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We will all have to pitch in to make digitisation a success

Aarhus University has a new digitisation strategy. But the results won’t come of themselves. We all have a role to play in the process of supporting the university’s academic excellence with digital solutions.

2017.01.26 | Arnold Boon

The new digitisation strategy, which sets ambitious goals for digitisation in relation to administration, research and education, was adopted by the senior management team yesterday. The strategy is the result of over a year of preparatory work, during which the steering committee, with support from AU IT and with the involvement of academic and administrative employees as well as students, mapped the organisation’s needs and wishes in relation to digitisation. Read more

The strategy constitutes the overall framework, and the faculties and the administration will now begin the major task of translating the strategy’s targets into concrete results. Because IT is not the only division that needs to roll up its sleeves.

It is absolutely crucial that research and teaching staff as well as administrative staff and students contribute to defining our digital solutions when we begin the process of developing a road map of concrete activities in the course of the next six months, and that we continue to involve our users in the process of developing and implementing these solutions.

Technology must not be the limiting factor

Digitisation is not a goal in itself, but rather an indispensable tool for supporting the tasks the university performs for society. Technology must not become the limiting factor in relation to increasing the efficiency of administrative work processes and developing academic activities. As a consequence, one of the underlying premises of the digitisation strategy is that the university must have the necessary technological capacity to maintain its position at the forefront of science and scholarship.

The administration can provide better, more economical service by digitising a variety of work processes. Research can reach new heights, for example with the aid of high-performance computer facilities. And a variety of digital tools can be used to support learning by enabling greater flexibility and new forms of teaching, for example flipped classrooms, e-learning and streaming.

And increasingly, the quality of the digital work and study environment is a parameter in the competition to attract the brightest minds. The university will be met with ever-higher expectations of its digital solutions, and we must be able to meet those expectations. The talented, ambitious researchers and students who are interested in pursuing their work at AU must be able to trust that we have the necessary digital infrastructure to ensure that they have optimal conditions for their daily work, which will allow them to devote their time and energy to expertise, innovation and creativity in their chosen field.

Digitisation isn’t free

A targeted, strategic approach to digitisation will benefit the university in many ways. But it will require investment – both financial and organisational.

In relation to both research and education, it is crucial that the process of defining and developing concrete initiatives should take place in the closest possible proximity to these activities. The process must building on the experiences and visions of researchers and teaching staff who are to benefit from the digital solutions in their day-to-day working lives. While there is considerable variation across the university in the demand for IT in relation to research, there are a number of common tendencies in relation to education. From an administrative perspective, this offers good possibilities of finding common ground in relation to initiatives which can result in new teaching methods which can be used across disciplines, to the benefit of the student body as a whole.

As far as the administration goes, our task here is to ensure that the development and implementation of new solutions takes place in close collaboration with the academic environments. We must be absolutely sure that the solutions we provide match the services which academic staff and students need. In addition, we must also work internally in the administration to improve and simplify our work processes through digitisation.

The necessary resources for investments in administrative IT will be freed up by means of a gradual realignment of priorities within the administration’s budgetary framework. Financing for new initiatives in educational and research IT is in the process of clarification. But the greatest investment the university will make in digitisation is and will remain the commitment this process will require, across the entire organisation.

Fællesadministration
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