From motivated to empowered: digital transformation in education


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You’ve probably heard the terms ‘digital’ and ‘transformation’ bandied about a lot recently. There is good reason for this: digital tools are transforming the world we live in today, and that our students will lead tomorrow. Digital transformation in education is just as critical as in every other industry today, and there’s an urgency driven by the gap between student and staff expectations and their current experiences.

In education, we’re becoming familiar with many forms of digital technology and change. This includes laptops and pervasive Wi-Fi in classrooms, online courses and peer-to-peer collaboration, and real-time support for students’ learning based on accessible data. These are exciting developments but, as we’ve seen in the past, it can be hard to work out which ones will deliver real value to your organisation and students – especially when we have often seen that what works with classroom innovators struggles to translate to all.

To help you better understand the experiences of other organisations, we’ve just released a new report titled Embracing digital transformation: Experiences from Australian organisations. The report features in-depth interviews with 30 leaders responsible for digital transformation at a range of Australian business and government organisations, including major educational groups such as the NSW Department of Education and Deakin University.

The report shows that digital transformation presents substantial opportunities, whether you’re a school, TAFE or university. For example, Phil Sherwin from the NSW Department of Education says his agency’s digital transformation – which has involved making extensive use of broadband, public cloud computing services and other new technologies – has provided “200 to 300 per cent more services for a 20 per cent lower budget”. That’s a huge gain.

Our report also identifies two types of organisations.

The first are ‘Proactive and Embracing’ organisations that are actively implementing digital technologies and where teams are empowered to pursue transformational initiatives.

The second type are ‘Motivated but Constrained’ organisations. These are keen to progress but hindered by factors such as a lack of leadership, clear vision and well-developed strategies. People in the Motivated but Constrained group were often also more affected by privacy and security concerns, public scrutiny and internal resistance.

The challenge is to overcome these constraints to achieve the gains possible with digital technologies. With that in mind, the report discusses at least three critical success factors you may need to move forward: strong leadership, a dynamic culture and access to the talented individuals to implement new systems and deliver real change.

The good news is that the future is brimming with opportunity for the education sector. At Microsoft, our global vision is about empowering every person to achieve more. This means that our focus is on using technology to help teachers, students and organisations to improve teaching and learning – not replacing people with technology. We want to find ways to help educators and researchers, not replace them with robots.

I hope the lessons shared in this report strike a chord with you and help to enrich your understanding of digital transformation. Perhaps the most important takeaway is that few organisations have a comprehensive plan for the use of digital technologies to deliver organisation-wide shifts. Instead, they’re starting with discrete projects, such as using Microsoft’s OneNote to facilitate information sharing and collaboration across campuses.

It’s a start on the change journey; the beginnings of a quiet revolution that will lead to digital transformation in education.

Download the report:
Embracing digital transformation: Experiences from Australian organisations

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