Adopting technology to support every student

Digital learning tools can support student success, but there remains resistance at some institutions in Europe. The key to adoption will be reinforcing how online delivery can personalise learning to drive student success

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21 Aug 2023
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Anthology round table at THE European Universities Summit
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Anthology provides data-informed education technology experiences to enable and empower the global education community

When the Covid-19 pandemic closed the doors of universities around the world in 2020, teaching was forced online. While this was quickly achieved, the appetite to return to in-person learning is strong at many institutions in Europe.

A round table discussion that took place at the 2023 THE European Universities Summit, held in partnership with Anthology, brought together leaders from higher education in the region to explore changing student preferences and best practice for digital transformation. The group agreed that online learning can personalise learning for students, ultimately helping learners achieve their goals.

“I had this feeling that the world would never be the same again [after teaching moved online], that this is going to be the revolution,” said Grzegorz Mazurek, rector of Kozminski University in Poland. “But it didn’t happen. The forces that usually keep academia in its constraints are still there.” Mazurek said these include a Polish law that doesn’t allow total online delivery of courses.

Online or hybrid learning is far from becoming the standard in Europe. Maciej Kolasiński, vice-president of Centrum Rozwoju Szkół Wyższych Merito in Poland, said that universities are digitalising their processes, but the panel agreed that new systems and hybrid learning models are needed to be fully effective.

Isak Frumin, head of the Observatory on Innovation in Higher Education at Constructor University in Germany, said that some tech solutions don’t address the needs of universities and students, instead offering gimmicks such as avatars to teach classes. “We have to determine our real needs and try to invest more into more detailed and sophisticated data collection,” he said.

Werner Nau, vice-president and head of academic operations at Constructor University, said that online materials can be superior to traditional teaching methods. He noted the benefits of adaptive learning. “The system asks the student exactly the questions at his or her level, instead of asking difficult questions, which is demotivating for the student,” he said. “A system which is adaptive – using machine learning – can find out the level of the student so there is absolutely no doubt it’s better.”

Edgar van Steenhardt Carré, senior account executive for Europe at Anthology, added that the universal design for learning approach offers everyone the chance to learn in the way that’s best for them. “Students with a visual impairment might need material in an mp3 format or braille. But maybe other students like to learn a text by reading it twice and listening to an mp3 version. So, every student has their own and best way of learning and technology can support that,” he said.

Carré added that by using a service such as Anthology’s, which joins disparate aspects of the learning management system, departments can concentrate on their goals and focus on student success.

While some European institutions are offering more digital options, the most important step is reinforcing the business and student success case for universities to transition, Frumin concluded.

The panel:

  • Isak Frumin, head of the Observatory on Innovation in Higher Education, Constructor University
  • John Gill, editor, Times Higher Education (chair)
  • Jarosław Górniak, vice-rector, Jagiellonian University
  • Ahasan Habib, CEO, Hassle Free Education
  • Maciej Kolasiński, vice-president, Centrum Rozwoju Szkół Wyższych Merito
  • Vytautas Masiokas, CEO, UniExpert
  • Grzegorz Mazurek, rector, Kozminski University
  • Werner Nau, vice-president and head of academic operations, Constructor University
  • Waldemar Siwinski, president, IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence
  • Edgar van Steenhardt Carré, senior account executive (Europe), Anthology

Find out more about Anthology.

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