5. Institutional Change

Welcome to Area 5: Institutional Change


The institutional change implies several actions to be adopted by the University as a whole, assimilating the digital perspective as a part of its way of functioning. In order to support in this process, in this module we present the main concepts to encourage you to work on the following aspects:

Module 5.1 presents Open Digital Credentials. Traditionally, once we finished a course or training, we used to obtain a paper to certify our advances in the corresponding field. However, digitalization of processes and globalization of the job market, make it difficult to convey all of our all our certifications in one place to show the validity of our CV, for example. Digital credentials allow us to easily certify students’ advances and provide guarantees about the validity of the certification. In the same way, students can prove their skills by using those digital credentials. Thus, this module explains the concepts and tools to be used to include this kind of certification in our institution.

In Module 5.2, the concept of internationalization is presented and some strategies to proceed with the internationalization of our curricula are explained. This module includes information on learning recognition requirements, how the European institutions can support the process, and some references to a HE which already developed some of these experiences.

Finally, in Module 5.3 we invite you to read some of the chapters of the University Social Responsibility (USR) toolkit by the UNIBILITY project. In addition to refresh the main concepts about USR, this toolkit presents a set of practices which can be an inspiration to you. In order to encourage you to know more about your University’s USR, we propose some research and practical activities.

4. Economic and Political Change

Welcome to Area 4: Economic and Political Change


Education has never existed in a vacuum, it is an integral aspect of society and subject to the ebbs and flows of economic and political change. While institutions including Higher Education Institutions strive hard to ensure they put in place robust structures that can ensure continuity and stability, they are just as vulnerable to the winds of change as every other structure, system and service in society. In the past, the idea that a university represented stability and continuity for a particular type of formal education was almost sacrosanct – university reputation was very much tied up in tradition and the value of the accreditation that one held was as much to do with the name of the accrediting university or college as the content of the programme. 

Much of this situation has changed, brought about by a combination of factors. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, expectations of our higher education institutions had changed dramatically. As early as the 1990’s, the term transformation began to appear when talking about universities and while there was less emphasis back then on the role of digital technologies in this transformation, there were already calls to make higher education much more accessible and open, in keeping with the demands of society. The success of the Open University movement dating back to the 1960’s is testament to the demand for change, see Mega-Universities and Knowledge Media: Technology Strategies for Higher Education  written by Sir John Daniel and published by Kogan Page in 1996 to understand how the demand for change in HEIs was already common place. 

This demand is even more widespread today. Governments, international organisations, employers, social partners – all are asking for a higher education system that is more accessible, digitally literate, accountable and open. See for example the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) published by the European Commission which highlights a number of ways in which all educational institutions including HEIs can ensure their own digital transformation in keeping with the changing world in which we all find ourselves. 

This has meant that HEIs regardless of their size or background are coping with a myriad of challenges as they move to adjust to the demands of 21st centre learning. The need to remain relevant, to take into account the digital transformation that is underway across all aspects of society, the demand for accountability and transparency all need to be taken into account, putting pressure on how HEIs are led, managed and evaluated.  

  • The first of the modules in this section on how to analyse costs deals with sustainability and funding when it comes to putting in place the infrastructure to support the digital transformation. Putting in place and maintaining a suitable technical infrastructure is a challenging task, involving not only senior management staff but also academic and support staff in a bid to ensure the infrastructure is suitable, flexible, cost-efficient and rigorous. In this module, you can read more about the drivers affecting how digital transformation is taking place as well as some of the practical steps you will need to consider in your efforts to ensure a suitable digital environment in your institution. 
  • The second module addresses the next logical step in the HEI digital transformation process by considering how to get nearer the work market by tackling the topic of  digital talent. On the one hand HEIs need to attract the appropriate levels of digital talent to their human resources and at the same time, they need to consider how digitally competent their student output is in both specific areas of need as well as more generally as well as how ready they are to meet the high demand for digital talent in the general workforce.  In this module you will read more about recommended recruitment practices for attracting and retaining digital talent in your workforce. Such practices often mean an adjustment not only to traditional recruitment practices but also a reconsideration of how staffing in general is managed, recognised and supported. 
  • The third module on how to tackle digital capital or poverty in Higher Education deals with the other side of making digital transformation a reality and that is of course by focusing on the needs of students. In order for a digital infrastructure to be effective, then students need to have the skills and resources to access all online tools, resources and support that they need. In this module you will discover how to make such access a reality. Beginning by putting in place the means by which students can access the necessary hardware that they need, it also considers connectivity and other aspects that play a role in students’ digital engagement in all aspects of student life both on and off campus.

