Human-Centred Transformation Design – What is it and Why do Universities Need it?

A recent report by EY proposed the idea that ‘putting human needs and expectations at the centre of higher education digital transformation will improve university success’. Here we discover what human-centred transformation design (HCTD) is, look at the findings of the report and ask how it can improve university success.

What is human-centred transformation design?

The report, entitled, ‘Is your university’s transformation centred on tech or people?’ is authored by Catherine Friday, EY Global Education Leader; EY Oceania Managing Partner, Government and Health Sciences, whose focus is improving how governments work and deliver services. Its central theme focuses on three questions:

  • how can university leaders meet student expectations and support their success?

  • how can digital technology help staff to create better content and seamless processes that improve student experience?

  • how can researchers be better supported to conduct leading-edge research?

If we examine exactly what HCTD is we see that at its heart it means putting people at the centre of change, seeking their input, hearing their voices, empowering them, and acting on their needs to create solutions which accelerate positive change. It involves actively enhancing the user experience, whether that’s of employees or customers, and the outcomes of the process, and making those learning experiences a priority on which to act.

In the context of a university, HCTD means recognising the need for a ‘people first’ approach within the process of digital transformation and taking whatever steps are required to keep people involved as changes are effected. 

The Report

The report, which was conducted in collaboration with Times Higher Education and included the views of over 3,000 students and hundreds of teaching and professional staff, puts forward the idea that in the past digital transformation in universities has been implemented at the expense of the people who use the structures and processes, rather than to benefit them. It argues that new strategies need to be developed to avoid ‘repackaging’ the same content in a new digital format, and to enhance learning through ‘personalised, digital self-access’. And it maintains that universities would receive a far higher ROI by putting their people first. 

The first part of the report looks at what students want from their universities bearing in mind the effect of COVID-19 as well as the reality of 60% of students who are carers or in work and, as a result, access content online. The reality, however, is that many students are dissatisfied with the quality of online learning because of the lack of engagement, its inability to enable collaboration and the facility to check understanding. 45% of students surveyed said they wanted more investment in training university staff to deliver better digital learning. 

University staff themselves – this includes the teaching faculty, researchers as well as administrators – say they need more support and time to develop and implement new curricular and learning materials that blend digital and in-person teaching. Effective digital transformation would allow them this time, freeing up further time for pastoral work or conducting their own research. 

Digital transformation can also assist with the effectiveness of teaching and the improvement of learning outcomes through data analysis which can look at aspects such as student interactions and levels of engagement to track learning progress in individuals, classes or at programme level and offer support to students who may need it.

The report concludes by stating that in order to flourish in a digital age, universities should maximise the value of their digital transformation and focus on designing services that matter to the people they serve. To do this, it states, they need to align their value propositions with student and staff requirements and have a clear understanding of the whole student experience – making it more convenient, engaging and supportive using technology. 

How can HCTD improve university success?

It is only by focusing on designing processes and services that centre around the needs of the people who use them that universities can thrive in this digital era. This means that they must:

  • Provide content that is available both in person and online, offering hybrid-flexible learning models

  • Assess skills gaps and train and upskill staff, allowing them time to adjust

  • Automate routine tasks and streamline workflows

  • Use analytics to enable staff to support students

  • Use data to provide personalised learning

  • Provide learning progress trackers

  • Implement a unified data platform and join up existing systems 

The UK university system is one of the best in the world but by utilising the advantages of HCTD it could be even better, offering its students and staff the support that comes from technology that works for them, not in spite of them. If you’d like to know more about the process of digitally transforming your organisation, or you’re looking for talented and experienced people to enable a change to take place, call us on +44 020 8253 1800, email us at contact@global-resourcing.com or fill in the contact form here.
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