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August 18, 2023

Co-Creation: The Secret Sauce in Humanistic Digital Transformation

While higher education institutions must serve a variety of stakeholders and users with their digital systems and services, active students are their ultimate customers and therefore critical to getting things right. I am excited to share some great examples of how co-creation with students is helping some institutions up their digital transformation game while incorporating a very humanistic touch.

First, let’s be clear that many of these students are digital natives, who have grown up surrounded by and interacting with technology. That childhood, as explained by Dr. Marlene Tromp, president of Boise State University, in Episode 54 of the transformed podcast, has meaningfully “rewired” their brains compared to earlier generations. They process digital information differently. Not incorrectly, just differently. The way they use computers to engage, think and learn is different from previous generations. Since they are the target demographic for enrollment, their perspectives and their ideas need to be included in efforts to attract and retain students.

Involve Students Early

Boise State University is part of the Rapid Educational Prototyping (REP4) initiative, an alliance of several institutions that enlists this population as part of the digital transformation design process. By asking prospective and current students what they would like to see, what would help them thrive in a higher ed environment, the REP4 alliance learned that community topped that list of needs. The message was clear: Help students find each other and enable them to connect and engage together. That was what students said they need first, their absolute top priority, before starting conversations about any specific changes to curriculum or learning methods.

Build on Success

In Episode 39 of the transformed podcast, Mary Gallagher – president of Los Angeles City College – explained the vital role students played in its rollout of an extended reality platform during the pandemic. As the initiative launched, pilot results showed increased student engagement through virtual and extended reality lessons. To offer additional lessons and continue to build on positive early results, LACC brought students into the course development process, so they could create new lesson content. Expanding the program with faculty- and student-created lessons built the library of content and engaged more stakeholders as the course offerings grew, all part of a virtuous cycle that continues today.

Many higher ed leaders are focused on encouraging and promoting a humanistic culture in all parts of their institutions. Such leaders value the ideas and needs of all stakeholders, including current and prospective students, and it shows. Their projects benefit from more precise objectives for change, such as building community for students, as well as more robust and thorough development by engaging with all stakeholders.

Are we missing any ingredients for this secret sauce? Drop us a line at to share your experience and what you might add for even greater levels of digital transformation success.

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