A strategic reflection tool on digitalisation at European higher education institutions

The DIGI-HE project aims to create a self-reflection tool that will support European higher education institutions in developing and enhancing their strategic approaches to digitalisation. Such a tool exists already for schools (SELFIE), but not for higher education, at least not at the European level. The project targets different types of institutions (universities and colleges), at different levels of maturity in their digital developments.

DIGI-HE is led by EUA and a diverse consortium that consists of European higher education institutions and organisations actively involved in the development of digital learning across Europe.

A Forward-Looking Cooperation Project, DIGI-HE is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission. It will run from January 2020 to December 2022.

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LOGO euThe European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

  • Background

    Digitalisation is of growing importance at all higher education institutions. Recent studies report progress regarding the increased general acceptance of digital learning and its strategic and more mainstreamed use. They show that a high number of institutions report that they develop or enhance their strategies (Trends 2018, p. 60; Changing Pedagogical Landscapes 2018).

    Since digitalisation is often developed and driven bottom-up, by individual staff members at the department level, for institutional leadership it may be difficult to assess the acquis and diverse needs and to undertake strategic planning accordingly.

    In this regard, the self-reflection tool that the DIGI-HE project aims to develop would support higher education institutions in developing their strategic approaches to digitalisation.

    EUA has been following the development and consequences of digitalisation in higher education since Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) captured attention in 2012. The Association issued two papers analysing the phenomenon of MOOCs in 2013  and in 2014. The Association also provided a knowledge base for the topic with a survey of European universities on e-learning.

  • Approach and objectives

    Gather data on the strategic development of digitalisation in higher education institutions

    Through a survey of higher education institutions, DIGI-HE will gather fresh data on the state of play of and strategic development goals and challenges in digitalisation. This will inform the development of the tool, as well as help to identify participating institutions in the following project activities.

    Develop a self-assessment tool and support institutions in the development of strategic approaches to digitalisation

    The DIGI-HE tool will be developed on the basis of the SELFIE tool (addressing the school sector) and its lessons learnt, the European Framework for Digitally Competent Educational Organisations, and other existing tools geared to higher education institutions. It will aim to cover the main missions and areas of activity of higher education institutions where digitalisation plays a role: learning and teaching, research and innovation, governance and management, and cooperation and outreach (including internationalisation).

    The tool will enable the institutional leadership - without external support, steering or assessment - to explore perceptions and perspectives of different members across the institution (leadership, teachers, researchers, administrative staff, technical and IT staff, and students), and use these for review and reflection, and to enhance strategic institutional development. It will inform and stimulate intra-institutional strategic dialogue and collaboration processes, thus contribute to mainstream approaches, improved support and more transparent structures for digitalisation, and more proactive involvement of staff and students.

    Build a community of practice

    The project will also attempt to build a community of practice around the DIGI-HE, to foster inter-institutional exchange of good practices. This should contribute to an accelerated and more strategic take-up of digitalisation at European higher education institutions. It could also be used as a basis for interinstitutional cooperation and benchmarking, and in this regard serve networks and associations of higher education institutions, as well as contribute to the development of national approaches, by mapping the state of play and needs for digitalisation.

  • Activities

    1) Inception and information gathering (Jan. 2020 – Aug. 2020)

    • Survey

    The survey will map the situation of digitalisation at European higher education institutions and enquire about their strategic intake in digitalisation, its impact and challenges in various areas of institutional life, their experiences in this area and their expectations for the future.

    • Desk research of the existing tools

    The analysis of tools will focus on their impact in key areas of higher education institutions’ activities, including governance and management, learning and curriculum, research and innovation, collaboration and outreach. The experience of the SELFIE tool with available documents will also be assessed.

    • Report

    The results of the survey and the desk research will be compiled in a report. One part of the report will be publicly available.

    2) Development and implementation (Aug. 2020 – Oct. 2022)

    • Testing of the tool

    The testing of the tool will involve 10 pilot institutions. They will be selected with attention to balancing the diversity of institutional profiles and their interest to join.

    These pilot institutions will test the online tool, provide comments and feedback on the questions embedded in the tool, the technical interface and user friendliness, and the appropriateness of the guidelines.

    • Explanatory webinars

    A first webinar will present the tool guidelines, explain how the tool should be used and its purpose, and will offer a Q&A session. The second webinar will address the overall DIGI-HE experience.

    • Launch of the tool

    The DIGI-HE online platform will be officially launched and promoted by all project partners. Higher education institutions across Europe will be invited to use it and participate in community building activities through peer learning, based on their experience with DIGI-HE.

    • Focus groups

    Two focus group meetings will be organised, each of them gathering 25 higher education institutions. During these events, the institutions’ representatives will discuss their experience with DIGI-HE as well as share their good practices in digitalisation.

    3) Validation and dissemination (Oct. 2022 – Dec. 2022)

    • Validation conference

    The validation conference in Brussels will gather a mixed audience of institutional representatives, policy makers, and any other stakeholder with an interest in digitalisation in higher education. The DIGI-HE tool will be presented, and institutions having tested the tool or participated in focus groups will share their experience. Also, as part of the conference, small breakout sessions and workshops on thematic issues will be organised.

    • Final publication

    An online publication will gather testimonials from institutions that have used DIGI-HE, examples of practices, as well as practice-based recommendations inspired by the community building experience.

  • Project partners

  • Associate partners


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