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Why Digital Transformation Fails in Higher Education Institutions - image of a laptop with circles around it representing different facets of digital transformation

Why Digital Transformation Fails in Higher Education Institutions

Key takeaways

1. Digital transformation fails in higher ed institutions for many reasons, including lack of buy-in and roadmaps.

2. Working with EdTech experts can ensure your digital transformation journey leads to success.


Article contents

1. What is digital transformation?

2. Understanding the importance of digital transformation in higher education

3. Why digital transformation fails

4. Digital transformation strategies to use in higher education institutions

5. Evaluating the impact of digital transformation on learner success

6. Outsourcing your digital transformation to experts


Learn about the common reasons why digital transformation fails in higher education institutions and the digital transformation strategies institutions can use to ensure success.


What is digital transformation?


Digital transformation comprises the use of technology, often called EdTech or Education Technology, to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, accessibility, and success of teaching and learning. Digital transformation in higher education institutions often includes the production or expansion of online or blended learning, such as offering MBAs, Executive Education, and other programs via an online learning platform. To achieve this transformation, which is  also commonly referred to as Dx, institutions often employ the use of digital technologies, which aim to:




Understanding the importance of digital transformation in higher education


Digital transformation is becoming increasingly important in higher education institutions, and the rapid advancement of technology has changed the way individuals learn and interact with educational materials. Learners are also likely to be surrounded by technology in their personal lives, and expect the same level of flexibility and digitisation in their education. Embracing digital transformation allows institutions to adapt to changes and give learners an up-to-date and engaging learning experience.

By implementing digital tools and platforms, institutions can offer learners access to a wealth of educational resources, online courses, virtual classrooms, and interactive learning materials. This not only improves the learning experience but also prepares learners for the digital world they are sure to enter, or re-enter, upon graduation or course completion.


See how insendi helped drive Vlerick Business School's digital vision.


Why Digital Transformation Fails in Higher Education Institutions - image of a laptop with circles around it representing different facets of digital transformation


Why digital transformation fails


But digital transformation in higher education institutions can be complicated, and there are many pitfalls and struggles that can cause the transformation to not meet prior expectations. In this section we outline a few common reasons why an institution's digital transformation may fail to help plan ahead and mitigate them.


1. Resistance to change

One major barrier to successful digital transformation is resistance to change. Faculty, staff, and even some students may be hesitant to adopt new technologies and processes, fearing disruption or unfamiliarity. There may even be concerns among faculty decision makers surrounding the potential return on investment in the digital transformation process, such as any budget spent on the necessary tools or services for the transformation to take place. Overcoming this resistance requires clear communication, training, and a supportive culture that embraces innovation.


2. Lack of leadership and vision

Digital transformation initiatives require strong leadership and a clear vision for the future. Without buy-in from top-level administrators and other decision makers, as well as a strategic plan, institutions may struggle to implement effective digital transformation strategies.


3. Insufficient resources and funding

Digital transformation can be a costly endeavour, requiring investments in technology infrastructure, software, training, and ongoing maintenance. Institutions that lack the necessary resources and funding may find it challenging to execute successful digital transformation projects. Furthermore, higher education institutions often find that they are expected to achieve great results with few resources and a small budget, so decision makers may continue with these same expectations for the digital transformation process.


4. Inadequate planning and implementation

Effective digital transformation requires thorough planning and careful implementation. Rushed or haphazard approaches can lead to suboptimal outcomes and wasted resources - thus increasing the risk of point #1. It's therefore essential to develop a comprehensive roadmap, engage stakeholders, and prioritise initiatives based on their potential impact.

By understanding the common reasons why digital transformation fails, institutions can take proactive steps to avoid them and increase their chances of successful digital transformation.


