Digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector 2017-2021

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5 How do we get there?

Digitalisation efforts shall support and be part of the overall governance of the higher education sector. This is achieved by way of multi-level strategic governance. The digitalisation strategy shall be revised in accordance with significant changes in general external conditions. The ministry’s overall digitalisation strategy will be operationalised through the follow-up of sub-strategies in the fields of research, education, infrastructure, administrative solutions, and information security, as drafted by the higher education sector itself 9 (cf. chapter 2 above). The sub-strategies shall be followed up as part of a process for continuous improvement and shall be revised regularly, and they shall form the basis for the preparation of specific action plans. The most important measures in the sub-strategies are emphasised in this overall strategy. In some areas, there is no complete concordance between the overall strategy and the sub-strategies. This will be improved in the first revision of the sub-strategies.

Each institution will govern its own digitalisation efforts by way of its own goals and strategies adapted to the sub-strategies and overall digitalisation strategy. The relationship between the different governance and strategy levels is illustrated in the figure on page 23.

The service agency and the quality agencies are responsible for drafting, implementing, and developing the sub-strategies in co-operation with the institutions. In relation to the sub-strategy for research, it is important to work closely with the RCN and the entire research sector.

5.1 The government’s long-term plan for research and higher education

The government’s long-term plan for research and higher education will be revised by the end of 2018. In the process of revising the government’s long-term plan for research and higher education, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will, in consultation with other ministries, assess the opportunities and challenges posed by digitalisation and how to best address these in a revised plan.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research

5.2 Digitalisation for quality in education

The HEIs are themselves responsible for the quality of their education. The measures in the strategy will help to promote digitalisation as an instrument in the institutions’ efforts with regard to education quality. The national quality agencies will play important roles in the incentive structure for developing and ensuring this quality together with the institutions.

5.2.1 The development of a national arena for quality in higher education to stimulate knowledge, skills, and innovation in education

The quality report sets the guidelines for a national arena that will help to address the challenges that are of particular importance to quality development:


5.2.1 By establishing a joint national arena for education quality, in which current arrangements and new instruments can be seen in a strategic and academic context, the government will help to [...] mobilise academic environments for the knowledge-based development and innovation of education programmes, as well as for the increasing digitalisation of learning processes. The arena will fund projects that stimulate systematic development efforts that raise the quality of higher education.

By creating a national agency – quality agency S – with overall responsibility for the administration of incentives for quality development, the government will provide a good basis for supporting the institutions’ work on digitalisation for increased quality, openness, relevance, and efficiency in education programmes.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and quality agency S

5.2.2 Strenghten research on the relationship between quality and changed learning processes based on digitalisation

A solid knowledge base is required on educational activities and outcomes, on the quality of higher education, and on the methods and tools that ensure the best learning environment for students. The government will continue to support the production and dissemination of good research, academic documentation, and experience-based knowledge of technology for learning.

The quality report states measures for improving the knowledge base further through evaluation and research and by developing a quality portal for higher education.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, RCN, quality agencies, and HEIs

5.2.3 HEIs define goals and specific measures related to the digitalization of learning processes and the use of new learning methods to raise the quality of higher education

According to the requirements of the quality report all students must come into contact with forms of learning that utilise the potential of digitalisation, and the government expects institutions to elevate the development of digital solutions to a strategic level and to define goals and measures related to the digitalisation of learning processes. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will in the prosess of central funding set requirements on institutions to define goals and specific measures in relation to the digitalisation of learning processes.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and HEIs

5.2.4 Requirements regarding basic pedagogical skills and teaching experience in the appointment of all academic positions, and the gradual increase in teaching skills requirements for senior level positions

Current skills requirements for combined teaching and research positions offer little by way of incentives for the development of teaching skills beyond beginner’s level or for the acquisition of skills in using new methods and tools as part of teaching. In its quality report, the government announced that it will set new requirements for pedagogical and academic skills, and set stricter requirements for promotions to professor level.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and HEIs

5.2.5 Merit system requirements for professional skills and pedagogical development efforts at all institutions

To stimulate a greater number of teaching initiatives and development efforts, and to help raise the value of education activities, the government is imposing requirements that all institutions establish merit systems for professional skills and pedagogical development efforts within a two-year period.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and HEIs

5.2.6 Explore solutions for access to learning resources across educational institutions

Digitalisation makes it possible to exploit the potential for producing, sharing, retrieving, and reusing learning resources. A number of Norwegian institutions have developed and made resources available both for digital content produced in house as well as for content derived from other sources 10 . A joint access solution would make possible a central administration of learning resources in order to stimulate the increased production and sharing of learning resources, as well as to make available, open digital learning resources for higher education. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will ask quality agency S and the service agency to explore solutions for access to learning resources across educational institutions.