3. Technology Change

Welcome to Area 3: Technological Change


With the emergence of new forms of technologically supported processes of teaching & learning, including the expansion of blended and online education, HE institutions are confronted with a range of important choices, challenges and potential pitfalls in relation to the desired direction and speed of the technological change they want to pursue.

In the section of the course, participants are introduced to several topics around technological change that are of interest and relevance in the context of higher education institutions. In subsequent modules the following topics will be covered:

3.1 How to map the EdTech ecosystem of your institution

3.2 How to decide what tools to support and what to not support

3.3 HR development and maintaining staff competences

3.4 How to ensure access to your content

3.5 How to use data to support strategic decisions

We will start with Module 3.1, which aims at encouraging participants to look into the range of technological tools that are (potentially) available within their own HE institution.  The module will introduce the concept of an ‘institutional EDTech ecosystem’ and how both a clear design of this ecosystem as well as better awareness and understanding of it amongst teaching staff could benefit all processes of teaching & learning

Module 3.2 connects educational technology to the overall learning support services of an HE institution and analyses the wide range of ‘tools’ that are available on the basis of the essential question: what is the purpose and benefit of this technology/tool for higher education?

In Module 3.3, participants will look at how digitisation and technological change has a direct impact on the way people work and influences the relationship between employees and their managers/leaders. Consequently, HE institutions should critically assess their policies and practices around Human Resource management and staff professional development in relation to technological change, for which this module provides concrete suggestions.

Module 3.4 looks specifically at Learning Management Systems (LMS) that have become essential educational technology tools in most HE institutions. The aim of this module is to to help participants to understand the wide range of functions an LMS can provide to support not only teaching & learning but also other functions in relation to educational management, monitoring, quality assurance etc. This module also gives an overview of the main criteria that participants can use to select a LMS and/or analyse their existing LMS to improve its performance within their institutional learning ecosystem.

Finally, in module 3.5, technological change is addressed in the context of how it has revolutionised the possibilities for gathering vast amounts of data. More specifically, this module aims to familiarise participants with different tools that can support HE institutions in the collection, analysis and reporting of educational data to support strategic decisions.

1. Pedagogical Change

Welcome to Area 1: Pedagogy


In parallel to the exponential growth of Internet users worldwide over the last three decades, those situations where screens and digital technology mediate learning (Bower 2019) have become increasingly common – in formal, non-formal and informal contexts. Situations of crisis, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to earthquakes, through armed conflicts, to name a few, make online learning and teaching a powerful tool to ensure seamlessly education, worldwide, no matter the challenge (Affouneh & Burgos 2021).

The Web started to be used for teaching purposes on a consistent basis in 1996, bringing about new types of learning experiences and educational practices, along with a host of expectations, hopes, myths and promises that too often did not live up to the hype (Bates 2005). While online courses and HE institutions specializing in this modality of education have proliferated dramatically since then, there are important inequalities influenced by socio-economic and cultural factors in terms of who can participate and benefit from it, (Czerniewicz 2018, Eynon & Malmberg 2021). On the other side, Open Education and Open Science have increased the access ratio and diversity to content, research data, services and resources, drastically (Stracke et al. 2020).

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions and whole educational systems worldwide that had worked only on face-to-face settings had no other choice but to migrate to online settings. The main period lasted from late 2019 (mainly in China) to nowadays, in 2022, worldwide, with a specific stress in 2020 and 2021, when remote learning shifted from being a specific niche for learning anytime, anywhere, to becoming the norm. Due to the impossibility of delivering education face-to-face, educators and learners used to interacting within the boundaries of the classrooms had to quickly adapt to a new reality (Stracke et al. 2021).

The new situation revealed important competence and skill gaps, along with social and material inequalities, affecting the readiness of educators and students to fully participate in digital learning experiences. As a result of this, the transformation of educational methodology in this context has become a priority to many key stakeholders in the education sector, as evidenced by the high number of reports and initiatives launched between 2021 and 2022. These reports aimed at shaping the future of education and, in particular, addressing the role that digital resources, services, and technologies can or should play in it (e.g. Barber et al. 2021, Barosevcic et al. 2021, European Commission 2020, Facer & Selwyn 2021, Higueras et al. 2021, Huang et al. 2020).

Most likely, digital education will keep playing a more central role in the design of learning experiences in a post-pandemic world. Adopting digital education in a strategic way will require a special sensitivity towards crisis situations beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, which might overlap and unfold simultaneously. This will require more flexibility from traditional educational institutions who are used to delivering teaching offline, so that they invest more in hybrid approaches that alternate remote and on-site activities or even combine online and on-campus participants, as proposed in the HyFlex approach (Rider & Moore 2021).

