Our experience with digital transformation in higher education

Friday, June 02, 2017 01:17

Katherine Hockley by Katherine Hockley

At the University of London, a lot of us are going through our very own digital transformation, so I thought I would share with you the processes and changes needed to implement such a huge scale project. 

Next week, after years of prepping, over a hundred UoL staff are finally moving down to the newly refurbished basement of our building to a high-tech, modernised area with improved digital assets, as well as a whole new approach to working

READ MORE: The biggest challenges facing technology enhanced learning in higher education

I joined the organisation a year ago, and so I was present at the beginning of the main roll-out. We were all given brand spanking new Surface Pros, which we are to use remotely in line with a policy of flexibility, as well as in our new hot-desk office space. No-one has a designated desk (besides a few for medical reasons), so it's a surprise as to who your neighbour is going to be on any given day. 

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There were a number of workshops scheduled throughout the year, and the sessions ranged from practical information on new technology (from how to use OneNote to how to use the new meeting room screens) and discussions on Activity Based Working (ABW), as well as migrating content to the cloud. 

READ MORE: Key points to be taken away from our accelerating digital transformation in higher education conference

The move to the basement, or 'Project Beveridge' to use its proper name, has been met with a mixture of positivity and negativity. The main positives and negatives, from what I have heard and seen, have been the following:

Positives

  • New, faster technology for all staff
  • Flexible working (working from home = working from bed!) 
  • Better integration with other workers within the university, increasing social aspects of the job
  • Nicer, newer office space (new cafe, break out areas and generally a better aesthetic)
  • More meeting rooms for staff
  • More chances for collaborations and quick meetings
  • Being able to access files from the cloud, making it easier to work from anywhere

Negatives

  • IT niggles - installing software on to the new surface takes time, as does getting used to a different machine
  • The fear of losing your own 'space' and having to clear your desk every day
  • Ensuring data and security safety with ABW
  • The worry of losing touch with your team if everyone is split up
  • Being in a basement with no windows
  • Whether the surface is fit for all job roles
  • Delays to construction, and construction noises being present during the whole process

Speaking for myself, I was originally very uncomfortable with the idea of moving to this new way of working. I'm very happy with the current set-up, and enjoy working in an office where I can play my specially made Spotify playlist on a Friday afternoon. 

However, I totally understand the benefits and need to have such a huge refurbishment. I barely know anyone from other parts of the organisation, and I do believe this will allow us to be more social and allow for better collaboration. I won't need to travel far to find certain people, and will likely get to know other people through hot desking. 

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The new tech and office space is impressive, and it feels like a huge investment in the staff as well as the company. Plus, the implementation of flexible working is a progressive and helpful step for staff to fit their work around their life, not the other way round. 

There will always be resistance to change, but I believe that the strategy put in place for the move as well as the preparation has been one of the key things in quashing fears. We have been encouraged to use our new tech and try out ABW before the move, so the new way of working is not going to be a complete culture shock.

The workshops we all had to attend were relatively small groups, meaning questions could be asked and people could keep up with instructions when learning new skills. Numerous updates have been sent via email, as well as resources and tours of the building to keep us feeling a part of the project rather than the subject of it. 

Once we have moved down next week, I will be interested to see how the dynamics change and whether any unforeseen postive or negatives crop up. Keep your eyes peeled for another blog post soon...

READ MORE: Our experience of digital transformation in higher education - part two


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