Responsibility for follow-up: quality agency S, service agency, and HEIs

5.3 Digitalisation for a competitive research sector that supports innovation and adaptation

Good digital infrastructure, user support, and modern tools will help attract researchers. The digital infrastructure will be crucial in the development of new and outstanding research and innovation environments.

5.3.1 Strategy for open access to research data

In order to facilitate the sharing and reuse of research data, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research is co-ordinating an interministerial initiative to develop a national strategy for the availability and sharing of research data and data for research. A working group has been set up with members from the Norwegian ministries of: finance; trade, industry, and fisheries; labour and social affairs; health and care services; local government and modernisation; and climate and environment, under the leadership of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The working group takes as its starting point a report prepared by the RCN in 2016 in dialogue with relevant stakeholders and service providers in the research sector. The report was commisioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The strategy will be presented by the end of 2017.

Key issues include archives for research data, the need for data management plans, funding models/principles and cost management, standards for storage systems, and access.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research

5.3.2 Resources for calculation, analysis, storage, data curation, and communication that enable Norwegian research communities to participate at the front line of international research

It is important to ensure that Norwegian research communities have infrastructures for calculation, analysis, storage, and communication solutions in place that enables them to participate at the front line of international research. It is likely that the cost of both this, advanced user support and data curation 11 will increase, and there is a pressing need to develop good models for sustainable, long-term financing of the operations phase of such infrastructures. This is challenging to manage in a system of time-limited project allocations, while data storage requirements may extend long after this period. The costs of operating research data infrastructures involve more than investments in the physical infrastructure. Operating, curation, and access management costs are also involved. Both UNINETT and NSD currently offer services of this type and have the important role of managing and developing them further. These are challenges that will have to be dealt with going forwards. Some of these issues could be addressed as part of efforts relating to the strategy for research data access and sharing.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, RCN, service agency, NSD, and UNINETT in co-operation with the HEIs

5.3.3 Digitalisation to facilitate the cost-effective management of research publications

The goal of the government is to make all Norwegian research publications openly available by 2024. Infrastructure and support services should contribute to the low threshold for authors of research publications to make these available under the national principles for open access. The government is facilitating the cost-effective management of research publications by way of the national guidelines for open access for research publications and also by the following measures:

  • improving the functionality for depositing articles via the CRIStin system;
  • investigating options for the realisation of a national repository;
  • contributing to the further development of new and sustainable models for the funding of open-source publishing nationally and internationally; and
  • developing indicators and statistics for open access.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and the service agency in co-operation with research institutions, research funders and the wider research community

5.4 Digitalisation that improves the conditions for education and research – administration, management, and basic infrastructure

5.4.1 A well-scaled and robust network

A condition of a successful digitalisation strategy is a robust and functional (technical) network. This network, which is the combination of the research network and campus networks linked to national and international traffic exchanges, must be continually developed as a whole and adapted to meet the requirements of increased mobility, new services, growing data volumes, the use of inhouse services (including systems for study and research administration), public cloud infrastructure, and increased criticality.

Responsibility for follow-up: UNINETT, service agency, and the HEIs

5.4.2 ICT solutions based on data sharing

Current ICT solutions for the higher education sector offer too few opportunities for the retrieval and exchange of data between systems. Data is stored in many places and the systems do not communicate with each other effectively enough. The future ICT infrastructure of the higher education sector must: have simple, clear, and standardised interfaces based on the standardisation and harmonisation of data in the sector; posess a high level of availability; and support increased flexibility, modularity, and mobility. The systems must be compatible and interoperable. Data should be generated/stored once and managed in a single source in order to be reused. Data flow is important not only within each functional area but also between administrative solutions and academic teaching and research systems.

Responsibility for follow-up: service agency, UNINETT, NSD, and the HEIs

5.4.3 Development and increased use of shared services

The primary principle is that support tasks are provided as shared services if it can be documented that this results in increased cost-effectiveness or better services. Attempts shall be made to organise infrastructure and services in addition to academic infrastructure and services (research and education) as shared services to be used by all relevant institutions. Basic ICT services such as hardware, software, networks, facilities, and other key components that support the supply of services to users are currently managed and supplied predominantly locally, despite the lack of demand for local customisation and the huge potential for shared services. Key components include systems for identification and authentication, as well as access to sector-specific data.

Services and infrastructure shall be procured externally when it is cost-effective to do so. In-house development should only take place when the sector’s needs are so specialised that commercial solutions lack sufficient functionality or are too expensive. In-house development may also be acceptable when the sector itself requires full control of data pursuant to legislation and regulations or to the need to protect information that is particularly valuable to the institutions. The development of shared solutions should also consider whether solutions can be used in basic education or other areas of the knowledge sector, and in the opposite direction, whether solutions in other areas of the knowledge sector can be used in the higher education sector. Planning should include co-operation with the Norwegian government agency for nursery schools, education, and ICT or other subordinate agencies in the sector.

