Does your college’s strategic plan include technology?

Solutions provider Apogee has unveiled an interactive report for college and university leaders to see how well-prepared they are to take on the future. Many may not be.
By: | March 12, 2021
Artinspiring/Adobe

What would any institution’s strategic plan have looked like in 2020 without a heavy focus on technology? Unfortunately, many found out … after the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

According to higher ed services provider Apogee, only 64% of colleges and universities had technology initiatives in their long-range visions, missions and objectives. Just 40% had targeted online learning. Meanwhile, their focus on pedagogy climbed to 84%.

The disconnect left institutions vulnerable to the paradigm shift that occurred last spring when trying to meet the digital needs of students, staff and faculty. Although leaders did a remarkable job in rallying around the shift-to-online cause, it nonetheless showcased how imperative it is to consider the future in future planning.

“Apogee’s research data suggests that technology initiatives did not keep pace with pedagogical initiatives critical to a blended learning future,” said Teresa de Onis, vice president of marketing at Apogee. “Emergency remote learning was a pandemic-driven solution. We now must shift to deploying true blended learning – enhancing traditional learning with online modalities – to deliver a compelling differentiator for student accessibility to higher education and their retention and ultimate success.”

To that end, Apogee has launched an interactive report called the State of Higher Ed Strategic Technology Planning. The company says the report can be a guide for higher ed leaders to identify both gaps and potential opportunities as they look beyond this crisis moment.

“With the interactive report, higher ed leaders can now interact with strategic planning data from 491 institutions and compare their strategic plans to schools like theirs or to schools they aspire to be like,” de Onis said. “By benchmarking against their peers, we hope the site can support colleges to refine and strengthen strategic initiatives, especially around technology preparedness, which is playing a vital role in ensuring higher ed emerges stronger in a post-pandemic world.”

The power of technology

Leveraging this data can give leaders insight into how strong those plans were, whether they were “overindexing against schools like theirs” or simply failing to deliver pre-pandemic. The goal is to be able to see those potential missteps, see how others performed and then find solutions or new directions to take over the coming years.

“As a leader for an association that understands and advocates for the pivotal role that our colleges and universities play in California’s higher education system, I’m always looking for good data to help guide our members in their planning,” said Kristen Soares, President of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. “For our members who are working on technology preparedness plans for 2021 and beyond, the data can provide a blueprint for future success.”

Apogee’s report allows higher ed leaders to explore a range of data points related to strategic planning, from engagement and retention to innovation, personalized learning, funding models, accessibility and diversity. Users can navigate specific enrollment targets to see like-sized institutions – for example less than 1,500, 1,500-4,999 and 5,000 or more – or utilize an infographic map to do searches.

“There are 48 combinations with a view by locale,” said de Onis. “From student success to student engagement, to technology and innovation, online learning, residential living, and a lot more, these sub-initiatives offer a finely detailed and highly actionable view of what was learned.”

One of the report’s key takeaways is that larger institutions and state universities have done a better job of addressing technology and infrastructure in their planning. And those that have leaned toward online learning – such as Arizona State University, which saw a 7.6% increase in undergraduate enrollment last fall – the opportunities are there. Apogee says for smaller, midsize and more rural institutions, now is the time to critically look at whether technology is more an afterthought or can be a potential driver of student success and return on investment.