Morton: Digital options in a digital age

February 23, 2018

Within the SBHE we are very supportive of Governor Burgum’s focus on raising awareness around the disruption that technology is bringing to the transfer of knowledge. Like the Governor we want to embrace the digital options and at the same time continue to enhance the on-campus experience for our students. All of us in leadership roles throughout the university system have seen firsthand the impact of technology in our continual quest to bring real innovation to higher education in our state. Our current students and future students bring a high digital IQ and high expectations as they prepare for a rewarding professional career.

That outlook naturally lends itself to wanting to explore the “how” and “why” of offering more digitally-based learning opportunities in classrooms throughout the North Dakota University System’s 11 public colleges and universities.

In the past two years, Interactive Video Network usage throughout the university system has increased substantially. While a year-round application of IVN has been to make meetings easier for everyone from our campus councils to the SBHE itself, the real winner has been in student growth. From 2014 to the last report from Core Technology Services, the number of undergraduate courses offered through IVN grew from 88 to 133. During that same time, the number of students grew by nearly 67 percent, from 1,011 to 1,680.

Recently, the system office released a report that supported IPEDS data indicating how our state has a lower-than-average rate of students who are attending college strictly online, even while we have a higher-than-average rate of students enrolled in at least one online course. It’s surprising but seems to show that while our students today still prefer classroom interaction, they still want the occasional convenience online courses can offer.

That’s not to mention the new opportunities that are being examined by faculty and staff through our learning management systems and the creation of mobile portals.

Nevertheless, these reports give us great data allowing us to see where we are as a university system, and what opportunities are available for our students. While the idea of knowledge transfer continues to evolve, the knowledge itself, plus the means and medium by which the knowledge is exchanged also evolves. As a Board we are confident that we will continue to innovate and offer the types of courses our students want, when and where they want them.