Achieving digital transformation success in education

Understand how better technology and digital processes impact education, in and out of the classroom

Graduation cap made of constelations.

Digital transformation can make interactions more personal, increase an institution’s ability to adapt, and reduce costs.

What could this look like at your school? As the Adobe Digital Transformation 2020 report outlines, the first step to creating better experiences is thinking about your school’s range of key touchpoints, journeys, and communications, and how digitalizing certain aspects can address your strategic goals and objectives. For example, introducing digital document management processes can deliver significant cost savings and adopting cloud-based creative tools can promote digital literacy for students.

Top areas for digital transformation in education

A common challenge with digital transformation in education is its broad scope, encompassing experiences with students, staff, and parents — but this is also what makes effective digital transformation so impactful. While it does address the classroom and learning environments, it goes far beyond, affecting people, processes, and technology throughout the school. Some leading examples of digital transformation projects in both K-12 and post-secondary schools include:

Transforming the business of running the school

Transforming the student experience through accessibility and digital equity
Remote learning has highlighted outstanding issues with unequal access to technology and the opportunity and responsibility that educational institutions have to help address accessibility, digital literacy, and other equity concerns within their target area.

Transforming the staff experience with reduced workloads
Digital and paperless processes can help reduce workloads in both classroom and administrative areas, by automating repetitive tasks, speeding up workflows, creating self-service options, and eliminating inefficient processes.

Transforming parent experience through streamlined communications
The volume of communications between schools and students or parents is enough that this deserves its own point. Paperless forms and processes make these exchanges faster and easier, while also saving everyone substantial time and money.

The ABCs of digital transformation

While the benefits of digital transformation are very real, many organizations struggle with implementation challenges. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that organizations can significantly improve their digital transformation outcomes by following a few best practices.

A. Effective planning and communications
As you embark on a digital transformation project, ask for input from staff, students, and parents on where and what to digitalize. Interactions for successful projects tend to be more open, more frequent, and two-way v. top-down. Storytelling is an effective communications technique for helping people manage change, including where you are heading, what is changing, the expected timeline, and why it is important. Do not forget to identify key metrics and targets so that those involved can evaluate their progress.

For example, you are thinking of adding or increasing the use of gamification within your math curriculum, to boost engagement and improve student outcomes. Research shows that game-based learning can be effective, so you write a brief story for your website and social media, outlining the implementation plan and how you are going to measure the effects. With a wealth of online resources, such as Adobe Education Exchange, you can find a wide selection of tools to use or modify without having to develop everything from scratch. Change management models are important throughout this process to prepare stakeholders for the new approach, guide the implementation, and receive and respond to feedback.

B. Impactful new processes and tools
The next step is upgrading everyday tools and processes to more efficient digital options, so you can make information about your digital transformation efforts more open and accessible. For example, moving away from unidirectional media such as memos and email, and towards more collaborative options like wikis, surveys, discussion forums, and social media. Then modify procedures so that digital tools become the default options. Finally, add self-service options for suitable internal and external processes to help reduce workloads and increase feelings of empowerment.

For example, as you introduce solutions that enable paperless document workflows, you will reach a point where you can automate tedious and repetitive tasks or convert them to self-service. Instead of simply announcing the new workflow from the top, publish a list of automation targets and survey those affected to rank and comment on them. Whatever you choose to automate, from administrative tasks like staff onboarding and maintenance requests or student processes like registration and parental consent, review and refine the process before automating it to get the most positive impact.

Identify vendors and service providers who can partner with you on these projects, especially those with experience in education, the rules and regulations that guide it, and the security and accessibility values that are essential for success. Then lead by example, making the new process or tool the go-to option for leaders and key influencers.

C. Supportive change management
Continuing to develop digital skills in staff, students, and parents is important for them to be able to take full advantage of digitally transformed tools and processes. In addition to training, this step may also require supplying essential devices, software, and even connectivity to those who lack them. Another crucial activity is creating roles and responsibilities to enable transformation efforts, such as internal champions to lead specific projects and cross-functional teams who can help translate the processes for a broader audience. Finally, it is important to celebrate successes and identify and promote best practices, to drive continuous adoption.

For example, if you are planning to digitize some forms to improve communications, you first want to provide essential training and ensure that those involved have access to the necessary tools and services. Find the groups and processes that are best placed for the first deployment, ideally those who can most quickly use and adapt to the changes. Then highlight their successes and develop tips and best practices to smooth the way for broader adoption and process changes throughout the school.

Some challenges, lots of potential

Many digital transformation initiatives in education are driven by a desire to improve student outcomes, increase productivity, or reduce costs, but there are also external factors at play. As consumers experience all sorts of digital exchanges with the companies they deal with, they are bringing their expectations to other types of interactions in their lives, including with schools. Responding to these pressures and successfully implementing digital transformation projects involves some very real cultural and organizational challenges. But the upside is a lot of potential to positively affect many aspects of school operations and experiences, inside and outside of the classroom.

Visit the Adobe Education Resource Hub to learn more about how their education-focused solutions can help the digital transformation journey in your school.