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by Professor Nigel Seaton
11 June 2015
The world of our students is a digital one

The world of our students is a digital one

This week Abertay University is hosting the annual European University Information Systems Congress – EUNIS 2015 for short.  This is the third time this conference has been held in the UK, and the first time in Scotland.

Why is there a conference for information systems in universities? After all, there are broadly similar systems in other types of organisations. All businesses have databases, HR systems and the other digital tools that are essential for modern organisational life. What’s special about EUNIS?

One answer has to do with the ease with which university people come together to have a conference. This is the academic life after all – the sharing of experiences, the exchange of views and analysis, leading (we hope) to new ways of thinking. 

But there is something much deeper: everyone involved understands that the learning of our students, and their wider university experience, is fundamentally a digital one. This certainly has to do with the deployment of digital tools to get things done – universities typically have dozens of these – but this is not really the way our students experience things.

Rather, in their world the digital and the analogue are deeply intertwined. Indeed, their world is one in which the basic fabric actually is digital, and their experience of the “real” world is an extension of the “virtual” one. Students still attend lectures, but now as part of an educational experience that they manage through their own digital portfolio, interacting with the lecturer before and after the lecture through a virtual learning environment, and using technology during the lecture as a learning tool.

Because the world of our students is a digital one, this is the world that we, as academics and support staff working in universities, must also navigate. This is why the EUNIS Congress is important, and why I’m very pleased that we are hosting it in Scotland this year.

Professor Nigel Seaton is principal and vice-chancellor of Abertay University

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