Report: Content Management Technology Critical to Higher Ed Success

(Photo: Luis Llerena, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Luis Llerena, Creative Commons)

The Digital Clarity Group, a research and advisory firm that examines how technology impacts consumers, has released a report titled "Digital Transformation in Higher Education," which examines how content management technologies are evolving in the sector.

The scope of the report focuses on universities' trajectories from publishing content to "managing experience." Researchers focused on how institutions engage with their audience through digital mediums. To do so, they looked at non-profit colleges and universities in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Reportedly, this is the first report of its kind to investigate the digital transformation from a perspective that encompasses institutions, technology vendors, and solution providers.

Institutions of higher learning are currently struggling to keep up with creating, publishing, and managing increasing amounts of content. Large volumes of content, myriad websites, a lack of governance and resource constraints signal a need on behalf of universities for better content management systems. The report details, however, how change is moving slowly within the academy.

It begins by noting that institutions of higher education in the United States and the United Kingdom are demanding more advanced applications of digital content, but there exist organizational, technological, and cultural boundaries to achieving such ends within the universities themselves.

Some institutions, however, do exhibit progress in enhancing their digital capabilities. While detecting no major sea-change at broader levels within the university system, the researchers were encouraged by the "pockets of change" they found in some institutions. At the grassroots level, managers and practitioners within content, marketing, and web operations have been developing "small projects for small wins" in content management technology. At the upper levels, digital leaders from outside academia will serve as the exporters of content management technology, and the incoming generation of faculty are likely to be more willing to take risks with these newer technological developments.

The report finds that service providers, the system integrators and agencies that implement technology solutions, are fundamental in developing content infrastructure within higher education. These providers, however, are both underused and undervalued. Many service providers have the necessary expertise to help their clients. But the clients, who lack the understanding of service providers' role, are unwilling to adopt or feel alienated by the changes being proposed.

Service providers also suffer from a lack of institution-wide support. Those that work within universities tend to work at the departmental-level with tighter budgets and narrower scopes, thus their efforts are rarely felt by whole campuses.

Interestingly, the availability of proven technology for content management is not a hinderance in universities' unwillingness to adopt it. There are many different platforms that would meet the institutional needs for content management, but it is up to the universities themselves to integrate these technologies.

The researchers argue that the tipping point for institutional leaders in adopting content management technology will occur when the inability of higher education to meet the digital expectations of today's students begins impacting the quantity and quality of their educational experience. Eventually, younger students, who tend to be more savvy with technology than their older educators, will force universities to play catch-up to develop content management technology that will meet their needs.

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