What Universities Can Learn from Education’s First Responders

Along with virtually every other aspect of everyday life, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on education. More than 1.5 billion students around the world have been affected by school and university closures, according to the International Association of Universities.

Academic and administrative leaders at these institutions suddenly found themselves scrambling to find alternatives to crowded lecture halls and facing new financial worries surrounding cash flow, added expenses, and unpredictable enrollments.

These challenges are global, and the future remains uncertain.

Still, there have been success stories. Mexico’s Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Tec de Monterrey) is one of them. And experience management played a big role in what they have accomplished.

Creating the New Normal in Higher Education

Tec de Monterrey is one of the top-ranked schools in Latin America. The institute’s various divisions educates nearly 160,00 students at 58 campuses across the country. It is a huge operation, but the institution responded quickly to the crisis, resulting in one of its best-ranked semesters.

“We were the first university in Mexico to adopt a remote academic model,” says José Juan Carranza Garduño, director of Project Portfolio and Processes at Tec de Monterrey, in a recent telephone interview.

In mid-March – when the school saw the need for social distancing – it began to set up virtual classroom environments in just about a week’s time.

“This allowed approximately 95 percent of our students to continue taking courses remotely,” Carranza Garduño says.

Importantly, the university is also using Experience Management solutions from SAP and Qualtrics to gather feedback from students and staff on a weekly basis to monitor their concerns and well-being. These surveys help the school understand and address the evolving needs of its community during this new normal.

Experience Management Already in Place

Tec de Monterrey was fortunate to have the technology already in place when the pandemic struck. In fact, school leaders used their experience management tools last year to conduct a survey of its entire workforce. The goal was to identify ways to improve work-life balance for employees and reduce the time spent on administrative tasks.

The understanding they gained helped the school create 1,500 action plans affecting 30,000 employees within the organization.

“We want to provide all our employees with the best experience – with opportunities to grow, to develop themselves – so they can deliver a great experience to all our students,” Hernán García, vice president of Talent and Experience at Tec de Monterrey, said in a video made shortly after the project was completed.

This focus on staff and faculty development paid dividends when the university needed to make the rapid shift to distance learning. The school was able to offer courses and other resources very quickly to around 10,000 professors, helping them make their digital curriculums more dynamic and engaging.

When New Classes Begin

Tec de Monterrey has announced that a new semester of classes will begin in August 2020. The current plan is to start the semester remotely and gradually migrate to face-to-face classes as conditions allow.

No one knows for sure what the future holds for school students in Mexico or around the globe. What does seem clear, however, is that institutions with the insight needed to create learning environments that are safe and engaging will be serving their students and communities well.

As García noted even before the crisis, “We’re living in the experience economy. Understanding how people feel and doing something about it is critical to success.”