Fostering a digital culture which supports innovation and entrepreneurship requires a whole institution approach based on strong leadership and a holistic, well-designed and integrated strategy. The foundations of a digital culture need to be built on shared values, which are understood and embraced by all higher education stakeholders. The strategy needs to consider technologies as a key enabler for all institutional processes and activities, and its implementation needs to be done through clear actions and accountability achieved through monitoring and evaluation.
The first step in the establishment of a digital culture is to have commitment and vision from the leadership. Commitment and vision from leadership engenders active engagement from staff, students and the wider stakeholder community. Creating the vision and the values of a digital culture is a shared responsibility. The most important aspect of this first step is to set the mindset, communicate the benefits and establish buy-in for digitisation. These then lead to the formulation of well-defined shared goals, from which strategy, action planning, monitoring and evaluation can flow.
The second step is to develop or enhance the digital strategy of the HEI. The digital strategy allows an HEI to present and articulate shared goals. It should enable leaders, staff, students and the wider stakeholder community to explore and identify new ways to innovate and improve through digital transformation. Ensuring that the digital strategy is fully aligned with the overall institutional strategy and development directions (and vice versa) is key to a successful digital strategy. Further synergies and connections should be actively made to other relevant policies and strategies, such as those supporting regional development, the Sustainable Development Goals, accessibility and inclusiveness. The digital strategy should cover all of areas which the HEI seeks to develop or change, and the reasons why. Areas for the digital strategy may include, but are not limited to:
- Digital teaching, learning and assessment
- Digital facilities, infrastructure and services
- Digitally enabled research (including data analysis, focus of research, data methodologies, collaborative tools for conducting and publishing research etc)
- Digital stakeholder engagement and communication
The third step is to create an action plan to implement the strategy. For each strategic priority, the HEI should involve the relevant stakeholders in setting out the road map for change, including activities, responsibilities, and a work plan with milestones. Key to successful action planning is to have measurable goals, allocated resources and support to achieve the plan and drive the strategy forward. An action plan should be based on shared responsibilities, engage all stakeholders and be promoted and strongly endorsed by leadership.
An action plan goes hand in hand with monitoring and assessment. During the implementation of the action plan, there is a role for all staff to ensure the digital strategy is being actioned effectively, remains relevant and is assessed and monitored for that purpose. The monitoring and evaluation of the action plan should be closely tied to the goals of the digital strategy and include feedback loops. SMART key performance indicators should be defined for each part of the action plan and should be accompanied by data collection methods and a timeline.
Finally, in line with the shared commitment and engagement to fostering a digital culture, the benefits and added value of digital transformation should be communicated and disseminated widely. Staff, students and the wider stakeholder community should be encouraged to contribute to and benefit from the digital transformation of the institution. This should be an important part of the strategy from the outset and should showcase the benefits and added value across all activities of the HEI, for innovation and entrepreneurship.