As the Chief Academic Officer at Campus, I was both bummed and mildly curious about how Educause chose to handle this year’s virtual conference.


Because as a lifelong academic (I’m a professor of Communication and Education), I was excited to be selected as a pre-conference presenter. But within a few weeks of being accepted, we all learned that not only the pre-conference activities would be virtual, so would the entire event.

Covid strikes again!

But I was intrigued as Educause created some “Learning Labs” as a replacement for the pre-conference workshops. Rather than a half or full day workshop, participants (and presenters) would be enrolled in a Canvas course shell. The workshop would take the form of a 10-day class, complete with asynchronous discussions, synchronous webinars, and assessments. As my workshop was specific to how people learn across modalities, it was a unique opportunity to model behaviors as much as explaining them.

See, as someone who has worked in and around Educause for the entirety of my career, I have come to appreciate their ingenuity, innovation, and thought leadership.

Will these Learning Labs work? We’ll know soon enough.

But regardless, Educause is trying to deal with our current context in a way that still promotes learning, collaboration, and community building – all things my Learning Lab will try to illustrate to participants, by the way.

Educause’s thought leadership can be seen in many ways, but I think one of the better illustrations is through their content creation of various frameworks. Educause partners as well as employees regularly create documentation that can easily be ingested and leveraged during an institution’s strategic planning. (As I have performed strategy planning as an executive at a few schools and consulted with a few others regarding effective practices for initiative architecture, I have leveraged assets from Educause on more than one occasion.)

One such framework that I am particularly appreciate of, especially in this context of the pandemic, is around Digital Transformation. As Brown, Reinitz, and Wetzel (2020) write in the most updated report of the framework, “How an institution approaches Digital Transformation (Dx) is highly dependent on its culture, values, and strategic priorities.”

See, the framework is as much a barometer for institutional transformation as it is a lighthouse document for efficacy. In the formal framework document, the authors describe a new kind of leadership that is required if institutions want to take advantage of the opportunities digital has to offer.

For example, “Dx requires agile and flexible leaders at all levels who can enable the college or university to rapidly and efficiently achieve its strategic aims.”

At the same time, Dx sees a dependence on shifting things like culture, a genuine nod toward workforce development, and obviously effective usage of technology. Even at schools that previously had drawn a line in the sand regarding eLearning, Dx could be a powerful enabler of far superior education, at scale. (Although now that we are all under this context of covid, many of those sandy lines have been wiped clean, no?)

I’ll admit, part of the admiration for this framework is that I have been working throughout my career to help make it a reality. But many of the longstanding, bureaucratic, fallacious issues have gotten in the way. Take one of the “tenets” of the framework regarding culture. In order to truly take advantage of Dx, an institution needs to focus on institution-wide goals rather than worrying so myopically on siloed goals. That is no easy task for a college or university where many such silos see a lot of power and where owners of those silos have never really had to consider the “greater good.” Hence this frameworks ability to not only guide, but also be used as a filter for readiness.

But it seems that some schools are ready. Some leaders are making inroads. Some institutions are hiring leaders from external contexts, ensuring their direction is not simply created in an echo chamber or coming from someone who has been “institutionalized.” In other words, some schools are seeing Dx start to take hold and, more importantly, start to work.

This is where Campus comes in. We have found some of those very schools to work with. We have become a part of some institution’s strategic plan for community building, communication efficiency, continuity of modality, and socio-emotional support of the learning process. This is how I implemented the platform at my former university and how a number of our current partners are working today.

See, when Dx happens, integration suddenly becomes not just helpful, but crucial. When Dx happens, a lot of disparate experiences are suddenly corralled into something that is both engaging and measurable. In other words, when we work with a school who is engaged in Dx, our solution becomes a “top three” technology at the institution. Why? Because our system, which does not play in the Student Success space, is a hyper-drive for student success. We do not market ourselves as such, but when institutions use us for the deep integrations we can provide and the non-LMS data that a lot of research would suggest is actually more important than LMS data, those institutions find a tremendous advantage. If a school finally acknowledges the importance of non-cognitive, affective, and conative measures as well as digital means by which to promote them, the school is driving toward Digital Transformation.

I am excited that we can help colleges and universities work toward a lofty, but ultimately powerful goal. It is not only a major revenue changer, it is a student success framework. And at the end of the day, isn’t that why we all do what we do?

Good luck and good learning.