The rising digitisation of higher education is impacting the way traditional universities run their business. 

From being a singular source of information and accreditation, universities have now moved to being just another source alongside with other online learning tools.  Consumers nowadays have plenty of options to choose from when selecting a method of learning.   The continuous rise of digitisation in higher education also opened up opportunities – such as open collaborations with other institutions or lecturers, commoditising network and infrastructure and gathering key data elements. The rise of recruitment agencies such as TalentBin threatens the biggest advantage of traditional school, i.e. accreditation.  The popularity of MOOCs also threatens the traditional institutions. 

        In this digital world, the role of IT in higher education has shifted from being operational to strategical. In order to remain relevant in the industry, universities must embrace some of the emerging technologies such as investments in Business Analytics, supplying free courses through a MOOCs provider, or using Virtual Reality to enhance student learning.

      The objective of this report is to provide a comprehensive overview of the digitization impact on higher education industry as a whole, with a focus on universities including its effect on the customers which are students and the suppliers which are mainly the lecturers and trainers. Moreover, the report will provide recommendations.

for universities along with the change required in their business strategies and/or adoption of new ecosystem architecture emerging as a result of digitization (PWC,2015) to achieve competitive advantage and/or remain competitive in the industry.


      Although for decades several technologies have been charting the landscape of higher education and are in the continuous process of development, some latest technologies are changing the way education would be practiced in the future.  In this section we would recommend for these institutes to invest in the following emerging technologies that will impact education.

Emerging Technologies


          Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are internet-based free courses which have been identified as the most important education technology in 200 years (Madgavkar & Sankhe, 2015).  A relatively recent online learning phenomenon, MOOCs emphasizes on learning the subject on the student’s own pace. This phenomenon is currently taking place in higher education at a time of globalisation of education and constrained budgets. Universities and colleges are under pressure to provide free to access, cutting edge courses in order to be competitive in the market.  Some universities have taken some steps in doing that, such as Harvard and MIT, two prominent schools delivering free courses through edX.

      There is a growing momentum among institutions in participating an “open” movement (Powell & Yuan, 2013).   By investing in MOOCs, and offering free courses, universities have a way of reaching out to potential students that normally would not be in the university’s radar.  Universities can basically use them as a marketing plan to get students interested in what they offer (Funnel, 2013). 


        Gartner highlights the business analytics tools as the second important technologies in the top 10 strategic technologies for higher education in 2016.  Business analytics contributes positively in improving education process in manageable cost, which is one of the main objectives of the higher education institutes. There is a very high correlation between the effective use of business analytic capabilities and the university’s position among its competitors. (Moore, 2016).

        Many of the analytics tools has radically transform higher education. For example, the University of Michigan uses M-Reports as an analytics tool to collect and analyse data from multiple databases like financial, student, human resources data and more then deliver the suitable dashboards to managements (Van Barneveld et,al., 2012).  Armed with this information, the university can detect patterns in a student’s behavior and use them to help in the decision making process and predicting behaviour and events.

         Closer to home, UNSW can use the data trail that students leave after accessing MyUNSW.  For example, when deciding on what time is the best time for MyUNSW system maintenance, the school can use the data and find patterns as to the quietest time to do the maintenance and schedule it from there.  Another example is CATEI, where the school gets electronic feedback from the students in order to help improve and enhance teaching in UNSW.

 Simulation technology:

         Simulation technology strives to simulate a nearly realistic environment by using a combination of a series of other advanced technologies such as computer systems, sensors, artificial intelligence and virtual reality displays equipment.  Traditionally, simulation technology is used in aviation industry to train the pilot on how to operate an airplane in the simulated realistic environment (Sexton, et al., 2000). Other usage is found in military training and other high-risk industries such as nuclear power station (Passiment, et al., 2011).  Recently, medical colleges around world has started adopting traditional simulation in their classes (Ahalt, and Fecho, 2015).  For example, according to the College of Medicine in Qatar University (2016), is in the “process of developing a Virtual Patient Learning system which uses artificial intelligence technology to develop high fidelity simulation for medical student learning and training.”  If found effective, the university would also consider using voice recognition and 3D holograms technologies for future development. They also have plans to set up a collaboration platform to extend the usage of simulation learning and training to other universities/colleges (College of Medicine in Qatar University, 2016).

         Simulation technology is an important learning tool to have in order to gain competitive advantage. It can improve the learning experience of the student, and enhance the teaching effectiveness, as it will actively engage students in the learning processes.  It also increases the flexibility of learning as it is independent from classroom location.  Furthermore, since it is only a simulation, committing errors will be not fatal, and hence can be seen as an “opportunity” to learn from making mistakes.

 Computerized Grading:

     Computerized Grading is an emerging technology using the techniques of machine learning and artificial intelligence to grade the work of students (Ahalt and Fecho, 2015). The “Turnitin” system, which is widely used by Australian universities, is an example of beginning level computerized grading for assessing the academic integrity of students’ submitted written works. Some popular language ability testing system such as Pearson Test of English Academic, uses “automated scoring”, a computerized grading technique, to grade the candidates’ English speaking, reading, listening and writing ability. The automated scoring system adopted by PTE Academic test is believed to deliver accurate and objective test results.

     Universities should also establish a high-quality teaching standard by implementing an effective students’ academic performance assessment system. Computerized Grading has the advantage of fast processing, large volume processing, eliminating human errors and bias, and could provide an accurate, objective and reliable assessment. Computerized Grading could be adopted by universities to ensure a high standard academic assessment in order to help in building reputation among peers and potential students.

Business Strategy:

         In order to achieve high quality learning outcomes, there is an urgent need to implement technologies and expand innovation. Hence it is important to note, however adopting these emerging technologies must be equipped with proper strategies. These new approaches are requiring development of new forms of business architecture that provide capabilities to deliver innovation service to academics and teacher. 

Higher education should consider these IT technologies as leader for its business and ensure its alignment with the business strategies. These business strategies should apply new approaches to teaching and learning, provides new capabilities and supports new advances using these IT (Jisc & EDUCAUSE, 2015)

In long term strategy planning and architecture redesign, it’s important to emphasis the significate roles of leadership. The role of IT is shifted from tactical perspective to strategic perspective and hence the IT leader role. Universities should take into consideration the following in order to capture and maximize their benefits from the emerging technologies;


     Strategic planning is considered one of the fundamental steps that universities should take in order to respond to the dramatic changes in universities landscape such as emerging technologies. Strategy is a tool that universities can use to achieve the competitive advantage and the strategic position they want (Lerner, 1999).


      They should understand the new role of IT leader in order to achieve the desired outcome from their IT investment. Recently, the IT leader have meaningful contribution in future direction and determine how these technologies can support both the business and academic sides of the universities. These institutes are required to gradually changing to accommodate and fit today’s society by delivering high quality education service and driving economic competitiveness. Hence, the role of IT leaders has shifted to finding education models and approaches that guarantee better value proposition for learners at all stages. (Jisc & EDUCAUSE, 2015).


Enabling new business or operating models, such as EaaS (Education as a service) innovation or BYOD model which achieve both smart learning and cost objectives. New business can also disintermediate existing student – university relations— for example supporting integration of student smart device in his education processes, which create customer for life (Hirt & Willmott, 2014).


It is not enough, however, to acknowledge the new role of leaders and adopting new strategies and mode. There would be an urgent need to redefine the IT governance and mechanism selection. The information technologies scope could reshape the institute relationship as strategic alliances, technology licensing and make-versus-buy choices strategies (Henderson & Venkatraman, 1999).

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