Giving Compass' Take:

• At the SXSW EDU 2019 conference, panelists discussed digital transformation in higher education and the impact of tech on various departments. 

• What are the primary challenges for higher education institutions when it comes to incorporating more technology? How can education donors help drive progress with digital innovation? 

• Check out the higher education trends to watch out for in 2019. 

As colleges' purse strings continue to tighten, a world of digital transformation is opening up before them. The extent to which they participate, however, depends on how that change can help lower costs and improve student outcomes.

"At first, as an educator, I said, 'Oh, that's terrible,'" said Paul Friga, special advisor to the provost for online education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, of the funding cuts. "But it might be necessary to get universities to make change."

It's not the only catalyst. Incoming college students are more tech-savvy and willing to engage digitally than prior generations, said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education. That's increasingly the case among administrators, too.

The potential for digitally driven change was up for debate at this year's SXSW EDU, held this week in Austin, Texas, where Friga and others representing industry groups, colleges and online learning providers discussed how technology can help higher ed solve some of its biggest problems — and where it alone won't be enough.

Successful digital transformation is about strategy as much as technology, the panelists agreed. "You reinvent the process and then you can bring in a technology as an enabler to make it stick," Friga said.

To help, the panelists recommended pitching faculty on the time-saving elements of the digital change in order to get their buy-in. Communication is also important to ensure stakeholders across campus have the opportunity to be involved.

When asked what higher ed will look like in 20 years, the panelists said they expected most of the change to happen with behind-the-scenes differences in pedagogy and operations.

Read the full article about digital transformation in higher education by Hallie Busta at Education Dive