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Key Takeaways from the QAA International Enhancement Conference

The evasys team enjoyed the privilege of attending last week’s online QAA event– the International Enhancement Conference, themed around Building Resilient Learning Communities: Using Evidence to Support Student Success.

A new era for higher education

Running over three days with a different theme per day, the International Enhancement Conference from QAA Scotland tackled a range of topics pertinent to a new, pandemic affected era for the higher education sector, including evidence-based decision making, inclusion and diversity, and employability.

Informative keynotes and lively discussion throughout left the evasys team with three main takeaways from the event.

In higher ed, the digital revolution is yet to come

While the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has certainly pushed universities hard towards embracing technology and using digital solutions to facilitate teaching and learning, there is still a lot of work to do in higher education in terms of digital transformation.

Specific to the pandemic, there was an overarching view that while data is a valuable resource, there is still a requirement for a human overview as universities try to navigate this new and uncharted territory.  Data captured using digital tools will be extremely useful as an indicator or signpost, but human intervention will be required to ensure that good mental health and student wellbeing remains the priority.

Additionally, whilst the will may well be there to implement technology and to create efficiencies in higher education, established culture and practice can impede.  In some cases, the challenge remains that, until a process has been reviewed, evaluated and improved with digitisation in mind, the traditional model offers the path of least resistance to busy staff and faculty.  Couple this with a lack of experience with and knowledge of digital technology for some individuals, and the status quo can be hard to disrupt.

Diversity and inclusion have never been more important

The move to online and hybrid delivery of teaching and learning in the wake of COVID-19 has brought issues around diversity and inclusion into sharp relief for some higher education providers.

Checking in with students on health and wellbeing has, in some cases, highlighted challenges such as digital poverty, marginalisation, disengagement and exclusion stemming from established systems, processes, tools and protocols within individual institutions.  If we are moving into a world where online learning may outweigh in person teaching, accessibility for all will be imperative.

Universities need to stay relevant in the post-pandemic world

There has been much media coverage around universities throughout the global pandemic, and there are some concerns within institutions that this may have a negative influence on the perception that a traditional university education is a good route to take after secondary education.

Students of tomorrow may be considering the impact of COVID-19 on the future jobs market and whether spending several years and making a substantial financial investment in a degree is preferable to entering the world of work as soon as they can.

This concern at institution level underlines the established premise that universities have an important role to play in helping students, the economy and wider society to succeed, and that promoting employability and entrepreneurship as part of the student experience remains key.

A well timed, well organised, well themed event

It was a fantastic event from QAA Scotland, and the insights and challenges shared resonated with the whole audience.  In this new normal for higher education, student engagement and digital accessibility will be the key drivers in ensuring ongoing student, and institutional, success.

evasys was a proud supporter of the QAA International Enhancement Conference We were also delighted to present with our partner BOHS (the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection) on how they deployed evaexam to switch easily from paper to online exams in the wake of COVID-19. We also supported QAA through  hosting the end of conference survey via our evaluation solution, evasys.

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