Long before the rapid move to on-line that has resulted from the COVID-19 crisis, many universities were deeply engaged in Digital Transformation (Dx), particularly where that applied to the use of the educational technologies that enhanced student learning. Though the approaches varied, such a move was often predicated upon using technology to improve existing means and mechanisms of student access and engagement. An approach that I describe as digital in part.

We have increasingly recognised that the student learning experience (both award and non-award) can no longer be predicated upon the physical campus alone; even when augmented by technology. We understand that it needs to become a true blending of the physical and the virtual, where the opportunities afforded by digital technologies are not simply harnessed to existing ways of “doing business” but are transformed by them. This is an approach that I describe as digital at heart. It is also an acknowledgement that our students are already accessing their learning pragmatically to meet other demands on their time, and that they are increasingly learning at the time and place that best suits them, and most often with the devices that they already own.

I believe Dx is an inevitable consequence of an information revolution. A revolution, in many respects, as radical and deeply transformative as the industrial revolutions of 17th and 18th century Europe. I also consider that we are on the cusp of this information revolution, looking forward to its inevitable transitioning to the digital economy. We need to understand and respond to this context if we are to ensure the longer-term attraction to learners of a university education; Kodak being the oft-sighted anecdotal example of an organisation too slow to realise the profound impacts that technological disruption was having on an existing “successful” business model.

As a sector, we can broadly trace a millennium of continuous history, however, the requirement for Dx is upon us. If we don’t meet this challenge in deliberate, planned and considered ways, then we risk our own “Kodak moment”.

Professor Kevin Ashford-Rowe

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital Learning), Queensland University of Technology


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