It’s easy to get distracted by the phraseology of ‘Digital First’ and ‘Student First’ but I’d invited you to look deeper at the meaning behind these phrases. For me at least, both terms have the same meaning – they express the need to exchange ongoing dialogue, rather than describing the end delivery media.
The move from analogue to digital has been made possible by technologies, such as smartphones, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, which are user-led rather than institution-led. Their influence has been disruptive, challenging established social conventions and practices. This has given those in wider society greater agency, such as those lobbying to influence policy on climate change and genetically modified foods.
Nowadays, communication doesn’t flow from one to many, or even back and forth between two parties. The result is that the architecture of our communication is much more complex, coming to resemble something more akin to a spider’s web. We need to communicate with potential learners, existing learners and alumni on their terms. The risk of not doing is that, in the long-term, we find ourselves far from ‘open’ while others gain a competitive advantage. While pedagogy comes first, if we fail to meaningfully engage students online we must reflect and ask: ‘are failing in our duty to equip learners with the digital literacy skills necessary to participate in society?’ After all, connectivity enables creativity.
New technologies make it easier for groups with a common interest to interact wherever they are in the world – historically this was a preserve of the university. However, universities still add value by creating a narrative through complexity, joining knowledge and experience together. This could be a blog, or crowd sourced activity, drawing in our learners, prospective learners and alumni into dialogue to help create that narrative. Storytelling is perhaps the oldest pedagogy, but to do it in the digital age calls for us to enhance digital through analogue means, rather than taking the analogue and digitising it.