By now, everyone has read countless pieces about how the global pandemic is changing the world as we know it. In light of that, we’ll spare you the typical intro paragraph talking about the current condition of, well… everything. Instead, let’s jump into how this ‘new normal’ is specifically impacting higher ed and how you can use SmartFile to optimize the online university experience for your students, staff, and IT.
The ‘New Normal’
The ‘new normal’ brought on by the global pandemic arrived almost overnight, so colleges need to adapt quickly. While 42% of students say they won’t delay their college experience under any circumstance, 33% are likely to defer or reject their offered start date if programs are online-only. Additionally, 4% of students said they will look for cheaper or alternative educational options if their institution only provides online courses. It doesn’t sound great, but let’s focus on solutions by exploring what this data is really saying.
These figures speak to the novelty and lack of confidence students currently have in the quality of online education. Clearly, it’s necessary for colleges to establish or improve their online experience to continue operating – it’s an unavoidable fact at this point. Traditional four-year institutions that previously focused on on-campus experiences are likely to be the hardest hit and therefore might be feverishly working to establish or scale their online programs to remain competitive.
Many students are beginning to remove campus life from their valuation equations and are starting to explore less expensive options to complete their coursework. Therefore, community colleges and alternative programs could see increased enrollment in their online programs, meaning they’ll need to maintain a solid infrastructure to handle the influx.
At the end of the day, this ‘new normal’ is shifting higher education towards online learning at a pace we’ve never seen before. So no matter what, your higher ed program needs to adapt to and optimize online learning – beginning with a reliable file management system as its foundation.
Solid Solutions: Online or Off
Truthfully, SmartFile’s systems are well suited to all universities – even those with students physically returning to campuses. Pandemic aside, file sharing tech is at the heart of almost all businesses these days thanks to email and cloud systems. The market is saturated with consumer-grade platforms which can be great solutions for one-off projects or small companies as they start out. However, only professional-grade solutions like SmartFile keep your organization’s information secure and compliant with government regulations through encryption and safe storage in either a cloud or on-premise data banks.
We’ve also set our system apart by designing a front-end and back-end to enhance the user experience so staff and students can easily submit content and collaborate while your university’s IT team confidently manages data and access in the background. No matter if you’re running programs online or on-campus, if your higher ed program is currently using a consumer-grade file sharing platform, upgrading to a platform like SmartFile is in your best interest.
Benefits for Online Education
As online programs are the focus of this piece thanks to their popularity surge, let’s now shift to how SmartFile meets your university’s current needs for business continuity through features that enhance the online learning experience for your students, staff, and organization as a whole.
Security (The Big One)
Arguably the biggest reason for any organization to use a professional file sharing platform is, of course, security. We’ve already talked about SmartFile’s ability to encrypt data and securely save it in the cloud or on-premise, but these aren’t its only security features perfect for universities taking their content online.
Education is in a uniquely vulnerable spot due to how information is so easily spread online. Our system puts IT in the driver’s seat with its backend admin settings. This gives IT the power to grant access and set permissions for data and user accounts. Think of all the student information, projects, and research your university creates and stores. SmartFile not only encrypts and backs up all of that proprietary data, it also prevents unauthorized sharing (accidental or intentional).
Your university offers a service: education. As you migrate that service to become (potentially) completely web-based, you’ll need this level of security to protect your students, staff, finances, and reputation. SmartFile will prevent personal information, assignments, and class content from leaking to external parties or anyone not currently enrolled. In turn, this protects the business side of your organization by preserving the value of your service which also maintains and enhances trust in your programs and brand.
With Great Numbers of Students Comes Great Responsibility
Of course, as more students trust and join your online programs, you’ll take on a constantly growing mountain of information. Between applications, transcripts, class schedules, syllabi, research, reading material, assignments, and more you’ll not only have to consider how to keep it secure but also where to find space to contain it.
This is why we built SmartFile with the ability to handle unlimited file sizes while maintaining encryption and secure sharing settings. Our system enables anyone with permission to upload anything from anywhere. There’s no need to download an app or special software – SmartFile works from your browser and across virtually any device. It also tracks file versions so anyone collaborating on a project can stay organized and updated on each file iteration.
In-depth research articles? Check. Large graphics files? No problem. Recordings of video lectures? You’re covered. Whether using a cloud or on-premise solution, your university will have all the storage space it needs (and then some).
Protect Against Shadow IT
Historically, file sharing and Shadow IT have pretty much gone hand in hand. We’ve all had those days where we just need to send the one document before moving on to other tasks but the proper software just won’t cooperate. It’s frustrating, so we can understand where people are coming from when they instead use a personal file-sharing account, attach confidential files to an email, or grab a thumb drive. All of these actions fall under the umbrella term of Shadow IT – instances where employees take IT into their own hands by using apps, devices, and software without IT’s knowledge.
In a recent survey, IT departments estimated their companies used 51 cloud services. In reality, the survey found that employees used an average of 730 cloud services. SmartFile can help curb this issue with its security features and user experience design. As a business-wide solution, all employees will be aligned on SmartFile as their one source of truth. When your IT team sets up its admin permissions in our platform, your staff and students will be able to navigate and share files without the risk of Shadow IT rearing its head.
Customize Productivity for…
Each feature we’ve discussed so far has broader, foundational benefits that work for most (if not all) online university programs, but we realize higher ed institutions aren’t cookie-cutter. This is why we built SmartFile with the ability to host customizable settings to optimize your college’s collaboration and productivity for all of your audiences.
For example, our advanced sharing and management settings make it possible for your IT team to create a branded user interface and give faculty and students the power to protect their content. Flexibility is important across the board, especially in the current higher ed climate so SmartFile is built to be bolted onto existing IT infrastructure for easier adoption and scalability. Let our user experience mold to yours instead of the other way around.
Instructors also enjoy the ability to customize their experience. They can share course materials and assignments while applying passwords, download limits, and link expiration dates to safeguard their content from external sharing. They’re also able to set permissions on a granular level, giving students access only to certain folders at certain times. This feature makes it easier to upload and roll out curriculum and submission portals in a timely way.
SmartFile also creates detailed activity logs to record when files are uploaded, shared, and accessed. This feature helps your faculty keep an eye on students’ progress so they can provide extra attention to anyone struggling. The easy-to-use, IT-controlled interface helps mitigate staff struggles as well. Uploading and sharing content is a breeze for users, and if instructors run into any issues, IT can easily troubleshoot thanks to their admin permissions and control of the system.
The abilities your IT team and faculty enjoy with SmartFile will also translate to a smoother online experience for students. From their perspective, these settings can streamline collaboration and productivity for classwork. Applying passwords to group projects, adding link expiration dates to older file versions, and having access to a single, branded portal containing all their resources and submissions make for an empowering student experience.
Students can also take advantage of the file tracking settings to know when teammates and professors have accessed project files. Cataloging file iterations also creates a solid project history so project groups know where they stand while giving instructors a reference to make sure each student is on track with the material. As your students balance multiple assignments and classes, SmartFile will keep them in control of their work and on top of their grades.
How is your university adapting to this ‘new normal’? Do you currently have the infrastructure in place to remain a competitive institution? What is your plan to continue sharing knowledge and furthering your college’s mission? These are the big questions we hope you’ve considered while reading this article.
SmartFile is built with the spread of information at its core, and we’re ready to help you answer these questions. Let’s talk about how our professional-grade platform can optimize the online education experience (and your reputation) for students, staff, and IT department to help your institution rapidly adapt to the accelerated market.