The Promise of Digital Transformation at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College [video]

min read

The President and the CIO of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College got together to discuss how digital transformation is affecting their institution. Sponsored by HP, an EDUCAUSE Platinum Partner.

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Dan Mincheff
Chief Information Officer
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Jeff Rafn
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Mincheff: Welcome to Northeast Wisconsin technical college. My name is Dan Mincheff. And I'm the chief information officer.

Rafn: And I'm Jeff Rafn, and the president of the college.

Mincheff: And we've been asked to provide some thoughts around the promise of digital transformation, and what that means in higher education. Dr. Rafn, what is the promise of digital transformation, mean to you?

Rafn: I think it's going to allow us to continue down that path of individualizing instruction, and customizing it specifically to our students' needs. It's been a lot of talk lately about equity. And this notion of equity is start where the person is at, as opposed to where the college wants everybody to be. And that takes a lot of effort and time, customization. We need to figure out what will that person need. And I think digital environment is going to allow for that to occur. You could literally have 10 students in the same room proceeding at a different pace, based on what they already know or what they don't know, or proceeding as rapidly as quickly as possible, or reviewing material all at the same time, by using this digital technology.

Mincheff: In the business of higher education, it means the systems need to talk together. They need to work together. They need to be reliable, but most importantly, they need to meet the students where they are as well. So that they're easy to use. They're intuitive and not a lot of overhead. And that's not a small ask. It's a challenging environment to work in.

Rafn: But remember the digital equipment tools, they are just that they're tools. And I'm a big believer, and having the tools do what you want them to do, as opposed to the tools defining what you can do. You know, I think there was some of the newer tools like augmented reality and virtual reality, is not only going to allow us to create more immersive environments for our students, but also to take that education off of the campus. And that's gonna be increasingly important, as we move into an environment that I think is gonna be more hybrid. In terms of not only learning but work itself. So having those tools and knowing how to use them, and use them in a way in which to enhance the education, and increase the access to education, I think is gonna be critical.

Mincheff: Absolutely, and then that giving our faculty a chance to work with the tools, to incorporate them into the curriculum, it's amazing how much more engaging a virtual environment is, more than what people expected to be.

Rafn: But anytime you bring in new equipment, new ideas, there's a certain amount of time to break it in. And that's why I think at our college, we've created some essentially teaching labs, where you can begin to work with this equipment before you start taking it into a classroom. And figuring out, what will work, and what won't work.

Mincheff: Absolutely, and we're actually retooling our IT department to be more focused on vendor management and relationships. As many of these tools move into the cloud. It's not on premises, in our data center, where we could actually affect change. We need to have really good strong partnerships, and relationships that will ensure the same reliability we've expected from our own systems, right.

Rafn: That's gonna evolve, it's gonna change. And we as institutions, frankly, can't afford to make changes all the time. And certainly we can't afford to make mistakes. And so that's, you know, there's a certain amount of risk. We're gonna have to think about, whether or not, this is where we need to make the investment. And frankly, whether or not we wanna be on the bleeding edge or we wanna be on the leading edge. Frankly, I wanna be in the leading edge, but not the bleeding edge.

Mincheff: I think that's where sticking with your strategy, making sure your strategic goals are there. And letting the technology help enable that and not be a roadblock, is a good way for success.

Rafn: Well said.