The service agency, UNINETT, and the HEIs must take joint responsibility for the development of shared services and systems and ensure that these are put into use. The services and systems must be able to communicate with each other. Development must be facilitated across the entire portfolio of support systems, and solutions and expertise should be shared more than they are today – see the box.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, service agency, UNINETT, and the HEIs

Shared services

Administrative shared services and solutions are currently organised through BOTT co-operation and UNINETT, which co-ordinates the services and solutions used by other HEIs with the exception of the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). In the area of ​​payroll, the UNINETT portfolio uses payroll services provided by the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management (DFØ). DFØ provides payroll and accounting services to government agencies and aims to be the primary provider of these services to most state enterprises. In connection with BOTT’s need to renew its solutions, there is a dialogue between BOTT, DFØ, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and the Norwegian Ministry of Finance to investigate whether DFØ could provide payroll and accounting systems to BOTT more extensively. The primary challenge is determining whether the Norwegian Ministry of Finance and DFØ can develop and invest in solutions that are robust enough to cope with the complexity of HEIs. This process needs to be clarified before additional planning can take place for how the sector’s administrative services will be organised and developed within a digital solution framework. At the same time, efforts to develop and utilise existing solutions in the UNINETT portfolio must continue to be followed up until a shared solution for the entire sector as proposed in the structural report has been successfully established.

5.4.4 Harmonisation and streamlining of administrative work processes

Digitalisation is not just about the procurement of computers, software, and other equipment or about replacing existing technology with new ICT systems. The introduction of new ICT technology will always bring about organisational change, in turn resulting in changes to services, processes, and tasks. It is often the case that 20 percent of the process of purchasing new software relates to the actual technology, while the remaining 80 percent relates to organisational change and skills development.

To date, the sector’s procurement of ICT solutions has involved the adaptation of the solutions to the customer’s work processes. This is a cost driver and requires consultancy support during establishment. Furthermore, subsequent upgrades and maintenance are expensive. Adapting work processes to the supplier’s/market’s best practice will result in better utilisation of the systems and thus lower costs. If the institutions harmonise their work processes in accordance with best practice, this will avoid adaptation on an institution-by-institution basis, thus simplifying joint operation, management, and user support. It is difficult to provide shared solutions in cases where operational processes are too different, even if it would be more effective to do so.

Administrative processes need to be harmonised in order to introduce effective shared solutions; that is to say, to make work processes at different institutions as similar as possible. This will require targeted efforts to ensure the effective establishment and management of a common best practice.

Furthermore, the standardisation of work processes is necessary to leverage the opportunities in the field of robotisation and the automation of administrative tasks, which could result in significant benefits in terms of quality and efficiency.

Responsibility for follow-up: service agency and the HEIs

Robotisation of administrative tasks

Most organisations have many simple manual processes. Transferring tasks and data are examples of repetitive processes. Organisations accept routine administrative tasks because it is too expensive to change the administrative systems or to ensure integration between different systems. Administrative robots are advanced pieces of software tailored to the automation of simple, repetitive, and routine high-volume tasks. The robots use robot-based process automation (RPA) software, which can perform work processes in the same way as administrators. This means that it is not necessary to develop integrations between the robot solutions and other systems. The robots have general user access and imitate the behaviour of traditional users. They perform tasks much faster than humans, deliver 100% accuracy, are capable of multitasking to a degree that humans can’t, and work 24/7. However, RPA solutions are just one step on the journey of robotisation and automation. The development of artificial intelligence and machine learning is advancing rapidly, which means that much more advanced robots which can perform a wider range of support tasks will be developed.

The University of Bergen has implemented solutions with “administrator robots”, and there is an interest in RPA solutions in other parts of the higher education sector.

5.4.5 Provision of study administration solutions, digital learning platforms, and processes for personal learning environments and mobile and dynamic study courses, and their adaptation to greater flexibility in studies

Learning processes are increasingly shifting towards active learning methods and the use of a wider range of learning resources. All students should have access to a modern, personal learning environment with the option of individual learning programmes that facilitate flexible and effective courses of study and collaborative learning in close co-operation with fellow students and teachers. It is important that the development of digital platforms in this area provides the community needed to achieve cohesive functionality between institutions that facilitates the studying of subjects at several institutions and sharing and utilizing solutions across multiple institutions.

Responsibility for follow-up: quality agency and HEIs in co-operation with quality agency S

5.4.6 Explore how general support and advanced user support for researchers should be addressed

Responsibility for basic ICT support for researchers lies with the institutions. The need for such services is growing rapidly and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will ask the new service agency, in dialogue with higher education sector and research institutions and the RCN, to explore how advanced user support for researchers should be organized. UNINETT and NSD, both of which currently offer services of this type, should be involved.

