The Hochschulforum Digitalisierung (German Forum for Higher Education in the Digital Age) has summarised the initial results of the research accompanying summer semester 2020. The findings reveal that, although many higher education institutions (HEIs) developed a rapid response and invested quickly in the digital semester, sustainable strategies for digitally based teaching were often lacking.
Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed HEIs into a proving ground for online teaching. All teaching had to be switched online within a very short space of time. Since then, this exceptional situation has been researched intensively from various perspectives.
Hochschulforum Digitalisierung (HFD) has compiled the research results and issued a publication entitled “Kurz & kompakt – Das digitale Sommersemester 2020: Was sagt die Forschung?” (Short & compact – The digital summer semester 2020: What does the research say?). From those results, the think tank has developed recommendations for action. The findings and recommendations relate to the areas of technical equipment, strategies in the digital age, communication and exchange, didactics, examinations, and digital literacy. To create the compilation, Hochschulforum Digitalisierung employees joined forces with staff from VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH to analyse various primary studies and summarise them in a brief overview.
One grievance in particular seems to have come to light during the summer semester: only a few HEIs had a digitisation strategy in place before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Although acute crisis management was often seen in a positive light, there appeared to be a lack of sustainable strategy and entrenchment. It is now important to consolidate these ad hoc measures and establish permanent support structures.
As regards technical resources at German HEIs, it was found that the necessary equipment was generally available, but that there were staff shortages in the area of technology support. HEIs were quick to invest, and the majority of students were able to participate in online teaching. “However, all students must be able to have access to new technical solutions that have proven their worth, in order to ensure equal opportunities,” emphasised Philipp Neubert, project manager of Hochschulforum Digitalisierung at the CHE Centre for Higher Education.
There is also room for improvement when it comes to didactics and digital literacy. Overall, there was little didactic diversity. Also, there seems to be a great need among members of the teaching staff to (further) develop their digital skills. “Nor should it be taken for granted that all students are digitally literate per se. Here, too, there needs to be a greater focus on support and training,” summarised Julius-David Friedrich, project leader at HFD for the CHE Centre for Higher Education.
Hochschulforum Digitalisierung (HFD) orchestrates the discourse on higher education in the digital age. As an innovation driver, it informs, advises and connects stakeholders from higher education institutions, politics, business and civil society. Founded in 2014, HFD is a joint initiative by Stifterverband, the CHE Centre for Higher Education, and the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). It is sponsored by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For more information, visit www.hochschulforumdigitalisierung.de