ACE2019: Digital Transformation and the Future of Higher Education Leadership

March 15, 2019

Share this

It’s no secret digital tools are transforming higher education, as the number of students enrolled in online undergraduate and graduate programs continues to rise.

In addition to online learning, institutions are leveraging technology to collect and evaluate data to improve academic offerings and the overall student experience. Considering the majority of today’s students come to college having been immersed in technology for most of their lives, it’s critical for senior leadership to understand the digital expectations of this new generation—and the implications on faculty.

On the first day of ACE 2019, Rod McDavis, managing principal of AGB Search, led a discussion between John Katzman, CEO of Noodle Partners, ACE President Ted Mitchell, and Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College to explore how higher education leaders are leveraging technology to transform their institutions. Guided by McDavis, panelists shared their expert insight on how institutions can drive engagement among students and faculty, stabilize and lower costs, use technology to close equity gaps, and increase student success.

Panelists agreed technology has the power to drive real transformation in higher education and the potential to lower cost while expanding reach. Mitchell identified examples of digital transformation he’s seeing in the field, noting, “Technology allows us to access more data, which helps us make better decisions. It’s changing the ways we communicate, enhancing delivery and instruction, and is having an impact on assessments.” Katzman added, “If we want to make higher education more accessible, we have to lower the cost of a great education. The cost of teaching hasn’t gone up in 30 years, it’s the cost of support that’s tripled and continues to rise.”

To enable leadership to lead these initiatives, Quillen urged attendees to “create a space within your institution where the cost of experimentation is low. Empower people to make data-driven decisions.” Mitchell encouraged collaboration and partnership. “Identify the needs of your institution and of your students. Collaborate with great organizations like Noodle Partners, who are helping ACE rethink the ways we deliver professional learning.”

The field of higher education is already seeing positive outcomes from efforts around digital transformation. As this movement continues, technology will force senior leadership to collaborate and share best practices and data. As McDavis stated, “Part of what leaders in higher education have to do is lead by example. We have to set the expectation of transformation and change.”

—Elizabeth Gossens

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

Keep Reading

Higher Education for the Nation’s Future

ACE President Ted Mitchell introduces the Council’s new Strategic Framework, which will underpin the organization for the next three years and help chart a successful course for the future of higher education.

June 20, 2018

The Whys and Hows of Shared Leadership in Higher Education

Elizabeth Holcombe and Adrianna Kezar of the University of Southern California look at the possibilities of shared leadership for the higher education sector, which they say will ultimately allow campuses to become more nimble in a complex, constantly changing environment.

May 10, 2017

Reflections on Advancing Women in Higher Education

ACE has launched a new campaign—Moving the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership—that asks college and university presidents to commit to helping achieve the goal that by 2030, half of U.S. college and university chief executives are women. ACE’s Lynn M. Gangone looks at women’s advancement in higher education leadership in recent years—and the prospects for the future.

January 25, 2016