Responsibility for follow-up: service agency in co-operation with UNINETT and NSD

5.4.7 Improve processes and tools for research administration

The sub-strategy proposal for research presented by the working group appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research points to the need for better support systems for research administration. The solutions must provide administrative support for the work processes of research projects from concept to final result and make the integration of Norwegian research within international co-operation as easy as possible. However, as a basis for establishing appropriate support systems, the proposed sub-strategy points to the need for research institutions to individually and jointly identify the needs and solutions currently in use, and to jointly assess suitable tools for planning, reporting, and financial management.

Responsibility for follow-up: service agency, UNINETT, and the HEIs

5.4.8 Explore how authentication and authorisation mechanisms can better facilitate national and international co-operation

UNINETT and the service agency should assess how to support and improve authentication and authorisation mechanisms in the higher education sector to better support national and international cross-sectoral co-operation. The possibility of establishing a shared national user management system for the higher education sector that also contributes to increased co-operation should be considered.

Responsibility for follow-up: UNINETT, service agency, and the HEIs

5.4.9 Licence terms that address national needs

Access to software is an important aspect of the ICT infrastructure for research. In many cases, ICT tools procured by the individual institution only permit research assignments subject to the institution. The HEIs and service agency must ensure that licence agreements for key software for research address national needs for access to the software under the best possible terms, and they must enable smooth co-operation with national and international partners and stakeholders outside the institution.

Responsibility for follow-up: service agency and the HEIs

5.4.10 Targeted consolidation of information security

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has overall responsibility for information security 12 in the higher education sector and will continue to set clear requirements for the institutions and follow these up through governance and supervision. These requirements are based on national regulations and guidelines and must be understood as minimum requirements in relation to information security. The ministry emphasizes the HEIs awareness of the information security as a crucial success factor for their own digitization strategies and strategic initiatives. HEIs are knowledge enterprises whose core activities include the management and processing of information/data. The development of these core activities by way of a strategic focus on digitalisation requires the institutions to actively govern information security and to have their own strategic interest in elevating this beyond the national minimum requirements.

The higher education sector is at the forefront of many areas of information security such as the development of management systems, the organisation of a sectoral response environment, and local incident management. There is still a need for improvements such as the introduction of management systems at the institutional level. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will strengthen the governance of information security at the sectoral level by way of a more suitable framework. The government has also decided to carry out a study of information security in the knowledge sector. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will return to this in more detail.

Responsibility for follow-up: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and all subordinate enterprises in the higher education sector

5.5 Skills development as the basis for digitalisation

Digitalisation for the purpose of quality requires sufficient professional, technical, and administrative knowledge and skills in the systematic use of relevant technological tools.

5.5.1 Strengthen teachers’ digital skills to enable them to restructure and develop learning processes based on the opportunities brought about by digitalisation

In order to be able to follow up the government expectation for the institutions to utilize the opportunities offered by digital learning resources, it is a necessity that the teachers have a broadly composed competence of pedagogical, technological and administrative nature. Effective qualitative education supported by ICT must be rooted in the descriptions of learning outcomes and requires clear leadership and a good knowledge of how digitalisation is part of the overall programme design and evaluation methods. The institutions are responsible for prioritising resources for the development of staff skills in the varied use of ICT to promote students’ learning (cf. 3.2).

Responsibility for follow-up: HEIs, quality agencies, and the service agency

5.5.2 Strengthen researchers’ digital skills in the optimal utilisation of ICT in their research in order that they may carry out their tasks efficiently and exploit the opportunities that digitalisation provides for developing the discipline

The use of ICT is a condition of participation in a modern labour market. Researchers are no exception. It is vital that researchers have adequate digital skills to utilise and develop professional and administrative resources, including project tools that are under constant development. Researchers must also have the skills to use digital solutions to interact effectively with researchers from other institutions, countries, and subjects.

Responsibility for follow-up: HEIs

Footnotes

9.

 The proposed sub-strategies are available at:https://www.uninett.no/arbeidsgruppe-IKT-strategi

10.

 DelRett, the copyright and education guidance service established by the Norwegian Agency for Digital Learning in Higher Education and the Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education, provides an overview of open learning resources and the licences that may limit their use: http://delrett.no/artikler/her-finner-du-digitale-undervisningsressurser

11.

 Data curation involves ensuring that a collection of data is up to date, correct, complete, and accessible to users. Curation often involves describing and cataloguing the material and sorting out / removing material/data that no longer needs to be included in the collection.

12.

Information security is usually defined as the ability to prevent, detect, and manage three types of incident: breach of confidentiality: i.e. unauthorised access to confidential information;breach of integrity: i.e. the unauthorised or unintended amendment to, damage to, or deletion of information and/or systems; orbreach of availability: i.e. the loss or unavailability of information and/or systems when needed.
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