The Digital Transformation of Teaching in Higher Education from an Academic’s Point of View: An Explorative Study

Thoring A., Rudolph D., Vogl R.

Forschungsartikel in Sammelband (Konferenz)


While the process known as digital transformation or digitalization changes all areas of society, universities - at least in Germany - seem to be widely unaffected by now. Aside from research, where the digitalization is visible in large datasets and the increasing use of informatics even in the humanities, today's studies look very similar to those in medieval times: a professor in front of his students who writes on a blackboard and students who learn from books. Even if you replace the blackboard with a beamer and the books with PDFs, it is not digitalization but just digitization. However, it is very likely that the digital transformation will not stop at universities eventually. Under the heading "University 4.0" or even "University 5.0" a discussion has started recently about the influence of social megatrends such as individualization, globalization, mobility or lifelong learning on teaching.The Internet allows for new types of courses such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses) which students can attend online wherever they are. Lecture recordings also remove place and even time constraints. In consequence, every university is capable of being a global distance university and can offer courses to everyone, not just to local students. A higher international awareness, an intensified exchange and a better integration into the global research landscape are some of the benefits and will attract more foreign students to study on-site as well.Innovative digital concepts for teaching has the potential to substantially change the way courses of studies are formed because they allow for considerably more differentiation. In an extreme case, a student could completely personalize his course of studies based on modularized teaching content. Moreover, real-time feedback provides an opportunity to individually adapt the learning pace and, thereby, increase the learning success. The combination of face-to-face courses and e-learning is called "Blended Learning". In this context the lecturer's role as a trainer or moderator is emphasized. New ways of communication between students and lecturers arise and new teaching methods like serious gaming, interactive videos or simulation models enhance the learning experience.However, it would be a mistake to think that the technical capabilities match reality or, more specific, the users' demand. Our first study (presented at the HCI 2017 [1]) and other work in this field [2, 3] showed that students do not expect a digital revolution of teaching but a smooth digital evolution. Now we want to focus on another protagonist in higher education: the academics, whom we expect to be even more conservative regarding the use of digital tools and processes. In our study, the following research questions (RQ) are analyzed:RQ1: How digitized are academic studies at present?RQ2: How do users experience the support for teaching through university IT units?RQ3: Which commercial services are used for teaching purpose and why?RQ4, RQ5: What services should the university provide? Which is particularly important?RQ6: Do priorities differ between academics from technical and non-technical subjects?To produce results which are comparable with the findings of our first study we will use the same proven and tested method. We will build two focus groups with academics from various disciplines and use a very similar interview guide to structure the discussion. The guide divided the focus group interview into three sections: In the first part, the participants are supposed to describe their experiences with the use of IT at work in order to find out which parts are already digitized and which are still processed offline. In this context, used services - offered by the university or by external providers - and usage problems are of particular interest. Afterwards the participants canmake suggestions on how the university could simplify their work by means of IT. In the second part, the participants will be asked to write down the most important IT services which the university should offer to support teaching. Suggestions will be presented and classified by the participants. In the third part, the participants are supposed to prioritize the suggested services and give reasons for their respective decisions. A ranking list will be formed on this basis.

Details zur Publikation

Veröffentlichungsjahr: 2018
Sprache, in der die Publikation verfasst istEnglisch