How to digitalise a school or university successfully
How to digitalise a school or university successfully

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Anybody who follows education trends knows that the digitalisation of schools and universities is a double-edged sword. If a school fails at digital transformation, it will also fail its students – it is now impossible to prepare young people for 2030 career success without at least some ed-tech. But on the other hand, it is not easy to digitalise an educational organisation. It’s a mammoth task that requires the two resources that schools least often possess: time and money.

How then can a school or university succeed at digitalisation? In our experience, there is one success factor: organisation-level integration of digital and human capabilities.

Trend: post-Covid university bankruptcy

The importance of organisation-level digital change has been highlighted in recent news regarding universities. In February 2021, Laurentian University made headlines in Canada by filing for creditor protection. The region’s declining population and tuition freeze, and ultimately, the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, were cited as the reasons.

In April 2021, an article published by UNESCO’s World Education Blog put this in the light of a global trend: many large universities around the world are now under financial risk due to the effects of Covid-19.

Seeking answers, the article quoted Australia’s Minister for Education and Youth urging Australian universities to “rethink the on-campus business model of international education” through “innovative online and hybrid courses”.

But haven’t many schools and universities already digitalised in response to the pandemic? Why is simply taking classes online not working?

Digitisation is not digitalisation

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, many schools rushed to digitise learning materials. But digitisation is not digitalisation.

To digitise something is to convert it into a digital format. For example, when a teacher turns a paper worksheet into a PDF and emails it to students, or gives a maths lesson on Zoom. This kind of short-term fix, however, does not constitute organisational change. It only impacts today’s homework assignment or class.

For a school to digitally transform, it must remodel its core operations.

The traditional model – a barrier to change

As part of the ogi tech consultancy services, we often speak to schools where existing technology investments have gone wrong. Invariably, directors, teachers, students and parents are desperate to fix tech bugs that are causing classrooms to run less than smoothly.

However, when we look through the daily ICT incidents (ranging from unstable internet connectivity and decalibrated whiteboards, to apps that refuse to work on student iPads) we often find that the primary culprit is not the tech itself, but its lack of integration into the school’s processes.

In other words, the school’s technology in these cases is not managed as an integral part of its administrative functions, pedagogy and overall strategy. Technology exists as a separate department or issue.

This old “compartmentalised” way of thinking about technology is a huge roadblock to digital era change.

So how to digitalise a school in a way that works?

The successful hybrid school in Peru

During the last decade, working in the education digitalisation sector, we have seen case studies point to one clear success factor: bringing school systems, human skills and technology into harmony.

ogi tech’s latest project in Peru, which involved the implementation of hybrid learning in the San Antonio de Huamanga school in Ayacucho in 2020, highlights this.

School digital transformations are more likely to succeed when each department and person has clear ownership of their role and responsibilities in the initiative.

In the San Antonio school, this meant after the technology installation was completed, skills training and leadership coaching and ongoing technical support for management, teachers, students and families were rolled out.

Crucially, all the technology was integrated with the school’s learning environments and digital era furniture, and with all the pedagogical, learning and school management and communication processes. This was done through a powerful digital education platform that encompasses more features than the standard learning platforms currently on the market, with a wide range of benefits from one-stop remote tech support to financial savings.

The real success of the project is now being directly measured by the substantial increase in new student enrolments in 2021.

When it comes to young people, we cannot afford failure

The digital learning gap existed long before Covid-19. When the crisis ends, the divide will be even wider, aggravated by the economic impact of the pandemic and magnified by constantly emerging new technologies.

Before we consider how to digitalise a school or a university, it is worth keeping this wider issue in mind. To equip young people with the skills they’ll need in 2030, we can no longer afford to think about school digitalisation in terms of quick fixes that work now.

For schools starting down the road to digitalisation today, it is time to lay out a comprehensive and sustainable strategy.

How to digitalise a school? Contact us for more information

For fully integrated digital education solutions, contact ogi tech.

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