Dealing with Change: How Universities Can Evolve for the Future While Maintaining Mission

Last updated on: October 10, 2023

clock icon 5 minute read
clock icon 5 minute read

The higher education landscape continues to evolve due to advancements in technology, increased competition, variations in student demographics, and changing student and employer demands. Faced with these shifts, institutional administrators may not know where to best apply their efforts to cope with these changes. Fortunately, there are three key initiatives that administrators can focus on to better position their institutions to effectively address these new realities:

1. Increasing Access to New Students

2. Overcoming Faculty Technology Concerns

3. Refining and Supporting the Student Journey

The future of higher education relies on the ability of institutions to become more adaptable, flexible, and agile in the way they approach the development, offerings, and support of their degree programs and learning design. Read on to gain insight into why these three areas are key to institutions’ success and resiliency, as well as ways they can be implemented.

1. Increasing Access to New Types of Students

Student demographics have changed drastically in recent years as access to higher education has increased and many working professionals are going back to school for continuing education or to obtain higher-level degrees. To effectively respond to these changing demographics and to draw new students into their fold, schools should consider offering strategic and scalable learning options that align with the needs of students and the job market.

This includes consideration into the types of learning options students and employers need, such as: programs, certificates, and specializations, as well as the types of learning modalities, including: online, on-ground, and hybrid. Institutions that focus on strategically aligning their course offerings to market needs will have the opportunity to appeal to a greater number of students, therefore extending their reach into new student markets – both to audiences outside metro areas and to those within these areas who cannot travel to campus.

However, executing a market-focused plan to increase access to new students can be time and resource intensive. To address this, schools might consider implementing a forward-thinking program planning approach called Strategic Portfolio Development (SPD), which enables institutions to:

  • Maximize the use of resources
  • Quickly and efficiently increase the number of desirable programs offered
  • Grow a more robust and long-lasting digital presence
  • Maximize the courses offered
  • Bridge outcomes with workforce expectations
  • Increase enrollments as students often prefer programs that allow them to focus on a specific, market-relevant specialization

SPD can help institutions more efficiently operate in future markets because it provides a framework to identify strategic and scalable “market-interesting” digital program anchors, and then creates a series of “suites” that build off each other, potentially interconnecting current and future content and program areas. This means already-created content and courses can be re-utilized in other in-demand learning offerings, allowing institutions to increase access to students in a much more efficient way. This approach enables institutions to meet the evolving needs of their students and employment markets. It involves analyzing trends in the market and understanding where the educational gaps and opportunities exist — not just to identify students, but also to help students prepare for jobs. By doing this, administrators can build flexible online curriculum that meet the needs of today’s learners.

2. Overcoming Faculty Technology Concerns

Although technology is making a significant impact on the way students engage in learning, many professors are skeptical of the online learning environment. Some pundits believe sitting in a traditional classroom with a professor provides more value than engaging virtually.

In a recent study conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed, faculty views on remote learning were mixed. Consistent with their generally negative views of online education, faculty members did not view it as superior to in-person instruction in meeting any of 10 specific course objectives, including: delivering course content, engaging students in course material, and interacting with students. However, enrollment growth in online courses continues to outpace overall higher education rates (10 times in 2011*), meaning that online learning is here to stay.

To overcome negative faculty views and gain support for various online learning initiatives, school administrators should consider taking deliberate action. This requires fully understanding, validating, and addressing these concerns, which fall into three key areas: quality, support, and incentives. With careful planning and action directed at these three areas, administrators can make the difference between building a thriving, high-quality online or blended initiative, and creating a flash point of resentment and ongoing conflict with poor outcomes on campus.

Overall, it’s true that faculty can be skeptical and have concerns regarding the quality and outcomes of online education. But there are opportunities for an administration to support its faculty in adapting to new technologies, because if they’re not aligned with them, it can impact the overall quality of the program.

3. Refining and Supporting the Student Journey

With the proliferation of e-commerce businesses such as, students’ expectations for institutions have shifted to a more customer service-like model. If students don’t receive the support and attention they expect from an institution, they are likely to go elsewhere. For colleges and universities to differentiate themselves, increase enrollments, and retain students, it’s essential they focus heavily on improving student experiences across the lifecycle, from the very first touch point to graduation.

A key aspect of facilitating quality experiences for students is customization because not every student behaves, thinks, or responds in quite the same way. How can institutions create quality, customized experiences when each student is different and resources are limited?

One way Wiley University Services has helped partner institutions accomplish this is through the use of Behavioral Analytics (BA), a solution that works behind the scenes of each student phone call to identify quantitative and qualitative aspects of all student interactions, including engagement, distress, empathy, and student personality style.

BA provides Wiley’s Recruitment Services and Student Retention teams with near real-time data that is used to customize interactions, predict student behavior, and act at the right time. When used, Behavioral Analytics can aid in better understanding student needs, provide the support students require to reach graduation, and improve overall decision making and resource allocation.

In sum, it’s not a tool to meet individual enrollment targets. It’s about understanding a students’ ambitions, desires, and why they are looking to go back to school. Helping students in their journey and helping them understand the value your institution has to offer – this is what really matters.

Providing the support and resources students require throughout the student journey is particularly critical as schools continue to expand in the online space and demonstrate the value of higher education. This is why many administrators have chosen to focus more on developing strategic partnerships that can assist with higher education marketing and recruiting strategies.

For more information on how to implement these key initiatives, such as addressing faculty concerns around online learning, visit our Resources page.

* Source: Allen, Elaine and Jeff Seaman. 2011. Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States: Babson Survey Research Group.

  • Let's Talk.

    Complete the form below, and we’ll be in contact soon to discuss how we can help.

    If you have a question about textbooks, please email

  • By submitting your information, you agree to the processing of your personal data as per Wiley's privacy policy and consent to be contacted by email.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.