Managing Digital Transformation in Higher Education Institutions: History
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The new paradigms derived from technological innovations lead to the digital transformation of organisations. Higher Education Institutions cannot ignore these changes, which affect them like any other organisation, but especially because of their activity: training professionals who need to learn to manage and lead organisations in this new information society. 

  • digital transformation
  • higher education institutions
  • digitisation

1. Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are bringing about a radical change in different areas of our daily lives: personal relationships, working methods, leisure, and the acquisition of new knowledge. Some authors call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution 4.0, in which ICTs are the real engine driving organisations towards new forms of leadership and management [1].
Organisations must digitally transform themselves to survive in this new context [2]. This is a necessary process for organisations that intend to lead change and maintain a competitive position in the sector in which they participate. In the case of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), their activity in this transformation will influence the development of human capital and talent [3].
The biggest challenge facing organisations is to develop the capacity to increase creativity and innovation based on engaged professionals working collaboratively within a new business culture [4]. Thus, digital transformation (DT) will involve changes in both individuals and organisations. Digitalisation is defined as the incorporation of digital technologies in all the activities and processes that an organisation develops and that allow the development of new business models, as well as transforming and altering existing models, improving the customer experience, and facilitating innovation and value creation [5]. To achieve this, having the right digital talent within HEIs is particularly relevant due to the idiosyncrasies of their activities, related to the training of future professionals, who need to have the right competencies to understand this change and become generators of this transformation in their future organisations and institutions [6].
This process also implies the transformation of organisations, which will generate some resistance from their professionals [7]. Given the wide-ranging impact of digitalisation, companies must face the changes with a systemic approach that involves different stakeholders [8].It is the responsibility of leaders to control the factors that are considered essential in the process: establishing adequate internal communication channels and involving human resources [9].

