Digital transformation


By Ron Augustus

Ron Augustus is the Chief Innovation Officer and member of the Board of Directors of SURF and a member of the Strategy Team of the Acceleration Plan. Ron wrote this column for the December edition of the newsletter.

2020 is a year we won’t forget. Although COVID-19 has made a leap in the use of information technology, we now also know how essential face-to-face contact is and will continue to be in higher education. We know how important a hug, or the lack thereof, can be. Higher education, partly thanks to the Acceleration Plan, has made a significant step forward in the application of digital tools. You could say it’s currently still about applying new technology to existing pedagogy. The next challenge is to apply these tools at the core of the transformation of higher education.

Generation Alpha

After nine months of online education, it is clear that digitalisation will continue to play a greater role in education after the pandemic. But that’s not the only reason to have a vision for the digital transformation. The expectations of a new generation of students also play a role. Generation Alpha children, born from 2010 onwards, will walk through the gates of our institutions in a number of years. The iPadwas introduced in 2010 and many Alpha children have been raised by their parents with an iPad instead of a pacifier. They prefer video and glass over audio and paper. As a toddler they already make TikToksthat can be viewed worldwide within a minute. They’re used to having their personal information available anytime, anywhere; they’ll also expect this freedom of choice and flexibility from education.

Whilst Generation X was the Generation of the Walkman, Generation Yof the iPod, and the current student Generation Z of Spotify, the next Generation Alpha is the generation of talking speakers with hidden digital assistants. Although the role in “Bildung” and learning to cooperate in higher education becomes even larger as a result, it indicates educational innovation is entering a new phase. Many organisations that already had an excellent 2030 Vision on the future of education, are currently rewriting it.

Educational innovation

This is a global development, just like COVID-19 is. As The Netherlands, we have an excellent starting position. Is there any other country in the world that has been organising itself in terms of educational innovation as The Netherlands, including Acceleration Plan? I don’t think so. The new SURF is keen to contribute to this, together with you. Not because technology is the goal, but the use of technology can protect the human aspect and really improve education. I wish you a healthy, happy, and innovative 2021.

Header photo by Ross Findon via Unsplash

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