Why Digital Transformation Fails in Higher Education Institutions - image of the front of a building that says higher education


Digital transformation strategies to use in higher education institutions


To ensure the process is successful for higher education institutions, and bearing in mind the pitfalls highlighted in the previous section, institutions can employ the following digital transformation strategies:


Establish a digital transformation team

Create or enlist a dedicated team of EdTech experts responsible for overseeing the digital transformation process in your department or institution. This team should include representatives from various departments and disciplines to ensure a holistic approach throughout the process.


Develop a clear roadmap

Outline a clear and comprehensive roadmap for digital transformation, including specific goals, timelines, and key performance indicators. This roadmap should be drafted by the digital transformation team mentioned above and align with the institution's overall strategic plan.


Invest in training and support

Provide faculty with the necessary training and support to embrace new technologies and processes. This will help alleviate resistance to change and ensure a smooth transition. One of the best ways to achieve this is via a train-the-trainer approach, whereby your digital transformation team, whether internal or external, helps increase the EdTech knowledge of other faculty members during hands-on, practical training.


Foster a culture of innovation and feedback

Encourage a culture of innovation and experimentation within the institution. It's crucial during a digital transformation that all stakeholders feel that their voices are heard, so institutions should always provide opportunities for staff and students to contribute ideas and participate in pilot programs.


Prioritise user experience

When implementing digital tools and platforms, prioritise the user experience, such as the learning experience. Ensure that the technology you use to cultivate your digital transformation journey is intuitive, user-friendly, and meets the unique needs of students, faculty, and staff.

By implementing these digital transformation strategies, institutions can enhance their chances of successful digital transformation and reap the benefits of a more technologically advanced learning environment.


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Evaluating the impact of digital transformation on learner success


The best technology for higher education institutions always puts the learning experience front and centre, and should provide measurable, positive impact on learner success. Evaluating this impact is crucial to measure the effectiveness of the implemented strategies.

Institutions can use various methods to make these assessments such as by collecting data from online tools or surveys/interviews. It's important to gather data on learner engagement, satisfaction, and academic performance before and after the digital transformation so that the impact can be more accurately measured. This data could be collected through surveys and interviews with learners to gather qualitative feedback on their experience and the transformation's impact on their learning journey. Then, your digital transformation team should analyse this data to identify trends and patterns that indicate the impact of digital transformation on learner success.

Another digital transformation strategy to consider when assessing the impact on learner success is to monitor retention and graduation/completion rates. Though these will require a longer period of time to gather effectively, tracking retention and graduation/completion rates helps to determine if the digital transformation has positively influenced learners' motivation and enjoyment of their program.

By regularly evaluating the impact of digital transformation on learner success, institutions can identify areas of improvement and make informed decisions to optimise their digital transformation strategies.


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Outsourcing your digital transformation to experts


For institutions facing resource constraints or lacking in-house expertise, outsourcing digital transformation to experts can be the ideal option. By partnering with experienced technology providers, institutions can benefit from their specialised knowledge and resources.

Outsourcing your digital transformation offers several advantages:


Access to expertise

Technology providers have extensive experience in implementing digital transformation projects in the education sector. They can offer valuable insights, best practices, and industry-specific knowledge.



Outsourcing can be a cost-effective solution compared to building and maintaining an in-house digital transformation team. Institutions can leverage the expertise of technology providers without the need for significant upfront investments.


Faster implementation

Technology providers are equipped to handle the complexities of digital transformation projects efficiently. Their expertise and resources can help with faster implementation, meaning institutions can realise the benefits of digital transformation faster.


Read more: How To Make an Online Program Faster


However, when outsourcing digital transformation, it's essential for institutions to carefully select reliable and reputable technology providers. Conduct thorough research, evaluate their track record, and assess their ability to align with the institution's goals and requirements. Ensure that you book a demo to see any technology for yourself before purchasing, and, if possible, meet the EdTech team you'd be working with.



Kickstart your institution's digital transformation journey with our friendly team of EdTech and online learning experts.




Understanding digital transformation: A review and a research agenda. (2019). Gregory Vial. Read it here