2. Managing Digital Transformation in Higher Education Institutions

The process of technological innovation is facilitating the availability of digital tools that help automate processes and provide new information systems to assist in decision-making. These new tools are having an impact on business models and making it possible to incorporate business intelligence systems. With these systems, accompanied by new, more agile organisational methodologies, it is possible to achieve organisations that are more flexible to changes in the environment [10].
Companies often define technological innovation strategies based on the development and use of ICTs, focusing on infrastructure management [11]. However, this has a very limited impact in terms of creating new scenarios and new value propositions.
In an increasingly dynamic environment, innovation is becoming more and more critical to build new propositions that differentiate organisations from others [12]. Organisations are therefore driven not only to innovate, but also to change the way they innovate. This change has been brought about by the rise of new internet-based technological tools, which have made it possible to tap into a greater number of distributed knowledge sources more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently [13]. Moreover, they have considerably increased the capabilities of organisations to develop new competitive advantages.
In this way, people will be able to establish the most appropriate strategies to integrate, coordinate, prioritise, and implement the necessary transformations. In addition to the incorporation of these technologies, a cultural change is required on the part of organisations, using new ways of thinking and working. This new scenario requires redefining business models and the value chain [6].
Business DT can be defined as the modification of business processes, procedures, capabilities, and policies necessary to take advantage of the changes and opportunities presented by new digital technologies, as well as the impact they have on their environment, always thinking about both current and future trends [14]. It thus refers to an organisation’s ability to adapt, respond, and position itself for success in the face of rapidly evolving technology [15].
For a proper transformation, it is very important to establish a strategy that serves as a central concept to integrate, coordinate, prioritise, and implement the necessary changes to achieve the appropriate technological innovations for process automation. This leads to the concept of digital business strategy, defined as “the organisational strategy formulated and executed by leveraging digital resources to create differential value” [16].
The organisation must address the strong impact that these changes can have on its human resources. The World Economic Forum [18], shows that new technologies will replace manual and repetitive tasks performed by people. This is leading to rapid changes in the skill sets and competencies of workers, who will need to be trained to perform functions that add value to these tasks. Among these new skills, those of a social nature (persuasion, emotional intelligence, and communication skills) will be more in demand than strictly technical ones (programming, operations, or team control). Involved, committed, and collaborative professionals will be essential in an innovation-oriented organisational culture. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for organisations is the need to provide themselves with this type of talent by training and retaining their employees, as well as recruiting new ones [4].
We are thus faced with a disruptive change that will affect all organisations and their professionals [19], which may generate resistance for emotional, cognitive, and behavioural reasons. To reduce them, it is necessary to define an appropriate strategy to address them, with leaders being responsible for clearly communicating the need for change and encouraging professionals to participate in the project. Furthermore, by reducing resistance, the organisation’s performance throughout the process will increase [20].
Organisations are thus facing massive changes in work and leadership design [2]. New job profiles are needed that are adapted to the new positions and which in turn demand a new type of relationship-oriented leadership: more teamwork, more networked structures, and a greater need for training.
The skills, knowledge, and competencies of an individual or social group when interacting with digital technologies are described as employee digital literacy [21]. This form of literacy, together with the interactions between them, increases the possibilities of automating processes and freeing up resources that can be used to create new value propositions for the organisation.
The adoption of new methodologies, processes, and technologies tends to be uneven, depending on the age of the employees. As a rule, with some exceptions, this process tends to be more reluctant for those who have been in the organisation for longer, as it pushes them out of their comfort zone. On the other hand, people who have been in the organisation for less time, although they may find it easier to incorporate these methodologies, processes, and technologies, still need to internalise the culture and values that experience brings [22]. Therefore, to facilitate intergenerational cohabitation, the concept of reverse mentoring [23], understood as the pairing of a younger, junior employee, who acts as a mentor to share his or her technological skills, with an older employee with extensive experience in the company, becomes important.
The availability of information is another factor that tends to slow down digital transformation processes, as it is seen by certain members of the organisation as something valuable that needs to be preserved. This makes different departments reluctant to share it and leads to the creation of “silos” or watertight structures that do not share this information, believing that they will lose power if they do so. This hinders a global vision of processes, which is necessary to incorporate new digital tools that can automate processes and, above all, collect data. To avoid this problem and encourage the exchange of information, the creation of interdepartmental working groups is a very useful tool [15].
In today’s knowledge society, education plays a decisive role both in the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge, and in the development of analytical and professional skills. The digital economy affects the higher education sector by linking the economy based on digital developments and applications with the university teaching and learning process. HEIs are increasingly aware of the need to adapt to the changing environment generated by the development of new technologies [24].
One of the obstacles to the application of technology in HEIs is that the importance of incorporating new processes and tools that facilitate the administrative and commercial management of HEIs is not sufficiently considered. Systems such as Learning Management Systems and, in this case, Canvas, are tools that facilitate academic management by reducing costs and increasing benefits for both teachers and students [25]. It should be considered that DT also has an impact on the economic growth of Higher Education Institutions, streamlining their operations and reducing costs and energy, therefore also increasing the profitability of university campuses [26]. In general terms, digitalisation is perceived as the set of methodologies, processes, and tools that increase the competitiveness of HEIs, as it provides new economic models of growth aligned with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Thus, the DT of HEIs offers the possibility to build new competitive strategies that can be implemented through policies and plans in education systems. In addition, it will allow linking these plans with the needs of companies to align the knowledge and skills of students with those needed by companies.
In addition, it is a priority for institutions to understand that digital transformation can also be an advantage for learning methods and research activity [24]. The introduction of digital technologies, therefore, influences the teaching and learning process for both teachers and students. These developments have enabled the introduction of new methodologies and innovation tools, which facilitate a student-centred approach to the learning process [27].
In terms of developing new learning models, most are trying to move from traditional lecture-based training, where learning is teacher-centred, to a competence-based assessment system, where new digital tools enable new types of student-centred learning [28]. This methodology leads to greater success in the learning process and greater job satisfaction for teachers [29].
The implementation of this new educational approach is perceived by teachers as more complex. It requires a change in the attitude and role of the teacher. Moreover, these changes demand a significant amount of time and a deeper commitment from teachers, which generates some resistance to change. This cultural change means that new professional profiles must be managed, which requires new styles of leadership. Retaining talent involves developing a concern for the health of employees and caring for the work environment [30]. The types of HEI stakeholders are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Types of HEI stakeholders.
Categories Groups
Governing bodies State and federal governments; Board of Directors; neutral organisations; religious organisations
Administration Rector; Dean; management team
Employees Faculty; administrative staff; support staff
Clients Students; parents; spouses; service sector partners; employers; companies receiving trainees; companies employing trainees
Suppliers Secondary education providers; secondary school students; other HEIs; service companies
Competitors Direct: public and private post-secondary education providers
Potential: distance education providers; start-up companies
Substitutes: employer-sponsored training programmes
Donors Individuals (counsellors, friends, parents, pupils, employees, companies, research centres, foundations)
Communities Chambers of commerce; special interest groups; school systems; social services; neighbours; chambers of commerce; special interest groups
Regulatory agencies
governmental
Ministry of Education; neutral organisations; state and local financial aid agencies; research councils; local research grants; tax authorities; social security; patent office; etc.
Regulatory agencies
non-governmental
Foundations; accredited institutional and non-programming entities; professional associations; sponsors; ecclesiastics
Financial intermediaries Banks; fund managers; analysts; analysts
Joint venture partners Alliances and consortia; corporate co-sponsors of research and educational services
Notes: The types of stakeholders in Higher Education Institutions are shown in Table 1, adapted from [31].

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/electronics12112522

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