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Professors Should Lead the Charge on Digital Education
In recent years, universities & colleges have embraced digital technology and digitization like never before. Online content and courses bring resources out of the classroom to the wider world. Students get a better experience. Journalists learn about a faculty’s successes. There are lots of benefits to embracing digital content. However, it would help if more professors joined in.

Digital content and digitized communication are increasingly common in educational institutions.

A recent study by Navitas in 2017 showed that 78% of universities asked had begun digitizing some of their courses. This is no surprise when we consider the rise of online content and accessibility to distance learning. Students can attend MOOCs (massive open online courses) to gain access to education. Students on campus can maintain conversations with faculty leaders via social media. Then there are the supplemental resources outside the classroom for further guidance.

However, while the entire faculty needs engage on digital, professors need to lead the charge.

A digital approach means more than setting up a social media account and interacting with students online. The online audience is far more likely to share blogs, TED talks and other multimedia tools than dry white papers. The question that some professors may ask here is why. Why should they add this digitization to their workload? Why should they convert to this modern approach and move away from the academic papers that served them so well? Quality, frequent digital content gets professors – and their employers – noticed. It has changed the game for many academic institutions, so there is an increasing desire to turn professors into thought leaders.

The pros and cons of becoming a thought leader.

Thought leaders use their blogs and social media accounts to talk to a wider audience. The obvious benefit here is to potentially attract new students to the faculty, or help those currently enrolled. However, these posts are out there for a whole world of peers, journalists and donors. A carefully worded tweet or engaging blog post could snowball into media attention and funding for a fledgling project. Therefore, these professors are actually broadening their reach and role in the institution, rather than increasing their workload.

The problem is the underlying message and purpose of these tweets. Are professors there to help build knowledge and promote ideas? Or, are they manipulated into spreading the agendas of colleges and universities? It is easy for professors to fall into the wrong area of social media – marketing and profit, rather than discourse and celebration. The reason for professors to become a digital thought leader is sure to question the norm, propose new approaches and challenge views.

It is best to approach digital technology within education with care.

There is a lot of potential for colleges & universities that use digital tech to their advantage. They can engage with students, improve courses and secure funding with relative ease. Professors can also engage with a wider audience and benefit from digitization. But, only if they remain true to their work and ideals. There is a midway point between a corporate thought leader and a renegade with a Twitter account. Occupy that space and use it well.

One thing is for certain, OPIN understands that digital trends extend into more and more industries every day. This is why we work with many education organizations to provide them with digital advancements to stay ahead of the curve. On the backbone of ambitious platforms such as Drupal, we are able to keep the online presence of universities and colleges strong and hopeful. Advancement is a guarantee in today's age and the education industry is starting to rely more and more on digital trends to drive it forward. This is why we believe it is crucial for universities and colleges to have a strong online presence.