DIGITALIZATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION: FROM THE ANONYMOUS MASS TO PERSONALIZED AND INDIVIDUAL LEARNING RELATIONSHIPS
Digitalization has evolved as one of the megatrends that drives businesses in almost all areas and also affects our society in general.
The task of universities is to empower young people to actively shape this change. Obviously, digitalization can contribute much to improving teaching performance too. However, practice shows that universities are having a hard time anchoring this topic in teaching sustainably and often do not have a clear strategy for its implementation.
According to recently published studies, the vast majority of universities do have the required technical equipment but are lacking a digitalization-based learning and teaching culture as well as the coordination and transparency of digitalization projects that so far have mostly been isolated and based on the intrinsic motivation of a few single lecturers.
The reason is that digitalization is not yet considered as a key solution to the challenges arising from the growing and increasingly diverse and heterogeneous group of students. One of the major challenges we are confronted with in nowadays classrooms is the question how to guarantee each student receives the individual support that she or he needs in order to successfully complete the study. Thus, digitalization is not just another task to be mastered, but it needs to be regarded as the key for the design of successful learning processes and the key question is no longer about whether or not digital instruments, media and processes will enter the classroom at all but simply how to do it right!
The simple use of tools is only an alibi reflex but not the right answer to this question. Publishing lecture slides as a PDF document or a video-captured lecture e.g. on a Learning Management System (LMS) delivers no real added value by itself. It’s just another way to provide information without any customization to the individual requirements of each student. They are still treated as an anonymous mass without any differentiation as regards individual capabilities, learning speed etc.
Understanding the key value of digitalization as the opportunity to assess the different learning situation and progress of each student and to provide an individual and personalized learning path including selected media and automated feedback, this in contrast will result in a qualitative improvement of the learning process.
This paper investigates how the key promises of digitalization, namely the ability of delivering individual and even personalized services at the cost of mass services, can be leveraged in the area of higher education.
Thinking about modern didactic concepts including blended learning and inverted classroom scenarios leads us to solutions where each student is provided with personalized content, divided in self-learning-sessions for the knowledge transfer and on-site sessions to deepen the knowledge. Continuous online tests show us the individual learning progress of each student so that software with suitable algorithms is able to create tailored offers for the single students. We will still see teachers in the lecture halls and practice rooms, but their role will completely change from the traditional lecturer to a coach instead. Moreover, this approach will ultimately lead to a culture where we are considering students as our clients and as unique individuals with different needs and learning abilities to be addressed.