Across Europe there is a drive to strengthen higher education to create leading-edge facilities and services that enable remote learning and ensure finite resources are used more efficiently. In fact, in new research from the Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by Ricoh Europe, it was found that 98 per cent of Education leaders in Europe revealed that they are now under pressure to change faster, more than they have, in the past three years.
Separately, the European Commission projected that 414 million students, worldwide, are expected to be enrolled in higher education by 2030. And even more, across Europe specifically it’s estimated that 90 per cent of jobs will require digital skills in the near future. It is easy, when looking at these powerful data points, to understand why there is increased pressure on leaders to adapt their operations and training systems as quickly as possible.
If we consider higher education establishments, they must address how to stay attractive to prospective students while competing with other similarly ranked institutions, as well as with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Ensuring a modernised environment is essential. Technology itself will play a part; however, the real route to success is by ensuring the back office operations are optimised.
European leaders within the sector agree. The EIU research, The Challenge of Speed, asked respondents to identify areas where adapting to change was most crucial, and most cited responses were back office related. First is improving core business processes (44 per cent) followed by recruiting new staff (42 per cent) and adopting new technologies (40 per cent).
Now is the time for the print room to shine and be a central point to optimise core business processes. For example, targeted communication is one highly effective way of attracting new students and making a positive first impression. This can range from customised prospectuses specifically for each student, created via an online form, to multichannel communications. Based on the registration of their interests, potential students can receive tailored information about their preferred course, information about where they can pursue their hobbies or even learn about the best entertainment venues based on their favourite music.
The information gathered can also be used for broader communication such as integrated campaigns and direct e-shots, or even facilitate impromptu communication that is related to topical situation or updates on course information, all of which will add to build lasting relationships with the students.
Educational establishments can also streamline their print requirements through software that simplifies the dissemination of information on demand. Moore says, “Instead of lecturers printing course notes themselves, they can order online what they require for the next day, upload supporting content to an online portal or send students the link for them to download to their tablet or other mobile device. Relevant information or publications can be provided on a ‘just in time’ basis in a highly efficient and cost effective way and lecturers can use their saved time on meeting the learning needs of their students.
So what is holding them back? Education leaders said the top two bottlenecks to achieving greater agility are difficulty in getting employees, business units, or functions to adopt a common approach (44 per cent) and bureaucratic decision making processes (35 per cent).
A smooth, quick and responsive line of communication can address these issues. For example the back office administration can be linked to various data sources for easy and timely invoicing or other mandatory documents. A web portal can also be created for the simple sharing of information and as a way to communicate university news and updates more effectively.
Efficient business process communication, all-round streamlining of operations and addressing bottlenecks via multichannel communications, from print to mobile devices and augmented reality, will ensure operational wide improvements. This approach to multi-communication has far-reaching effects from speeding up information for students to smoother, more effective back office operation. As a result, the corporate print room can transform into a communication centre driving efficiencies and being instrumental in introducing a number of different formats and channels that streamline information flow.
With this full service system in place, the print room will not only be able to support educational establishments as they rapidly change, but will have an active role in enabling this change. The truly developed print room can speed up the pace at which schools develop through improved critical communications, management of data, and even decision making through enhanced visibility of information. In this new era of digital transformation, the print room can truly take centre stage as not only the enabler but a driver of change in the education sector.
 European Commission Education and Training http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/strategic-framework/education-technology.htm