Education is a constantly evolving sphere, but the introduction and integration of technology have changed it forever. “Learning” now takes on a different meaning, with technology redefining who can learn, who can teach, and how each can do it differently. And with digital natives such as Gen Zers moving into the higher education sphere, the need for new learning methods such as interactivity is pushing technology to the forefront of education and its leadership.
To quote a study on Evolllution, “60 percent of respondents said technology has fundamentally changed post-secondary teaching and learning. Another 20 percent of respondents delved into more detail to point out that personal electronic devices, such as tablets and smartphones, are changing the way students and instructors alike approach education.”
Now, more than ever, higher education needs leadership that reflects its new avatar: leadership that’s not just future-ready, but future-forward.
Education technology and the future of Higher Ed
In the last decade, education has seen a huge shift in technology-assisted learning. Gone are the days of the simple slideshow and basic projector; classrooms now are either physical spaces that are technology-abled or entirely online. Emerging trends within the sphere of education include Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Big Data, and Machine Learning.
Technology like this has allowed non-traditional students to gain access to better education, allowing students from remote places to plug into a class hosted around the world, and even made it easier for differently-abled students to learn mainstream curricula and more.
Read more: How to create accessible e-learning design
The article on Evolllution cites a study that shows that 35% of respondents feel that colleges and universities are more responsive “to the needs of non-traditional students today than they were in the past.” With the Internet and unprecedented access to information, the education sector continues to grow exponentially.
So with new kinds of students seeking post-secondary education, new expectations from institutions, new facilities, and technology-based learning options, what does the career-scape for those wanting to get into education look like?
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, education administrators earn an average of $94,340 a year, and openings for these professionals are likely to grow by 7% between 2018-2028. This means that individuals looking to enter or grow in education roles must build a strong base in academics to attract hiring managers.
Here are some ways to prepare yourself to be a cut above the rest when it comes to the future of leadership in higher education:
Understand technology’s role in education
According to Forbes, the worldwide e-learning market is projected to be a massive $325 billion by 2025. The key takeaway from these numbers is that technology in education is here to stay. Thus, education administrators must learn how to use current technological developments and implement them wisely to enhance learning experiences.
Education technology (edtech) has already made leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. While there is some debate in regards to its implementation, it is safe to say that the benefits of edtech greatly outweigh the cons.
In an article titled “Why Edtech Matters to Everyone”, author Rishi Raj writes about how edtech has brought value to the classroom even though it isn’t always perfect. Some of its flaws include the ability to distract students, as well as a reduction in human interaction. Thus, as a leader in education, knowing how and when to implement technology, as well as when not to do the same, becomes a critical ability expected of you.
Read more: How educators can make use of edtech into the classroom
Leadership trickles down, whether it’s good leadership or bad. The best educational leaders will take their skills in implementing innovative technology and pass those skills on to their employees or students who in turn must implement the technology of their own. A K-6 methodology professor who has been asked to instruct their classes on the use of a digital publishing platform such as MagicBox cannot be expected to effectively do so if their leadership isn’t familiar with the teaching tool.
Be aware of legislative and social context
Like every industry, education is shaped by the current government policies, desires, and allowances for the field. For example, federal government policy affects education decisions in two broad areas: money and fairness. Consider mandates such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
As stated by NACSA, these mandates, “focus on educational equity for all students and are rooted in the equal protection clauses of the constitution.” These are especially relevant when it comes to technology in education, as technological developments have proven to be very useful in improving educational equity through increased accessibility.
Read more: 4 Examples of the best digital access initiatives
Being a leader in this sector, therefore, requires you to not only understand what policies and legislation means for your institution but also assess potential and future scope for change and opportunity, so that you can implement measures that make the student experience at your institution better.
When it comes to working in the education sector, departments cannot be silos. In order to make a holistic impact, an education leader must be able to work with and be the bridge between all departments. Weighing inputs, reaching compromises, and establishing priorities among departments are all skills a leading administrator must possess so as to improve culture and efficiency at an organizational level. This means staying up to date with every department, its employees, and technological adaptations.
Read more: Learning and growing as educators
Be a transformative leader
With the education field continuously changing, leaders need to accept, adapt to, and embrace the new. Gone are the days of rigid, by-the-book administration — the best institutions are now being helmed by Transformational Leaders. Rider University states, “Transformational leadership involves using communication and collaboration to motivate others toward reaching goals that align with an organization’s strategies."
In a space like higher education, using the transformational approach in administration is highly beneficial — it promotes a healthier workplace culture of collaboration, interdependence, and interpersonal communication. This approach relies heavily on motivation — giving employees more autonomy, which in turn leads to them being more invested in their work.
Additionally, as per Rider University, transformational leaders should be in possession of characteristics like loyalty, empathy, and honesty. These characteristics make leaders more approachable, which is an integral aspect when it comes to education.
Personable and approachable educators can truly transform a student’s experience, from clarifying technical doubts to being a sounding board for their personal concerns. Thus, students too are motivated to put their best foot forward when it comes to schoolwork.
The end result of transformative leadership is better communication and improved experiences for students and the institution as a whole.
Of course, one thing every leader must wield as their weapon is their confidence. When one is in a position of influence, confidence is key. The best leaders — in any field — are focused, have a strong and clear vision, and are adaptable to change. Being an educational leader is no easy task, and while institutional challenges may lower your self-esteem, it is important to remember to lead by example. That means, if you are confident, your team is likely to feel the same. If you are positive and well-prepared, your team will reflect the same energy.
That being said, confidence is not an overnight phenomenon — it takes hard work and regular check-ins with yourself to maintain it, especially when faced with an obstacle. Some ways to build and maintain confidence include self-care, learning when/how to say no, goal-setting, image maintenance, and getting out of your comfort zone, among others.
The future of leadership in higher education is now, and those aspiring to positions of influence must prepare themselves in all aspects, While self-learning is great, taking a professional course to build a strong leadership foundation is also a popular option. With new kinds of learners entering the education system, it’s time new leadership does as well.