Alliance in Action: Observations on Change, Transformation, and Collaboration
The theme of this year’s Higher Ed User Group Alliance Conference was the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair And much like the World’s Fair, there was no shortage of opportunities to connect, learn, and experience something new.
Some of the most compelling aspects of HEUG are its user-driven experience and the dedication and commitment of its leadership and member base. As the attendance and enthusiasm at Alliance make clear, the need to establish connections and collaborate on solutions remains critical for the education technology community.
While the diversity of sessions was far more broad-ranging than I could potentially do justice in a blog post, I will share some of the key takeaways from three learning-filled and engaging days in the Gateway City.
Change is Inevitable (And Hard)
As higher education continues to grapple with a variety of issues due to core system transitions, pedagogical efforts, staffing, and student populations, developing the means to facilitate and enact change remains a constant challenge. Looking at lessons learned, developing large- and small-scale change initiatives, and leveraging a variety of approaches show how change remains an area that higher education (like so many industries) struggles to master.
Change is not a monolithic obstacle to overcome and there are many angles to consider. Colleges and universities of all sizes are faced with high levels of complexity. While in many cases higher education processes and systems have been in place without question for decades, institutions find themselves reckoning with a drive toward digital transformation and modernization. Changes at both the macro and micro levels beg for creative solutions and diverse perspectives.
Automation as a Solution (But Not for Everything)
Several sessions showcased ways to automate previously manual processes, which can be been met with resistance. Lack of trust through loss of control, concerns about lack of personalization and management of edge cases, or even simply resistance to change (see above) has often meant that institutions are slow to adopt process automation in even the simplest of use cases.
These sessions were helpful not only for solving immediate and tactical challenges, but also for highlighting the importance of being thoughtful and intentional about where automation makes sense and how to be strategic in its use. The data provided on reduced processing time and corresponding stakeholder satisfaction in these sessions provide critical business cases in an industry that focuses extensively on best practices.
Collaboration Has Intrinsic Value
One of higher education’s most universal aspects is the willingness of its stakeholders to collaborate and share. Even so-called “rival” schools consistently demonstrate a desire to support one another in fulfilling their educational missions. The lively participation at the “Birds of a Feather” sessions and Stop & Share tables allowed stakeholders to coalesce around a variety of needs and challenges, reinforcing the “you’re not alone” ethos that makes the Alliance conference such an excellent event.
Looking forward to next year in Phoenix!