We will need openness, patience and cooperation
Many new systems are currently waiting to be launched at AU, not least in the studies administration area. In light of the long-term change processes ahead of us, I would like to share with you five perspectives on how, in the administration, we will help to guide the university through a time of change.
We just announced that the university's LMS – Blackboard – is to be replaced in 2021. A new system for teaching and exam planning is just around the corner, and in the international area, we are implementing MoveOn, a system for dealing with incoming and outgoing students. Next in line is the Digital Exams system and STADS. And this is just in the studies administration area.
Things will be intense in the years to come, both at the technical and organisational level. The reasons behind the changes of systems are legally required competitive tenders, technological obsolescence and the heterogeneity of our portfolio of systems. I also see it as a chance to acquire up-to-date solutions that match student and employee needs and digital opportunities.
In practice, we will shift from proprietary systems to common standardised solutions in which responsibility for development, updates and ongoing maintenance rests with highly specialised, market-leading suppliers – in line with AU's digitisation strategy. And new systems are not just systems – they are solutions that call for new ways of working and new ways of being a user, whether as an administrative employee, a teacher or a student. There is so much more at stake than just switching to newer and smarter solutions. It’s about developing new common frameworks and guidelines that will influence our daily work - both in the academic environments and in the administration. Not from day to day, but over time.
These are my five perspectives on how we best can respond to the changes that affect our work in a time of digital transformation.
#1: We have a common goal of providing the best framework for education and teaching
First of all, we need to have the university's common goals in mind. Without a purpose, changes make no sense! So when we faced by challenges from new processes and time-consuming implementation, we need to communicate the higher goal – which is to create the best possible framework for education and teaching.
This means that, as a general rule, the student is at the centre of any decision we make. Taking Kopernikus and the replacement of STADS as an example, focus will be on giving our students a more coherent user journey and making it possible for them to take a more proactive stance in relation to their own situation, for example through a higher degree of self-service.
#2: We’re collaborating with the academic environments to create results
Many of the systems to be replaced have a direct effect on the degree programmes – both teaching staff and students. Consequently, good solutions should be developed through collaboration between the administration and the academic environments.
The organisation of individual projects shows that a lot of effort has been put into ensuring a broad mix of representatives in the steering committees and working groups – across academic (VIP) and technical and administrative (TAP) staff and across faculties. At the same time, I would like to encourage you to prepare the ground for collaboration at the informal level. Each of us should engage in dialogue with teaching staff and students – talk and listen to them – both when things are going well, and when challenges arise.
#3: We should be open to new ways of solving tasks
One thing we know for sure is that digitisation is constantly changing our daily lives. There was a time when we bought a CD with 10 tracks because we wanted to listen to one hit. Today, we can choose exactly the song we want to hear by subscribing to a streaming service. There was a time when we went to the bank to meet with our bank adviser. Today, we can manage most banking activities from our tablet at home. In the same way, digital developments are changing how we teach and study. The increased use of educational IT, paperless exams and more self-service already bears witness to this.
It may sound trivial, but if we are curious and open to digital change and new solutions, I am convinced that the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages in the long term. There is no need to fear that administrative tasks will disappear – but they may change. And new processes are not set up from day to day – they are constantly being tested, with due respect for the lessons learned along the way and with a focus on the need for training and support.
#4: Patience is a virtue
I am impatient by nature, and I fully understand that new IT systems and processes can be a challenge, both to our tolerance and our understanding of a change of systems. Patience is needed at two levels. During the transitional phase, in which users have to get to know the system and overcome the barriers associated with it. And when working with new processes that need to be adapted to new systems – work that rarely follows a set path, but is carried out in collaboration and dialogue with others. Patience is the virtue that will prevent frustrations from taking over – combined with a focus on the common goal.
#5: High level of information
Being informed is a prerequisite for being prepared for change. Anyone should be able to turn to their immediate supervisor and find answers to their questions. And it should be easy to get up-to-date information.
In the studies administration area, we have set up a communication platform as an entry point to the many change processes and changes of systems. This initiative is called “Den digitale studierejse på AU” (The digital academic journey at AU) and will help users get an overview of the changes. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the new web portal, where you can also subscribe to an email newsletter from the management of Educational Administrative Systems under the AU Student Administration and Services.
Digital changes in the studies administration area only represent a small part of AU’s overall digitisation strategy. The university is working on several new initiatives, including the roll-out of Office 365. All these initiatives aim to ensure that AU will be able to meet student and employee expectations for a modern university, also in the future.
I hope that my five perspectives will serve as inspiration across administrative areas and show how, individually and jointly, we can best address the ongoing digital changes that are a fundamental condition of our work.