Landtag Saarland Landtag des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken Foto: planet_fox / Pixabay

CHE stated its view to the Landtag of the Saarland in Saarbrücken for the Enquête Commission “Digitalisation of the Saarland” on 22 February. The focus was on aspects of digitalisation in higher education and teacher education. The CHE Centre for Higher Education, which believes there is a need for further development in both areas, recommends placing greater emphasis on cooperation.

Last year, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an ad-hoc change to online-only teaching at higher education institutions (HEIs) in Germany. This switch meant that the majority of students were able to continue to attend courses – online.

According to the CHE experts, however, it is now necessary to progress from emergency arrangements and develop a strategically oriented and sustainable approach that includes both analogue and digital teaching and learning elements. This requires, among other things, financial support from the state government to continue to ensure support structures, licences and the development of media centres on campus.

Julius-David Friedrich also sees a need for optimisation in online examinations. “In contrast to other federal states, Saarland does not have a state-wide ordinance on digital examinations at HEIs. In this federal state, each HEI regulates its own examination procedure, including all unresolved questions on the issue of legal certainty,” explained the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung Project Manager at the CHE Centre for Higher Education.

Generally speaking, according to Friedrich, cooperation and synergies are key to successful digitalisation in higher education. The first cornerstones of cooperation have already been laid in the Saarland, with a joint campus management system for all HEIs. These initial measures can now be systematically expanded. “The comparatively small federal state of Saarland offers the ideal opportunity to learn from – and with – each other on the topic of digitalisation in higher education, increasing the attractiveness of the university location for students in the medium and long term,” said Friedrich.

In the area of teacher education at universities, CHE also recommends in its statement that greater emphasis be placed on cooperation, such as in the area of continuing education. This applies in particular to Saarland University in Saarbrücken, where around 1,500 students were enrolled in undergraduate teacher education degree programmes in winter semester 2019/20.

“Competent teachers are required to develop and expand pupils’ skills for digital transformation,” explained Bianca Brinkmann. “Even though much of the focus in Saarland is currently on further training for teachers to meet short-term needs in schools, it should not be forgotten that measures are necessary at all three stages of teacher education to achieve sustainable effects,” stated the Project Manager at Monitor Lehrerbildung, in which CHE is also involved.

According to CHE’s recommendation, Saarland University should therefore promote digitalisation in teacher education by cooperating more closely with the Centre for Teacher Education and other research centres and continuing education institutions based in the region, such as the Research Institute for Digital Education (FoBiD). The university should also view teacher education more as a driver and shaper of the digital transformation and digital education processes.

“Hochschulforum Digitalisierung”, a joint initiative by the CHE Centre for Higher Education, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and Stifterverband, has been sponsored by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2014, with the aim of orchestrating the discourse on higher education in the digital age. As an innovation driver, Hochschulforum Digitalisierung informs, advises and connects stakeholders from higher education institutions, politics, business and civil society.

“Monitor Lehrerbildung” is implemented together with the partners Bertelsmann Stiftung, the CHE Centre for Higher Education, the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung, the Robert Bosch Foundation and Stifterverband. The aim of the project, launched in 2011, is to create transparency on the structures and content of teacher education in Germany and to enable fact-based decisions on the further development of teacher education.