Panellists agreed that digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies and tools into the teaching and learning process, from the smallest step – such as moving from taking physical notes to note taking on a device – to course level content and assessment, to university wide initiatives such as central testing.
There are numerous possible benefits to using technology. As Pearson’s Bissan Korban says: “Technology can create efficiencies that mean more time can be spent on the right things.” It can enable personalization of the experience, gamify lectures to capture attention, and make recording student performance data easy, whether that’s used to improve learning or needed from a regulatory point of view.
The key thing to note is that the technology isn’t the driver behind the change. The driver is a desire to improve the student learning experience.
For example, says Dr. Wafaa Salah Mohamed, “Are you trying to improve student engagement? Are you trying to convert students to independent learners?”
The British University in Egypt, where she teaches, uses different digital tools including Moodle and Pearson MyLab, growing from two modules back in 2016 to 105 modules today. For Dr. Salah, the move to digital started with a teaching and learning problem.
“We can find that our students can play games for two hours, but they cannot listen to a lecture from the module leader more than 15 minutes.” Student attendance was getting lower and lower. Faculty were out of touch with student expectations.
She says: “We have to provide our students with personalized learning experiences and facilitate their access to learning resources from anywhere and at any time. The students don't want to have the information in the university only or in the classroom only. They can have it at home, they can have it have it while they are playing sports, they can have it through simulation games.”
Identifying the problem was the first step.
Dr. Salah advises that you must first define your goal, and then you can search for technology that serves it.
After homing in on their objective, The British University in Egypt looked for suitable solutions, and introduced Pearson MyLab into two modules as a pilot in 2016. It promised an anywhere, anytime learning experience, personalized to the individual, with interactive activities and simulations.
At the end of the semester, they measured the results. The failure rate was down from 39% to 20%, the excellent grade increased from 11% to 30%, and staff and students spoke positively about the experience. Dr. Salah had evidence she could use to encourage uptake on other modules. Helping faculty see the benefits was critical to success.
In addition, before teaching starts, it’s vitally important to train staff how to use the new technology and set up a support system. Dr. Jan Smolarski says, “you have lots of on-the-fly problems.” But support shouldn’t only come from the IT department. The College of Business at Al Faisal University has a dedicated person to support the application of everyday digital activities into teaching. It’s hard for faculty to make a change, as Dr. Smolarski says, “they've taught the same course, the same way, for close to 20 years, so it takes a bit of effort.”
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