Why are universities not “smart” (yet)?

Flensburg, 29/03/2018: DIGITALIZATION!!! Who has not heard of it and who is tired of hearing about it? The term is on everyone’s lips: it is part of political agendas globally; it makes the hearts of IT developers beat faster; flushes money into the accounts of technology companies, while others just don’t want to have any deep involvement with it. No matter what attitude you represent – do we want to keep ourselves out of reach and can we avoid the trend of digitalization and its development in the first place? – Or when was the last time you tried to make fire with stones?

If we take a closer look at the subject of digitalization, you may ask yourself what actually hides behind this “container term”, which contains everything possible and impossible. When “digging deeper”, you will come across more phrases such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Cryptocurrencies, Deep Learning, Digital Transformation, Distributed Ledger Technology, Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, Virtual and Augmented Reality , 5G, etc. … – then at the latest it gets complicated for the average consumer.

However, who wants to be “average” these days? We are individual, adaptive, autonomous and can change the world! At least that is what the “digital natives“ or today’s first-year students think, and therefore, they want to be prepared and trained according to their digital environment. They grew up with smartphones and live in a society, in which everything becomes “smarter”, even “things” are intelligent nowadays. In the future, more than ever, we will deal with topics such as smart city, smart economy, smart environment, smart government, smart home and smart mobility.

BUT, what about the impact of universities and their smart education? What about digitalization and digital education concepts at universities? Are universities dynamic and flexible enough to meet the needs of a target group that becomes more digital every day? What is the relevance of a university degree for the “startup” generation? What social, political, institutional and individual factors influence universities not to be “smart” (yet)?

These questions were discussed with an interdisciplinary student group in a scientifically accompanied workshop about “Digital Learning Environment” during the Spring School 2018 at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi. For more information about “Digital Education“, please contact Kerstin Schultheiß, Research Assistant at the African-German Virtual Academy (AGVA).