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Pioneering the Future Through Technology Innovation

Eric Kunnen, Senior Director, IT Innovation and Research, Information Technology, Grand Valley State University
Eric Kunnen, Senior Director, IT Innovation and Research, Information Technology, Grand Valley State University

Eric Kunnen, Senior Director, IT Innovation and Research, Information Technology, Grand Valley State University

Never before in higher education has such a driver compelled change as the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational technology has been pushed to the forefront and given a front seat after years of often being in the background and in the shadows. Crystal clear is the importance of technology in playing a pivotal strategic role in defining the future of our institutions.

Navigating in a time of unprecedented change requires an innovative and intentional approach that embraces agility and flexibility. While a strategic plan is key, the priorities need to ebb and flow, merging with the realities brought forth as ideas often grow organically. There must be room to rapidly experiment, learn, adapt, and engage in dynamic community conversations that provide synergistic opportunities to tackle challenges in response to demands for accelerated change.

Terms like “future proofing”, “modernization”, and “digital transformation” are the buzzwords bubbling up across higher education, and ultimately these are all about intentionally leveraging technology for the purpose of creating innovative digital experiences and journeys of all stakeholders.

When it comes to innovation, now is the time to research, discover, strategize, engage, lead, and shine. Serving as a guide, a digital roadmap establishes a path by which the technology stack, platforms, and frameworks all align to ensure the infrastructure enables a simple and streamlined, yet powerful campus experience. While having the right technology is critical, tapping into the great wisdom, knowledge, and skills of faculty and staff, enables the institution to generate unique solutions. Solutions that connect within the culture and context of our institutions create competitive advantage, generate new opportunities, contribute to increased effectiveness, and capitalize our value propositions.

 Gathering a forward-thinking team provides focused facilitation designed to nurture innovation, tend to trends, and create capacity to carry out a variety of operational requirements 

Some of the greatest areas of need include:

Opening up institutional pipelines to more learners than ever before by creating equitable pathways, and affordable opportunities, providing real world industry readiness through relevant experiential learning, and collaborating with partners to create the next generation of higher education that connects students to careers. 

Ultimately, all faculty, staff, and students need to embrace everything digital, building up their competencies, and contributing to new ideas around reimagining how higher education can drive innovation forward through entrepreneurship. Establishing four areas of focus can create a catalyst to facilitate innovation, while building an ecosystem to carry out the work:

GATHER the TEAM

Navigating complexities of continuous change requires time and dedication. Gathering a forward-thinking team provides focused facilitation designed to nurture innovation, tend to trends, and create capacity to carry out a variety of operational requirements. The team needs to be nimble, but also seek to bring in campus thought leaders to capture and ignite ideas.

ESTABLISH a STRATEGY

With strategy at the center, innovation is aligned in context, so that through collaboration with key stakeholders, the team will endeavor to build a robust portfolio of solutions, services, and resources that are purposefully designed to support the institution’s mission and strategic priorities.The strategy needs to be dynamic and active, not a plan that sits on the shelf.

FACILITATE RESEARCH, DISCOVERY and EVALUATION

Creating space for conversations and asking questions like: “what if…”, “what would it look like…”, “how can we solve…” enables exploration, research, experimentation, and curated experiences that can be the catalyst needed for innovation. This allows new paths to be forged by adapting, lowering barriers, reducing friction, eliminating silos, illuminating big ideas, solving challenges, and building capacity while creating new value streams.

ENGAGE and REACH

Put simply, outreach enables the masses to engage in the culture of innovation. Events, targeted meet ups, committees, and focus groups can serve to educate, while purposefully creating connections and synergy. This is where all of the community is invited to participate and to engage, ensuring that all contribute to the change in creating the future.

Let’s all work together to pioneer the future through technology innovation to forge a new path forward! The opportunities are endless...

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