The Covid-19 crisis has wreaked havoc on the higher education sector. Universities worldwide have been forced to wind up lectures and scale down research, sending staff and students home. Yet universities are businesses, dependent on fees from students and income from conferences and other activities. Colleges that can’t continue providing education face financial hardship – and even collapse.
Globally, higher education providers have responded with online support for remote studying. However, with labs closed and libraries locked down, faculties face a huge challenge in providing students with the supporting materials they need. Universities are looking for innovative ways to enrich the learning experience from afar, with videos, rich media, such as lecture recordings and tutorials, as well as other digital assets.
The ability to serve and manage assets isn’t just a route out of the current situation, and the most agile colleges are already looking at using cloud technology to amplify and support the learning experience. As the world slowly returns to normal, the right platform will help institutions pioneer and profit from new approaches to studying. In the long term, the future of education will develop a far greater bias towards sophisticated online learning experiences. This makes now the perfect time for colleges to set themselves up for success.
Higher education must go remote
Despite our increasingly connected, cloud-based world, the higher education experience has been remarkably slow to change. This is despite online learning and blended learning (where students study mostly online with a some in-person seminars) being far from a new phenomenon. This is especially true in the US and countries like Australia, where communities are separated over large distances. However, on the whole these online experiences are largely used by part-time and post-grad students, who balance study with other jobs, and foreign students who want to study at good universities abroad without moving away.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the higher-education landscape so that online delivery suddenly became the only learning-game in town. And although education institutions were unprepared for the scope of online delivery required, their familiarly and experience with digital transformation for these smaller clusters of students still stands them in good stead. This is because, even after the pandemic is over, the realisation by students that online learning doesn’t have to be a second-class experience is likely to provoke a major shift in the sector. This will result in far more students intentionally opting to study remotely, if given the choice. And the significant efficiency savings in terms of avoiding accommodation and travel costs will only make it more appealing.
Some colleges are already prepared to accelerate this digital transformation, being equipped to provide remote learning through education hubs like Moodle and Blackboard Learn. However, few have the asset management capabilities also necessary to support the more widespread integration of cloud-based learning. Creating, managing and distributing course materials and other key assets en-masse, across all departments and courses, is a huge and different challenge.
Covering your assets
While existing edtech solutions are designed to support and coordinate students’ work and discussion, they rarely consider the wider challenges of educational assets. Tutors, lecturers and other academics need to work collaboratively to produce, review and manage educational materials. Without central technology leadership, they make ad-hoc arrangements that can quickly get messy.
Typically, distributed colleagues improvise with file-sharing sites like Dropbox or WeTransfer. However, with no central repository or versioning system it’s easy for multiple contributors to get out of sync. Without a unified search function based on metadata, it’s hard to retrieve the right content from a growing library. And without central user management, it’s extremely hard to ensure content remains secure.
This challenge becomes more acute as assets are shared among students. As the audience increases, it rapidly becomes impossible to track who has access. More than that, standard file-sharing services don’t offer the analytics that show who actually has accessed the material. This robs educators of the opportunity to gather unfiltered course feedback, or proactively identify students who might need further support.
Giving a DAM about digital transformation
To solve these challenges, educational institutions need to look to digital asset management (DAM) and distribution platforms such as Imagen. The platform is designed from the ground up to support multiple contributors, making it easy for distributed teams and subject experts to work collaboratively. Assets are stored securely, protected by proper version control, and easily searched and retrieved.
This functionality is at the root of our partnership with Carleton College, a leading liberal arts school in Northfield, Minnesota, USA. Facing the disruption of the Covid-19 lockdown, and needing to move speedily to deliver spring-term classes to its students, the college engaged Imagen to implement a DAM solution that would support the move online.
Imagen was able to move quickly. The platform’s intelligent capabilities to store, manage, search and distribute content addresses the immediate need to get students the assets they require. However, the college is already benefiting from more advanced features, for example using bookmarking to direct students to specific points in class videos.
Beyond business as usual
While a DAM platform helps address universities’ current, urgent need to manage and distribute learning materials, choosing the right platform is an opportunity to embrace a new future. Already, universities are using Imagen creatively to organise and streamline workflows, and create new opportunities.
Prior to becoming an Imagen customer, Auburn University, in Alabama, USA, struggled to deliver fresh and archive material to news and media partners seeking to cover the university’s 19 varsity sports and athletic teams. “We literally had to go back page by page, one at a time, or ten pages at a time to try and find the content,” says director of multimedia and video services, Weston Carter.
Imagen now hosts and distributes Auburn’s video content, which trusted media partners access via a self-service portal. Carter adds: “We’re working a lot smarter with our media delivery now that we have a self-serve system, effectively taking the burden away from our staff.”
The digitally-evolved future of higher education
The capability to manage and distribute educational resources in the cloud isn’t just about reaching existing students, or supporting staff workflows. Liberated from the physical confines of the university, courses are free to find new audiences and create additional income. And with support for e-commerce tools, a DAM like Imagen even makes it possible to monetise individual course materials or modules, removing limits on how institutions generate revenue from their courses.
These are unprecedented days, and the travel restrictions on students, staff and delegates seem likely to remain for some time. Against this backdrop, all educators are looking for the tools they need to continue business as usual. The smartest establishments are looking also at what happens next, and at the way current events are likely to reshape education for good. Those who want to thrive amid the digital disruption that follows are investing now in the tools they’ll need to reimagine learning.
Imagen provides the secure, fast platform for you to share educational content among faculty staff and students - wherever they’re based. Discover how we can help provide continuity now, and add new possibilities for the future - read about Imagen and the education sector