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Well on the way towards a smarter, more digital studies administration

Digitisation offers enormous potential for education at Aarhus University. If used intelligently, digitisation can help us improve the administrative service we provide to the university’s 40,000+ students and their teachers. And by investing in educational IT, we will can both improve quality and increase student engagement. In this month’s blog, I would like to share some of the exciting steps which have been taken in studies administration towards exploiting the many possibilities opened up by digitisation.

2017.06.12 | Arnold Boon

Life at Aarhus University will probably not be completely paper-free any time soon. But nonetheless, when I think about the university of the future, I imagine that the stacks of paper will have shrunk considerably. Fewer brick-heavy compendiums and fewer wrinkled reading lists. More teaching will take place online, which will make it possible to devote more of the face-to-face interactions between students and teachers to clarification of questions, feedback and other aspects of learning which can’t be handled via a screen. But in order to realise this scenario, however, we must continually develop our technological capacity while also remaining in touch with the needs and wishes of students and teachers.

A large step in the right direction towards more digital studies administration has already been taken: the development of the personalised study portal. Access to the portal is currently limited to students on two Arts degree programmes, but will be expanded to all students at AU in the course of next year. The new portal offers students a single point of access to timetables, Blackboard and registration for exams, among other things.

The portal was developed in response to feedback from students, who have expressed that they find it too difficult to navigate AU’s many IT systems and websites for a number of years. The personalised study portal is an excellent example of how we in the administration have listened to the students and found a solution which can be implemented across the entire university.

Another good example is the roll-out of the Digital Exams project. Digital Exams is a completely digitised workflow for all phases of the examination process,from creation by an exam administrator through the exam itself and the submission of the exam paper by the student, and finally the assessment of the paper by the assessor. The system also makes it possible to give feedback online before the student’s mark is available in the self-service system.

Measurements of student satisfaction performed by studies administration show that students are generally satisfied with the digitisation of exams. The Digital Exams system was also developed in collaboration with our good friends at the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Business School, Roskilde University, Aalborg University and the Technical University of Denmark. This successful collaboration will also make life easier for teaching staff and co-examiners, because now everyone can work in the same system.

A final important example which is a bit more technical is the process of transferring the annual data packages of indicators and central key figures about AU’s degree programmes to the BI (Business Intelligence) system. AU’s BI portal is called AURAP.

This project will make it easier to access and compare up-to-date data on our degree programmes. Using data (and not least big data) to develop our degree programmes and the service we provide represents an enormous potential. So the BI portal project is absolutely essential.

The senior management team is currently working to ensure that the many new initiatives are followed up by a targeted focus on educational IT. The idea is to support the students’ learning and invest in the digital learning environment in new ways. More concrete plans are currently in development, and they will be presented to the board in the same way as other strategic initiatives which have been adopted. The ambition is to make educational IT a defining element of Aarhus University’s profile.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many impressive results which have already been achieved. Digitisation has the potential to disrupt how we define and practice university education. This is why we are proactively searching for new, more effective digital solutions to the services we deliver to the academic environments.

I look forward to the next stages on the journey towards a smarter, more digital Aarhus University.

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