REMOTE Summit Spotlight: Elizabeth Stovall, Microsoft

Fierce Education Editor-in-Chief Elliot Markowitz recently spoke with Elizabeth Stovall, Sr. Higher Education Strategy Manager, Microsoft regarding:

Fierce Education: What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing Higher Education?

Elizabeth Stovall: Higher Education faces an unprecedented set of challenges. But these challenges did not occur as a result of the pandemic. These are long standing challenges. What has changed is the level of impact, visibility, and disruption.

  • Funding Models: Funding models have been shifting for higher education for some time. However, the pandemic has accelerated and brought new pressure on all facets of funding: tuition, philanthropy, public funding, grants, operational services…you name it and it’s been impacted
  • Government Policies & Accountabilities: National, state, and local governments can exert sovereignty and influence over colleges and universities either public or private as we have seen with the response to Covid-19 particularly with regard to the physical safety of those in the campus community. The need for data-driven decision making in real-time, and accurate and timely reporting has never been more acute.
  • #RemoteEverything –Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the issue of campus continuity and its relation to institutional risk. Students, Faculty, Researchers, and Administration need the ability to do their work effectively and securely whether they are fully on campus, fully online, or some mode in between.
  • Unbundled Education: The increasing availability of credible “anytime and anywhere” educational offerings have disrupted how students look at the way they earn and market credentials and the way employers perceive them.
  • Evolving Student and Faculty Expectations: The pandemic has changed how students and faculty view their “campus” experience. Responding to the pandemic with social distancing, contact tracing, remote learning, and other related responses has increased focus on the college or university experience in its entirety. Learning should be accessible, assessable, inclusive, and engaging, but that experience has not been universally realized. Systemic inequities such as access to devices, broadband, work space, etc. were exposed in a new light.
  • Institutional Risk: There is now an unprecedented visibility for institutions in how they handle the operation of their campuses which has only been exacerbated by the significant uptick in ransomware and other cyber attacks launched against colleges and universities globally. Education currently ranks highest above any other industry in malware encounters.

Fierce Education: Have you seen examples of innovation from the past year that will have long-lasting positive impact?

Elizabeth Stovall: There have been impressive and even humbling examples of innovation…not just in technology but in ideas, approaches, processes, interaction, and social connection. The amazing way that institutions around the world used technology (Minecraft, FlipGrid, mixed reality, Microsoft Teams, and other collaboration tools) and whatever it took to provide students with a memorable graduation or freshmen orientation experience is just one example. The collegial nature of academia has taken on new meaning as institutions have collaborated and shared their innovation with colleagues across the globe. The world has changed, and higher education has done what it has always done…be an example for all of society on what we can do collectively when we put our minds to it.

Fierce Education: How has your company’s products/services help meet these challenges?

Elizabeth Stovall: Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Since March 2020, we have seen the beginning of digital transformation conversations in higher education quickly evolve from “Why?” to a “How much?” and “How soon?”

The ability to fully support learning solutions for on campus, remote, hybrid, and any other combination of scenarios at scale relies on cloud technologies. The technologies on which we are building our future, AI, IoT, mixed reality, blockchain, and quantum computing, will continue to have dramatic implications on all facets of high education academic, research, and institutional operations and the employment outcomes of higher education students.

Fierce Education: Where do you see additional opportunities for improving Higher Education forward?

Elizabeth Stovall: There is the opportunity with AI, cloud, and related technologies to really deliver on the need for more personalized learning experiences, to unlock insights from data that has previously been siloed to achieve better outcomes across the institution, and to create more accessible and inclusive experiences for all.

Fierce Education: What can we expect to see from your organization in the coming months/year to continue to address the needs of the education market?

Elizabeth Stovall: The CEO of Microsoft said it best in the Microsoft 2020 Annual Report:

“As we pursue our mission, we also recognize our enormous responsibility to ensure the technology we build benefits everyone on the planet, including the planet itself. Our customers see this urgent need and are looking to us—in partnership with them—to take action. We’re committed to working across the public and private sectors to foster partnerships and solutions that will have lasting impact and redefine what “achieve more” means for the world ..…It also requires that we equip everyone with the skills, technology, and opportunity to pursue the in-demand jobs of a changing economy. We’re accelerating efforts to close the skills and broadband gaps, ensuring underrepresented and overlooked communities can compete on equal ground. COVID-19 has intensified the need for these efforts, forcing tens of millions of people out of work. That’s why we’re bringing together assets from across Microsoft, inclusive of LinkedIn and GitHub, to help 25 million job seekers gain digital skills for in-demand roles. We are also working to expand broadband access to 40 million unserved and underserved people in rural areas globally, and to 3 million people in unserved and rural communities in the US by July 2022 ..…”

--Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer, October 13, 2020

For more Fierce Education REMOTE Summit Spotlight interviews see: