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Future of Higher Education

Why Eliminating Redundancies Can Help Higher Ed Better Help Students

With America’s colleges and universities figuring out how to improve and better deliver curriculum during and beyond the pandemic, we asked DIGARC CEO Richard Becker about how higher ed institutions can help their students succeed.

Richard Becker


What is one innovation you believe will impact higher ed over the next few years?

“Connected Curriculum.” Out of necessity, we have seen institutions embrace and largely succeed in implementing remote learning. 

The implication of successful implementation of remote learning is that institutions will ultimately recognize they are able to draw upon a wider array of course content from sources beyond their campus, seamlessly integrating remote-based learning modules and alternate institution sourced courses into a greater number of customized curriculum paths for students. 

The “democratization of course content” will drive collaboration, cooperation, and course sharing amongst campuses, systems, and institutions. This will require new “connected curriculum” technology infrastructure to enable cooperative course management across institutions, highly customized or personalized curriculum design, and dynamic scheduling and registration that accommodates both in-person and remote learning.

What piece of advice would you give to a dean or school administrator on how to improve student success?

School administrators must adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement and a mindset of collaboration. Naturally, student success begins with an outcome-based definition of success, followed by alignment of curriculum with the desired outcome, and ultimately standardized measurement of the outcome. 

The key to improvement, however, is ongoing optimization or recalibration of curriculum to improve the outcome. This should not be subjective or based on a parochial view, but rather informed by as many data points as can be obtained — including data points that exist beyond the boundaries of an individual institution. 

Cooperation amongst colleges and universities in standard setting, information sharing, and performance benchmarking will elevate the whole of the higher education system, ultimately drawing more students in with a greater likelihood of success and return on their tuition investment.

How can schools better improve equity and access to education for their students?

What is the differentiator in Accounting 101 in College A vs. College B? Likely none. There is an inefficiency that can be solved for with technology-driven, remote-based learning and course sharing amongst colleges and universities. Build once, serve many. 

In doing so, colleges and universities can more readily focus resources on highly specialized course content and curriculum that aligns with the specific student outcomes that are unique to their institution. 

There is too little differentiation across a universe of too many higher education institutions. Eliminating redundancy across the higher education ecosystem will create an efficiency that will lower costs, improving equity and access to education. 

Standardization across core curriculum will improve student outcomes, and enable a greater proportion of university budget and resources to focus on truly unique institutional learning experiences and course development.

What core values are needed in institutions’ missions in order to thrive and continue to grow for the better? 

Efficiency, collaboration, & specialization. Institutions must first confront the incredible inefficiency within both their own institutions and the greater higher education ecosystem. 

Course content and delivery across an ecosystem of over 4,000 institutions is largely redundant — unnecessarily. Through technology, curriculum planning, access, delivery, and outcomes can be both enhanced and made more affordable. Through institution collaboration, the redundancy of content and delivery can be reduced, with a higher level of learning effectiveness achieved through best practices, standardization, and technology-based interactive learning. 

Finally, with the institution more efficient and collaborative, true specialization can be achieved, with resources and funding dedicated to specialized curriculum that is unique and more carefully tied to those outcomes in which the university specializes. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There is an opportunity for higher education to build upon the initial steps it took in response to the pandemic, and fundamentally advance the way in which education is planned and delivered. 

The legacy education system is archaic, built around isolated academic entities and a fundamental disconnect between curriculum and desired student outcomes. The opportunity is to break down the artificial boundaries, and develop an open and connected network of courses and curriculum, allowing institutions to develop greater levels of customization, specialization, and depth. 

The opportunity is to leverage technology to guide student planning and success — improving access and expanding the level of customization. The technology, demand, and vision exist — what is necessary are market forces to drive institutions to change.

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