Technology has already transformed higher education worldwide, from radio to TV and now to the internet. It has the potential to enable the continued expansion of participation so that all students can take up their right to higher education with more flexible and personalized forms of learning. Technology can also be used to ensure pedagogical continuity, as the massive take-up of online teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic has shown. Digital platforms widen the possibilities for internationalization of higher education through virtual student mobility, international research collaborations and more.
Yet, for all the opportunities that digital transformation brings, there are also risks associated with the ongoing integration of technology into higher education. The digital divide within and between countries is perhaps the greatest global challenge hindering equitable access to and use of technology. Ethical and privacy concerns around the collection of data, as well as the use of artificial intelligence, are among the other important issues for higher education.
Much more than just electronic tools, the adoption of digital technologies in higher education also requires systemic, institutional, and cultural transformations. Students need to be empowered to learn effectively and navigate a digitalized world. Training and support for teachers and researchers allow them to make optimal use of new technology. The systems and infrastructure used in higher education institutions need to be fit for purpose; governments should have up-to-date mechanisms in place to efficiently allocate resources and evaluate the role of technology in promoting high-quality and accessible higher education.
UNESCO is working to address the challenges and opportunities of ICT in education, setting out a new roadmap for the digital transformation of education and advocating for a rights-based approach to technology and connectivity. UNESCO IESALC is supporting these efforts through research and capacity-building projects. These currently include:
- Enhancing the digital competences of teachers, researchers, students, technicians, and other higher education personnel
- Building a tool to measure universities’ digital maturity level
- Providing technical assistance, mentoring, and expertise to help higher education institutions implement their digital strategy
- Developing methodological and conceptual frameworks to support higher education institutions in the implementation of hybrid models and improvement plans aimed at ensuring academic quality
- Studying the hybridization of student mobility through case studies of virtual student mobility in 73 higher education institutions in partnerships spanning 38 countries
- Through IESALC Campus, providing a space for social and collaborative learning that strengthens the democratization of knowledge through learning, creation and sharing
- Promoting the development of a knowledge community to encourage a change of mindset through the acquisition of the necessary skills to respond to today’s society
- Creating a manual for higher education stakeholders on the impact of artificial intelligence in higher education
- Conducting multi-stakeholder consultations on the digital transformation of higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Adding to the Global Education Monitoring 2023 report with a study of universities’ contributions to national technological development