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Digital Transformation in Education: From Challenge to Opportunity


Digital Transformation in Education: From Challenge to Opportunity

Technology is changing the way society communicates, collaborates and learns. Digital transformation is not a fleeting trend or hype. It is a societal revolution that causes unavoidable change for any industry. Organisations often see the digital challenge as a struggle to keep up with the latest technology. An unfortunate mindset, because it is much more than that. The digital transformation in the current information revolution is actually a wave of changes that enable people to grow and adjust. For the education branch it is an opportunity to improve learning methods, attract bright minds and meet learners’ expectations.

Data: knowing the individual requirements

The main problem within education institutions and learning organisations is unlocking data. Student data is often maintained in silo’s, requiring too much time and effort to make them available for any interested party. Technology should supplement the experience for both teachers and learners. Due to the insights that can be retrieved from student behaviours, organisations can deliver a more personalised learning experience and improve student engagement. To achieve this, IT departments need to be able to deliver on the demands of this tech-savvy generation.

Demographical and technological matters play a crucial role in the student learning experience and the market competition. The digital transformation is allowing to bridge the widening gap between increased learner expectations and funding, that is for the most part collected through tuition fees. The best practise case from MIT gives useful insights on how one could harness digital transformation. It describes how institutions like MIT, the University of San Diego, and the University of Oklahoma are delivering technology solutions faster these days. The bottom line is, that in order to meet demands and fight competition, educational institutions need to create a network infrastructure that connects all their data systems, unlocking reusable data via a single platform and increasing productivity.

Network infrastructure:  Connecting data, applications and devices

Connectivity is an important pillar in the learner’s demands package. For a lot of institutions and organisations this is the complicated backbone of the digital transformation. Legacy IT services need to be modernised and made adoptional to multiple stakeholders and multi-faceted technology needs. Students, administrators, learning & development departments within organisations and faculty staff within educational institutions. All of these target groups should be empowered to gain leverage that represents growth and evolution.

When innovative API-led applications can be connected easily with a single platform for all the necessary data, every department will be enabled to have their own custom solutions built, making learning services accessible for everyone. Solutions can vary from enough bandwidth, financial management systems to online learning platforms. The globalisation of higher education for instance increases competition at top universities worldwide. Technology can help them to differentiate from their peers, creating a healthy competitive education market that drives innovation. Same goes for learning organisations.

One can only build and thrive on the cloud, mobility and other technologies when the right network infrastructure is in place. For IT departments this means a different role: less controlling data and more governing and providing self-serve access in order to deal with current demands.

Learning anytime and anywhere

With the right network in place, mobile and online learning are becoming more and more important in higher and adult education. Students want to be in control of how they learn, and especially of what they learn and when. The new generation wants to focus on the change in mindset they need to achieve and the skills they need to develop. Most of all they want to be agile in doing so.

In this perspective, online and mobile technology are important enablers. They both offer platforms for techniques like micro learning and social learning; effective tools to create the required learning experience.

Micro learning is characterised by small learning units and short-term learning activities.  With shorter, more concentrated bursts of content offered on an online platform, people can study anywhere they want on the device they prefer.

Same goes for social learning, which is based on the idea that we model and imitate the behaviour of others through observation and feedback. In other words, not absorbing knowledge from books but learning from peers. Take for instance TEdX programmes, inspirational learning by storytelling and sharing experiences.

The  PowerApp of learning organisation Bright Alley in the Netherlands is another great example that merges both techniques. This application provides learners with small pieces of personalised content based on the need to know knowledge. Also it provides people with easy feedback tools through gamification. An excellent way to keep employees up to par.

Other e-learning examples that have been upcoming the last decade are MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) or SPOC’s (Small Private Online Course). Developing these online learning solutions is no rocket science anymore. At least not the technological part; setting up an effective course still requires the knowledge and skills of a learning professional. But user-friendly software, like open-source learning platform Moodle, make creating learning solutions more accessible and payable for almost any organisation or educational institution.

Thrive or hardly survive

Digital transformation is not going away. While other industries have been radically enhanced by advanced digital technologies in the last decade, the education industry has barely changed. Evaluating digital transformation readiness is essential to identify challenges and embrace the possibilities. Not applying them to step into the next level, won’t stop competitors from causing a disruption that threatens the businessIt is time for education to learn!

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