Strategies to implement Equitable Digital Transformation in Higher Ed

Digital Transformation in higher education is “a topic that is of utmost importance in space and time.” This is according to Angela Gunder, Ph.D, Chief Academic Officer and VP of Learning at Online Learning Consortium (OLC), who spoke at the recent IELOL Global Regional Colloquy: Transforming Educational Futures through Innovation in West Africa.

Dr. Gunder focused on the importance of transforming learning environments into ones that center quality and equity within any digital space including an online or blended course, or even a face-to-face course that uses digital technology. She echoed Professor Eric A. Asante’s remarks on the importance of building digital learning infrastructures to make room for innovation and Digital Transformation

According to Dr. Gunder, higher education is still facing some challenges including issues of access to the digital learning environment, endemic inequities that sit unrecognized and unaddressed, and challenges of power and privilege as the foundation of higher education. Looking into the future, Dr. Gunder sees potential in moving from remote instruction to quality online learning and changing the focus to the critical needs of students within the new reality. She sees leveraging the challenges institutions face as a way to build their future strategy. 

One of the things that became clear during the pandemic in terms of new opportunities and possibilities in order to create a more quality or equitable experience for learners include partnerships. “We have learned that partnerships are really key, that we can’t solve these things alone,” said Dr. Gunder. She shared a number of strategies for implementing digital learning infrastructure to support equitable outcomes including the following:

Digital Learning 

Digital Learning is defined as the use of technology and teaching practices enabled by digital tools to enhance learning. “This includes a wide range of content, communication tools, curriculum models, design strategies, and student support services that personalize instruction for students in blended, hybrid, and online learning environments,” Dr. Gunder said. “Equitable digital learning adapts instruction to students’ needs. When it’s implemented well, Digital Learning has the potential to enable active learning, better student outcomes, and empower instructors with data to inform teaching.” 

Digital Transformation 

Defined as the process of using digital technologies to create new or modify existing business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements, Digital Transformation is happening at any level of an institution referencing not only the technology itself but the cultural and humanized context within technology is viewed. A successful Digital Transformation enables innovation and creativity. 

The Digital Learning Infrastructure goes beyond technology alone. It is made up of the six elements required across the institution to sustain digital learning at scale and distributed throughout the institution: 

  • Leadership, budget, and policy
  • Course delivery and design 
  • Student success for digital learning 
  • Evaluation and analytics
  • Professional learning
  • Technology infrastructure 

Dr. Gunder shared some free resources for faculty. She referred to the report ‘Optimizing High-Quality Digital Learning Experiences: A Playbook for Faculty’ as a useful and recommended resource for faculty looking for implementing practical strategies for designing and facilitating online courses. The report can be downloaded free of charge here. Another free resource she recommends is the OLC OSCQR Course Design Review Rubric, which can be downloaded here. And the Caring for Students Playbook is available here and includes six recommendations. 

As Dr. Gunder said, “the ways in which we choose to see the world has a direct impact on our ability to transform the world around us.”

For more news from OLC's event, see:

Creating a Road Map for Digital Transformation in Higher Education