Higher education: digitalisation is at the top of the agenda

Dr Gabriela Whitehead, head of digital transformation and process management at GISMA Business School, on the role of edtech in university education in the midst of a global pandemic

Digitalisation is not new but its current impact has reached every sector of society, as well as the personal sphere of individuals. Public and private organisations have already adapted to incorporating online platforms and digital solutions to support the provision of their services. The education sector, for example, has moved to virtual classrooms and providing online resources to ensure the continuity of teaching, from primary schools to higher education institutions.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic in academia has initiated a wave of transformations, that are not only improving students’ learning experiences, but are also creating alternatives. Travel bans and social distancing measures are not stopping education; they are instead promoting fast changes to open new ways to access the resources available by current as well as prospective students beyond geographical borders. This means that students’ journeys can start online and be completed on- campus, at their chosen location.

International students can particularly benefit from the newly available offers. Standard administrative processes, governmental policies and visa regulations continue to be in place, however, the possibility to access learning opportunities from any location means that students can start their programme online, and receive all the services and support from their educational institution, before the necessary documents to relocate abroad are finalised.

Moreover, virtual classrooms are an opportunity for those who, due to health issues, financial constraints, or personal choice, decide to study from their homes and remain part of a community of students who are physically on-campus.

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Some private institutions in Germany remain ahead of the wave of transformations during this time of crisis, implementing solutions to continue to be fully operational and offering guidance to their students during all the stages of their journey, from the welcome orientation week being streamed live, to the services provided to support the successful completion of their academic programme.

Private international schools in Berlin are continuously monitoring the requirements form prospective students around the globe, following the updates of the measures put into place by local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and making internal changes to meet students’ expectations.

By managing a focused digital transformation of organisational processes and operations, private international schools can offer all their services via virtual, face-to-face sessions, including mockup interviews to prepare students during their visa application, dedicated webinars to learn about the range of academic programmes and courses available, and career workshops to prepare students to enter the local market once they have relocated to continue and complete their programmes at the school’s physical campus.

An additional advantage of digitalisation within academia is that potential applicants can search for the educational institution and academic programme from the comfort of their home. Prospective students, as well as their families and friends, can participate in virtual open days and attend webinars to get answers to questions they might have, face-to-face, at a distance.

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