Digital transformation in higher ed

Digital transformation is not just updating current technology to perform processes more efficiently. And it’s not a coming trend – digital transformation is here.

While digital transformation often starts with technology upgrades, it must be used to transform what is done as much as how it is done. Digital technology opens many doors, but one must walk through them and use the additional resources available. There must also be a culture shift in the organisation deploying new digital assets that matches the shifts in the culture at large.

The Covid-19 pandemic sped up the process of digital transformation in higher education, changing perceptions of online learning and digital tools in just 12 months. According to a survey from ExamSoft and Hanover Research, completed by 300 education professionals, “Many believe that faculty (81%) and students (67%) will be more interested in online teaching and learning after the pandemic than they were before.” Continued investment in digital learning tools is expected as well.

What role does assessment play in digital transformation?

Over the past year, many educational institutions have had to switch to online learning, which included prerecorded and synchronous lectures, message boards for class discussions and much more. Digital assessments have also played a key role, but it’s important to note that switching from paper-and-pen to computer-based assessments is not digital transformation. University administrators and instructors must use the data and other benefits that come from digital assessments to begin digital transformation.

Security is one of the primary features of digital assessments. Depending on the platform, questions and answers can be reordered to prevent cheating, and locked-down browsers can prevent exam-takers from searching the internet for correct answers. When using the ExamSoft platform, all applications on a device can be blocked, preventing students from checking their notes and other resources. Encouraging academic integrity to make sure those who pass the test can actually perform in future classes and their careers is critical, but there’s more to it than that. Exam security ensures accurate data.

Digital assessments provide data to instructors and exam writers that can be used to improve teaching and learning strategies. For example, an instructor may find that a high percentage of their class does poorly on a particular content area, while other content areas covered seem to be on a standard curve. The instructor can then make adjustments to how they teach the content area in which students struggled.

Assessment data can also show which students may need remediation before an upcoming high-stakes exam. Student retention is often improved when students have been better prepared for assessments as well. Faculty can use psychometrics to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the tests they’ve written.

The future of education and technology

Digital transformation is not a race to the finish line. As technology, specifically educational technology or edtech, continues to evolve, your institution benefits from evolving with it. Institutions can expect to see an increased use of virtual learning, the mobile-first approach (applications that are optimised for mobile devices), video-assisted learning, blockchain for data security, VR and AR technologies, and robotics, to name a few.

To stay relevant in today’s culture of expanding digital technology use, higher education must continue on the path to digital transformation. As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, advancements in edtech provide needed alternatives to traditional teaching and learning methods. The benefits have been proven, and digital transformation will continue into the foreseeable future.

For more information on the digital transformation in higher education, download the survey report from ExamSoft and Hanover Research. 

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