Improving the digital experience of university administrators Post-COVID: The KNUST experience
Christopher Addo (he/him)
Senior Assistant Registrar,
The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Felicia Amankwah (she/her)
Senior Assistant Registrar,
The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) growth, development, and upkeep depend on their administrators. They participate in daily activities and play a significant role in the operations and directions of the university as a whole. An effective administrator must have the following qualities as part of their skillset: communication, planning, organization, and teamwork among others. In the Post-Covid era, digital skills are now more important than ever for university administrators.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly influenced the way education is delivered; with universities and colleges rapidly moving toward virtual learning. The pandemic has quickened the pace of digital transformation in higher education, with many institutions and colleges turning to technology to help instructors, staff, and students through virtual learning environments. Therefore, it is essential for the successful operations of higher education institutions that university administrators have digital experience because of the significant role they play in its operation. This article recognizes how the pandemic has affected the digital experience of university administrators and provides insights and suggestions for enhancing this experience going forward using examples from KNUST.
The path toward digital excellence aims to enhance an institution’s overall performance, engagement, and growth. Universities throughout the world were compelled to drastically alter their methods of operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
University officials had to migrate their operations online to carry out their regular duties and adjust to these sudden changes. Due to this speedy shift, many university administrators found it difficult to adjust to new digital tools and processes.
The additional workload and obligations that came with combining remote work with in-person tasks were a major problem for administrators. Administrators have had to deal with a rise in the number of questions and requests because of the reliance of students, teachers, and staff on digital technology for communication and support. They also had to grapple with new challenges such as internet bundle and connectivity as well as security and privacy concerns related to remote work.
While digital technologies have made it easier to work and enable distant communication, they have also created obstacles in the way of effective collaboration and decision-making. Administrators who are accustomed to making decisions and finding solutions to issues through face-to-face interactions and meetings have found this to be especially challenging.
Like its contemporaries, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana experienced the same difficulties. Some KNUST system components, including admissions, registration, matriculation, graduation, and teaching and learning, experienced modifications. University administrators had to shift their operations online to carry out their usual responsibilities and adjust to these abrupt changes. This transition presented both opportunities and difficulties. It was crucial to address the issues to enhance university administrators’ digital experience and fully onboard them into this “new normal.”
In tackling these challenges, KNUST handled the matter by offering its administrative staff hands-on practical digital training to better position them to remain relevant during and after the pandemic. Giving the administrators access to digital tools relevant to their line of work was a priority. These tools can be classified into networking, collaboration, documentation, and communication tools. The jobs of administrators demanded the availability of both simple and complex digital tools. These, on a daily bases, included video conferencing, scheduling, and event planning software, among others. Each of them uses a particular program made to increase productivity and handle everyday activities on a computer to do their job. Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Microsoft Outlook, and Gmail make up the daily business necessities. Due to their dependability and ease of use, they are necessities for all administrative tasks.
The digital experience of administrative staff has improved over time at KNUST. It is dedicated to achieving the highest levels of excellence and leadership in its service to stakeholders and the community through its established directorate, the E-Learning Centre, which was recognized with the specific goal of being a powerhouse of digital excellence and a pioneer in online teaching and learning pedagogies.
The KNUST E-Learning Centre provided training on these digital technologies to the institution’s administrators so they could participate in the pursuit of digital excellence, which is essential for the growth, improvement, and sustainability of higher education. The goal of the Centre was to ensure that these staff had the basic digital competence to continue working online.
To do this, KNUST created several training programs for the university community. These workshops on digital literacy have been implemented to ensure that administrators and other members of the university community are familiar with the language and culture of the digital age of learning. Through practical sessions and interactive information sessions, participants in these workshops, training, and retraining programs were oriented on the basics, vocabulary, and features of the online learning environment. Participants receive the necessary digital tools to use on their journey to digital greatness.
The ability to adapt to a digital environment depends more on the person going through the transition because digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. Administrators in HEIs in particular can take the lead in this change by doing their tasks with the proper attitude and mindset by honing their digital abilities. To properly embrace this digital transformation, administrators need to develop personal qualities like self-motivation, excitement, and a can-do attitude as well as a demonstration of readiness to do things differently.
Given the diversity of its professional staff at KNUST in terms of gender, age, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, physical or mental condition, and health, as well as prior educational background and socioeconomic status, the university works to ensure inclusivity in all activities, fostering staff development and growth. To encourage administrators’ use of digital tools, the KNUST E-learning Centre offers training on their usage to all newly hired staff. Additionally, training for additional administrative employees was done according to age groupings. This was helpful since it allows for the gathering and special attention of senior staff members who might not be tech-savvy to assure their inclusion and significance.
Some challenges faced by the Administrators of KNUST in adopting, adapting, and actively being part of the digital excellence journey included the lack of technical expertise required to effectively implement and use new technologies, which made the adoption process quite difficult. It can be challenging to establish a culture of digital excellence within an organization since it requires buy-in from all levels of the institution, including employees, managers, and leaders. Keeping up with the quick speed of technological progress is challenging. Administrators may find it challenging to stay current on innovations and guarantee that their firm is utilizing the most cutting-edge technologies due to the rapid evolution of digital technologies. Last but not least, administrators may worry about data security and privacy issues, notably high-profile data breaches.
These perspectives and recommendations can help administrators’ future digital experiences be better. A thorough digital strategy outlining the organization’s aims and objectives for digital transformation should be developed by administrators in collaboration with their teams. A plan for how the organization will gauge success and monitor progress should be part of this approach.
The infrastructure and technology required by their institution to enable digital activities should be in place. Investments in hardware, software, and network infrastructure, granting access to online training and resources, and offering assistance for administrators must be established.
Administrators have also had to deal with additional security and privacy issues as a result of the transition to remote work. To address these, HEIs should strengthen their security and privacy controls, which should include putting in place data protection policies and procedures and offering training on cybersecurity and privacy best practices.
Improving the digital experience of university administrators post-COVID-19 requires investment in technology, collaboration, security, and professional development. With the right support, administrators can effectively perform their jobs and play a crucial role in the functioning of higher education institutions.
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2. (Online Learning Consortium (OLC) – Enhancing Remote Learning, n.d.) http://www.onlinelearningconsortium
3. (Home | AUA, n.d.) http://www.aua.ac.uk
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