Be collaborative and digital

This post was originally published on the “digi-musings on education” website on January 3, 2021.

Its 2021. In 2020, we started the year talking about the challenges for education in connection to digital transformation and the UN sustainable development goals, but then Covid-19 happened. It focussed attention on digital learning, as opportunities for physical learning became a scarcity across the world during lockdown and because of closures of educational institutions. At that time, it seemed cynical to view this as an opportunity for experiments in digital and as a way to fast track the necessary adaptation of our education systems. But nearly a year later, we should reflect on and use the experiences we have made.

Earlier in the year, commenting on the state of the Bologna Process in European higher education, I criticised the first tranche of MOOCs: “It was all about providing access to knowledge for all but focussed much less on providing learning environments of a high pedagogical value using digital technologies.” In hindsight, this is also a good description of what has been called “remote emergency education” during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is perhaps also the reason that there has been a backlash against digitalisation in education following the various solutions implemented.

As we go into 2021, we should think more creatively. As one framework for thought, I would like to recommend the “principles for digital development”, we are also using in my own work on the atingi learning platform. These propose 9 principles aim to harness the benefits of digital both for individual initiatives and for sharing with other initiatives just starting out:

1. Design with the user
2. Understand the existing ecosystem
3. Design for scale
4. Build for sustainability
5. Be data driven
6. Use open standards, open data, open source and open innovation [and let me add: open educational resources]
7. Reuse and improve
8. Address privacy and security
9. Be collaborative

The ninth principle is a call to action for us all: “By collaborating, those working in digital development and beyond can pool their resources and expertise not only to benefit each initiative but also to strengthen the global community.”

Let’s put the learners firmly at the centre of our work in 2021 and work together to find solutions that give learners value. I think a major challenge is to help learners get the knowledge, skills and competencies they develop with us, effectively recognised in the ecosystems they want to use them in. This is a piece of the puzzle we often forget and it should be top of our list in the quickly diversifying education landscape accompanying Covid-19 and digital transformation.

Dominic Orr

Dominic is the senior advisor at the GIZ team on the learning platform Atingi, adjunct professor for management in education at and resident at Werk1, the co-working and start-up incubator space in Munich.