduating from ABET-accredited programs each year, and millions of graduates who have earned ABET-accredited degrees since 1932.

Use of Data

Even though this is still emerging, universities are working for an institutional culture around the right use of their own data, which may allow them to use tools for increasingly diverse analyses.

The difficulty of this task lies with the staff responsible for it. A study conducted in 2018 revealed that data governance is a key given the multiple stakeholders interested in student performance

Whether in Latin America or in the United States, Higher Education problems remain the same. Contexts are similar. An advantage in the United States is the existence of more robust transactional systems to record all the information. In our case, u-plannerprovides us with much shorter implementation times. That happens to a lesser extent too with some customers in Latin America.

The demands of the educational community and the society as well as new trends all influence directly on the priorities of universities. EDUCAUSE believes that the following are the most outstanding ones:

1. Growing complexity in security threats.

2. Focus on student performance/ imperatives.

3. Data-based decision-making.

4. Increasing complexity in technology, architecture and data.

5. IT contributions to institutional operational excellence.

How can Higher Education Institutions make a difference?

The Higher Education market has become increasingly demanding, and finding the best talents to attain high performance is an ever-growing challenge. Educations conducted a study revealing the core information prioritized by students when choosing where to study.

Factors are diverse: Detailed information on programs, opportunities for scholarships and grants, curriculum, and admission requirements.

Student Priorities

But how can these factors be addressed? Adding technology to continuous improvement processes, tracking academic achievementor strategic planning are transforming the way decisions are made.

Technology that enables a digital understanding of student behaviors in the classroom, in the university and in its systems will allow us to gather a lot of information to improve their experience significantly in a short period of time. Now it will be harder and harder for institutions to make decisions without data analysis evidence.

Using the Planning solution, for example, Instituto San Ignacio de Loyola optimized classrooms by 8%, class sizes by 6%, and student enrollment by 12% within only 2 months. Another case of continuous improvement occurred in the School of Engineering of Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, which used the Assessment solutionto obtain its ABET accreditation.

Strategic Technologies

In order to succeed, Higher Education Institutions will need to assess a solution appropriate to their challenges. EDUCAUSE ranked the most frequently used strategic technologies, and here we will show you the most relevant ones in that ranking:

Using APIs:

An API is intended for several applications to talk to each other. This allows for different systems in Higher Education Institutions to become integrated quickly or new applications to be created using APIs from different systems. 

Active Learning Classrooms:

Learning settings designed with technology and a focus on teaching. These will often use cell phones, screens, projectors or any other tool that supports learning.

Mixed Data Center (on-site & cloud-based):

It is an effect of how Higher Education Institutions are transitioning to working in the cloud. While this change takes place, they continue to have a local data center, which requires a strategy that will cover both environments.

Open Educational Resources:

Open educational resources (OERs) are free access, open license documents and means that can be useful for teaching, learning, assessment, and research.

Accessibility Technologies:

Technology available to users with different types of disability.

Technologies to improve student data analyses:

These technologies enable the finding of trends in student behaviors and different factors with an impact on their commitment to the institution and their graduation according to schedule or, even more, their dropping out.

Predictive analysis of academic performance (institutional level):

Comprehensive solutions, such as Student Success in u-plannerinclude algorithms that can be trained using institutional data to detect the main factors in the risk of student dropouts. This type of applications allow for an early alert and monitoring intended to achieve student success.

An algorithm defines a student’s experience, something very powerful. It takes a series of data-based strategic decisions to build an experience that may lead the student not only to success, but also to becoming a leader. U-plannersolutions are designed to make micro-decisions with an impact on millions.


Higher education transformation can be started from different angles. Here we review challenges for Higher Education Institutions and priorities for students when choosing a school, and even more, technologies that are being prioritized to address the universe behind higher education.

Although it may not be disruptive, this is a phenomenon that will end up changing students’ experience completely, both from the point of view of learning and in the way they live the experience on campus.

Student Success Inglés