What is DX in education?

For publishers, courseware developers, and technology providers, the need for digital transformation (DX) in education creates opportunities and prompts innovations to support students, faculty, and academic institutions – across all stages of learning. DX expands beyond the move of content online to that of adopting technologies for curriculum delivery or improved efficiency. For an academic institution, it is a decisive strategic direction with a defined set of iterative steps with the goal of increasing their value, reputation, and sustainability through enhanced learner outcomes. With its role continuing to rise in importance, DX underpins the progression of higher education.

Addressing DX in support of education is not new, yet the prevalence of attention and investments continues to accelerate, especially on the heels of the pandemic.  EDUCAUSE, a non-profit association and leading voice for the use of information technology (IT) in higher education, issued a 2020 study entitled, Driving Digital Transformation in Higher Education, which reported that 67% of leaders across higher education IT believe that DX has become more important in the past 2 years, with an additional 31% seeing it just as important as it was two years ago, highlighting that DX across the education spectrum is well underway.

DX fundamentally focuses on providing accessibility to desired learning resources, coupled with technology to enhance the student experience, thereby making learning more personalized, advancing teaching and collaboration, and enabling enhanced engagement and understanding through increasingly interactive and immersive approaches. A host of new technologies and innovations continue to impact educational outcomes including: refinement of online and remote learning, nano and adaptive learning approaches, learner-based digital analytics and performance metrics, immersive and simulated learning via augmented and virtual reality, advanced connectivity and collaboration, and an increased influx of artificial intelligence.

Understanding how the combination of content and technology supports curricula, learning objectives, and learning efficiency and effectiveness is an important strategic imperative for publishers and developers. To understand how your organization can support DX in education, we offer a short list of considerations:

  • DX is strategic, not operational.  Does your organization understand where DX fits into your academic customers’ strategic objectives?  Are conversations happening across the institution – with academic and curriculum leadership, faculty, library, along with learners – to best understand needs and identify opportunities, challenges, and barriers?
  • Learner outcomes are central.  What are the core learning objectives for your academic customers?  Where do they see gaps with student outcomes?  How is the institution transitioning to support today’s – and tomorrow’s – learners?  Where do they see challenges with current educational resources?
  • DX in support of education must evolve.  Does your organization have clear knowledge of current learning needs, but also understand the road ahead?  How are you supporting academic customers through points of transition and change?  How are your education products, platforms, and services meeting the needs of tomorrow’s learners?

What is the market experience?

To shine additional light on the evolving education landscape and the direct impact of DX, Delta Think spoke with individuals on the front line about their experiences:

  • Dr. Jonathan Wisco, Associate Professor & Director of the Laboratory for Translational Anatomy of Degenerative Diseases and Developmental Disorders, Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology at Boston University (BU) School of Medicine, whose recent work was instrumental in the re-engineering of BU’s medical curriculum, and
  • Brian Moore, Director of Online Learning, Assessment, Examinations & Curriculum Planning at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), lead for AAOS’s residency online learning platform – Resident Orthopaedic Core Curriculum (ROCK)

Delta Think: With the evolving move to digital content and education platforms across the academic landscape, what do you see as some of the most important benefits for your learners?

  • Dr. Wisco: “Digital content has been available for some time, so accessibility has been dependent on whether students have internet access and an electronic device that is updated enough to view and interact with the content. Content that runs on a flexible platform is best since it will run on any type of device.  Accessibility for students and faculty alike is key.”
  • Brian Moore: “A key advantage for our learners is the ease and speed of access.  Prior to our digital transition in 2017, learners would have had to wait for the book, video, or DVD-ROM.  As a result, we’ve moved from an intentional, pre-mediated purchase to a resource utilized in their day-to-day.  With technology now underpinning the learning environment, we also have the ability to crosslink content sources, curate content to cover particular subject areas, along with the ability to keep it up to date – all of which bring efficiency and increased effectiveness to our learners.”

Delta Think: Conversely, from your vantage point, what have been the primary challenges for your institution/organization with its digital transformation?

  • Dr. Wisco: “The cost and the ability for educators to adjust to a digital world, not just to disseminate interactive content, but how to utilize it to its full potential as part of learning activities and assessment. Cost is by far the biggest challenge. Students prefer free resources but will pay under duress to buy resources that will help them succeed on their assessments.”
  • Brian Moore: “Prioritizing content migration.  When we first launched the ROCK, everyone across the organization wanted to be a part of this new ‘delivery channel.’  Being intentional about what we moved and in what order aided in our success.  Similarly, having a clear development strategy driven by a thorough assessment of the market’s needs was essential.  And, don’t underestimate maintenance – you can’t leave online content static; it needs refreshing to stay relevant for today’s learners.”

Delta Think: Knowing that you and your organizations are on the path of digital transformation in support of education, what advice would you offer to peers who have yet to head in this direction?

  • Dr. Wisco: “As an educator, I would say working with a coach or mentor to help you navigate through the process!  Leverage the learnings of others and understand that change is challenging.”
  • Brian Moore: “It takes time!  Budget more in terms of time and resources to implement – even if you have assets ready to go, it takes time to learn new systems, build new competencies.  It’s new to your staff, processes, and culture.”
How can Delta Think help you?
Delta Think has helped publishers, societies, technology companies, start-ups and others find their place in this rapidly transforming education ecosystem.  We collaborate with our clients using proven methodologies to define actionable, customer-driven strategies across content and product development, commercial infrastructure, and operations.  Our experience across the education landscape – from undergraduate and graduate-level through to professional development, licensure, and certification – is your opportunity. We’d love to share more about what we are seeing and hearing in the world of education and how you can learn to thrive in this fast-moving landscape.Contact us today to discuss an education-based project customized to satisfy your specific organizational objectives and budget.

Want to hear more?

Join Dr. Wisco and Brian Moore, along with several of today’s early learners on May 16th at 11am EDT for the upcoming webinar: HOW HAS DIGITAL EDUCATION IMPACTED HOW WE LEARN, TEACH, & RESEARCH?  The session is part of Silverchair Technologies Platform Strategies 2023: Strategies Spotlight series.  The webinar will be co-moderated by Jake Zarnegar, Silverchair’s Chief Client Strategy Officer, and Diane Harnish, Director of Delta Think’s Education Practice. Register today!