DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION: THE UOC CASE

M. Romero, T. Romeu, M. Guitert, P. Baztán

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) (SPAIN)
The actual context of the global pandemic has accelerated the trend to integrate e-learning into higher education (HE), and traditional universities have been forced to urgently dive into to adapt to an urgent remote context. The recent experience in online teaching has encouraged many traditional universities to explore the possibility of moving towards blended learning systems.

Giving some keys to promote the change from a traditional face to face system to an online or blended system, this paper presents the vision of different stakeholders about digital innovation at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). UOC is a full online university that is analysed in the context of the European project “Empower Competences for Onlife Learning in HE'' (ECOLHE). This project is developed through a consortium of institutions from Italy, Greece, Ireland, Cyprus and Catalonia, being the last one a reference for traditional universities to generate their own online teaching-learning spaces.

The study involved the participation of the different professionals of the UOC, with the use of different instruments gathering information for each specific group:
In-depth interviews with representatives of UOC academic bodies, the organisation of focus groups (with teachers-researchers, collaborative teachers and the administrative staff and technics) and an online questionnaire addressed to students.

The objective of the interviews was to collect data about the macro issue of the digital innovation of UOC at different levels, which represent the dimensions of results analysis: organizational level, teaching-learning level and cultural level. The research questions addressed the identification of strength and weakness, opportunity and threat in implementation of digital innovation in HE.

Focus groups were oriented to collect data about teaching practices and digital innovation, professional development, best practices related to their own professional field and SWOT in implementation of digital innovation in HE.

The questionnaire addressed to students had the objective to understand how the application of digital innovation and the UOC's online educational proposal impacts students' learning process.

This work presents the main conclusions obtained, such as that technology is a way of improving teaching, research and sharing knowledge, not an objective in itself, some useful strategies to implement digital innovation, or how change a traditional face to face system to an online or to a blended system is not just a simple translation of the traditional methodologies to the virtual world, or which are the main motivations of students to choose an online teaching system.