Digivisio 2030 – higher education institutions as drivers of change

I joined Digivisio’s change work of continuous learning in autumn 2021. That is when we – the project office and the co-implementers at higher education institutions – started preparing the support to be provided for higher education institutions for the change the project would bring as it progresses. We have now been providing this support together with the change coordinators in higher education institutions for over a year.

It is a good moment to look back: what have we actually achieved. I thought a few theses familiar from Digivisio applicable to the change would help me review the situation and look back.

What will change?

“In the Digivisio project, we want to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background or education, has the chance to keep learning and growing in a constantly changing world, in a way that fits their needs and circumstances.”

In the change programme, we have been working hard towards this change over the past year together with the change coordinators in higher education institutions. We have deepened and expanded our view of continuous learning and the image of a continuous learner beyond traditional degree students or continuing education learners. It has expanded to learners who consider it important to hear about the research and development work carried out by higher education institutions or the special expertise of their experts through various events, seminars, webinars or, for example, podcasts, and to gain access to the special learning offered by higher education institutions.

Everyday learning and non-degree competence, their meaning and opportunities to them have been recognised fairly well. They are now reflected in the aims higher education institutions include in their plans for change and how they talk about change.

“Our aim is to develop a new kind of national digital service for the needs of continuous and flexible learning tray.”

Higher education institutions have developed digital services for presenting their study offering and improving the accessibility of studies even before. However, from the learner’s point of view, the offering has remained scattered and difficult to find.

The objective of Digivisio is that, in its first stage, this future service would provide learners with a view to continuous learning opportunities in particular. For them, it opens the door to the versatile offering and competence the higher education institutions have to offer. And gives learners the opportunity to increase their own competence in a new way. For higher education institutions, the project opens up an equal opportunity to make use of the service and to increase their visibility also for new and broader target groups, even in a regional sense. It will enhance their impact.

The important task of change coordinators is to support change in their own higher education institutions: to inform about the opportunities and support development measures aimed at ensuring that the learners have a high-quality and consistent experience of the higher education institutions’ offering. Common rules on how to operate in the service and the development of digital pedagogy support higher education institutions equally. The aim is to develop the continuous learner’s learning experience and to strengthen the learner’s interest in higher education studies.

These issues have played an important role in our change programme. They have been reflected in the development talk and change plans aimed at implementing the change. And they have been given a position in the development of higher education.

“All Finnish higher education institutions are building a future for learning together in the Digivisio 2030 project.”

Whether the change is being implemented at the level of one’s own higher education institution or as a joint effort, e.g., a project, between all higher education institutions, we should identify certain measures that promote change. This is the topic that served as our starting point for the change programme.

We prepared reports on what kind of experiences higher education institutions have of change processes carried out in their organisations. Alongside this work, we reviewed research literature for any actions taken that had led to successful change processes at the level of, for instance, digitalisation, pedagogy or an organisation. We came to the conclusion that a shared understanding between the higher and middle management, putting it in words and, through them, providing support for those implementing change at one’s own higher education institution are the key factors for a successful change process.

For different personnel groups, change appears in a different light, and the readiness to change may also vary. Identifying the overall impact of change will help us understand what actions the change will require in our respective organisations. Concrete and up-to-date communication on the change and apt and timely engagement help us understand the overall impacts.

The closer the process comes to affecting our own work, the more attention needs to be paid to such factors as interactive management, investing in co-operation between the personnel, and supervisory work. Everyone also needs to feel appreciated in their work and feel that they are in control of their own work.

In the change programme, we started with jointly identifying our operating environment. It includes both project knowledge and understanding of the higher education institution as special and, in relation to this project, multidisciplinary operating environments. We recognised the fact that change will take time, and that it must be given time.

At the same time, we promoted project development applying the principles of agile development. Both of the approaches were necessary. They enabled us to move to the stage where we are getting prepared with higher education institutions to introduce the learning tray services and the related support services in 2024. 

During the first year of the change programme, it has been important to support the multidisciplinary commitment of higher education institutions to achieving the jointly set objectives and setting their own objectives and the relevant measures – being ready to put the change into practice at their own higher education institutions.

This is a good place to go on with measures aimed at supporting the implementation of the tray, keeping the overall impact of the change in mind.

Eeva-Leena Forma
Project Manager, Support for operational change and change management
Digivisio 2030