Episode 5: The Digital Transformation of Higher Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has already had an enormous impact on the global economy and nearly every aspect of our everyday lives has been disrupted beyond recognition. This week, I wanted to explore the pandemic’s impact on education and, in particular, higher education (HE).

Since the scale of COVID-19 became clear, universities around the world (including here at Bristol) have worked incredibly hard to transition to online forms of teaching, learning and assessment. Technology enhanced learning is nothing new, of course, but the full digital transformation of nearly all academic courses across all institutions certainly is.

What do the educators at the centre of this transition think about the new reality in which they find themselves? What does technology enhanced learning mean for the actual practice of teaching (both in terms of challenges and new opportunities), and what comes next for the HE sector, post-pandemic?

To help answer these questions, I was delighted to be joined for this episode by Richard Watermeyer, Professor of Higher Education, and Sarah Davies, Director of Education Innovation and the Bristol Institute of Learning and Teaching (BILT).

Richard and his collaborators recently launched an international online attitudinal survey which seeks to understand the perspectives of those in universities now teaching online. The survey very quickly returned more than 1,100 responses (and counting) from university academics around the world.

Richard talks through the initial findings of this research, which paints a mixed and complex picture. It also reveals understandable anxieties among some academics relating to how the online transition has, and will likely continue to affect their roles as educators.

To help give us an institutional perspective of the great digital transition, I was pleased that Sarah, who leads on education innovation here at Bristol, was able to take time out to join us. Her normal focus is on supporting evidence-based educational innovation and improvement, and establishing a vision and roadmap for digital education at Bristol.

As ever, I hope you find the conversation interesting, and my thanks to Sarah and Richard for taking time out to discuss these important issues.

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