The modules in this section cover key aspects that any Digital Education Strategy should take into consideration. The first module addresses the importance of providing educators and students with ways of gaining self-awareness of their digital competence level, so that they can identify both weaknesses and strengths as a first step in enhancing their ability to engage effectively and appropriately in digital education.

The second module focuses on the support to educators in developing the digital education competences that they need to design and deliver suitable learning experiences, considering the characteristics of the digital ecosystems in which their practice takes place. In a similar way, the third module explores how to support students in developing the digital skills they need to actively engage in digital education experiences and make the most of them.

The last module looks at the assessment implications of digital education, another aspect that Digital Education Strategies cannot ignore.

2. Organisational Change

Welcome to Area 2: Organisation


Digital innovation and societal changes that have developed in recent years, exacerbated by the new challenges posed by the global pandemic, have made it necessary to profoundly revise the organizational foundations of institutions.

Often, these institutions have found themselves unprepared for the speed and amount of necessary change that must be implemented.

The purpose of this introductory module is to guide the reader through an overview of the most important topics that will be covered in subsequent modules.

First of all, the concept of strategy will be explored: what is a strategy, how best to plan it, and how to achieve the objectives set (the so-called “strategy implementation”). It is essential for today’s leaders to be able to adequately develop a strategy and allocate the human and economic resources available to them. But even more so, time emerges as a fundamental factor to be taken into consideration.

From this reasoning comes a summary of best practices found in successful businesses and taken from the European Union’s suggestions on how best to define and implement a strategy, together with tips in order to try to make the most of all the tools that modern technology makes available.

Higher Education Institutions are particularly required to adapt quickly to these changes, and to optimize the use of their resources.

Often, academics are reluctant to change, and reject innovative teaching methodologies taking comfort in a safe and traditional past. However, this conception can be inoptimal, obsolete, and generally inconvenient when compared to alternatives.

These alternatives are considered in the second module, “How to encourage academics to embrace change and new academic practices,” which reviews the reasons why institutions should voluntarily embark on paths of change in the way they teach, using innovative systems and new strategies to give their students the best and most up-to-date service possible, while also keeping an eye on the cost of such changes.

Alternative ways of teaching and of approaching modern-day challenges may require expenses, which can be mitigated through innovative perspectives on Intellectual Properties. The third module, “Improving intellectual property right literacy and production and reuse of OER.”, deals with the definition and issues of the current rules on Intellectual Property, and offers possible solutions aimed at institutions who may want to use third party contents, which are becoming easier and easier to create and distribute, to improve their efficiency, productivity and performances. 

Higher Education Institutions, for example, may want to pay attention to innovative models of managing IP rights, such as the Creative Commons licensing, or the world of Open Soruce software as a whole. Many Open Educational Resources and digital assets, all free to access, can be used for teaching, learning and assessing.

An up-to-date knowledge of the rules regarding IP rights and of the opportunities that many alternatives currently offer are essential to avoid negative impacts on research objectives and education, offering yet another reason why taking IP into account at all hierarchical levels is an important path to follow to obtain the best results possible in every field.

New ways of working bring with themselves new risks for the safety and health of employees. While employers have duties to provide measures in order to minimise these risks, based on a series of state-level regulations stemming from EU Directives, employees must be well informed and prepare to deal with them.

Taking care of health and safety should not just be considered something mandated by law. Better standards lead to better work organisation.

The need for a more flexible work schedule arising from the pandemic and the spread of forms of smart working could also lead to unpredictable working conditions, affecting both morale and productivity.

Then, in the fourth module, we aim to offer ways to ensure that managers are better prepared to deal with these new challenges, through a new multidisciplinary approach for occupational Health and Safety management. By combining different types of knowledge and competencies emerging from different fields, the module takes a look at the new challenges and hazards of the modern workplace and the instruments that can aid in mitigating them.

In the end, in the last module, an analysis is conducted regarding the most important legislative obligations related to privacy and security. The advent of the GDPR enforced a number of rules on subjects who process personal data, of which Higher Education Institutions are a part of.

The objective of the module is to make the readers aware of the risks involved in the processing of personal data, to make him aware of his rights and to offer him a basic but also comprehensive view of the subject, easy to understand even by those who are not experts in the field of law. Both sides of the processing of personal data are taken into account: the one who does the processing and the one who undergoes it, in an attempt to raise awareness of the inherent complexity of the matter.