Oxford skyline view from South Park
Oxford skyline view from South Park

Ensuring Oxford’s education is digitally fit for the future

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Professor Rhona Sharpe, Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning talk about how the University’s digital education strategy is helping Oxford achieve its ambitions for students in a digital world. 

This month sees the publication of a new Digital Education Strategy for Oxford, outlining our ambitions for the next four years.

The strategy was significantly shaped by student experiences in recent years and by your visions for the future. It aims to make a significant improvement in the quality of Oxford’s digital systems, and to use digital tools to foster both innovation in how we teach and learn, and inclusivity for all students.

Inclusive teaching and learning 
The strategy outlines our ambition to use digital tools to make teaching more accessible, especially as we know 25% of our students have a disability. It seeks to build on the benefits of the flexible and inclusive teaching adopted by many during the pandemic, to ensure common barriers to learning are removed for all students.

Investing in digital learning tools
Student feedback pointed to a digital experience that is fragmented across different student-related information systems, where course information and resources are inconsistent and can be hard to access, and fundamental aspects of IT provision are disjointed. The strategy makes a commitment to continue investment in developing a holistic and integrated digital platform based on a centrally supported virtual learning environment (currently Canvas), fully integrated with the additional tools and services you use (eg ORLO, Replay, Teams, Inspera).

Supporting academic transitions
Student feedback collected during the pandemic reveals how digital tools can be employed to help students manage Oxford’s demanding academic and social environments and complex ecosystem. Students reported that Oxford’s high standards can be mitigated by consistent and clear communication of expectations and deadlines, timely access to well-structured and accessible resources in a central portal, and flexibility in workload management. The strategy makes a number of commitments to encourage the use of digital tools to support inclusive teaching, optimising these tools to support students through academic transitions into and through undergraduate and postgraduate study.

Future educational experiences 
In Hilary term 2022, students were invited to enter the Imagining the Future of Digital Education writing competition by submitting news articles telling fictitious stories of the future of digital learning at Oxford. You can view the competition winners on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website. These visions emphasised the role of both digital and physical spaces in the educational experiences and provided ideas for integrating them in imaginative ways.

Digital Transformation 
Key to the success of the strategy will be its close connection to another University initiative known as Digital Transformation. This is a multi-year funded programme of enhancement of our digital infrastructure and capabilities, spanning the full range of University activities. The prioritisation of education projects within the Digital Transformation programme is being done so as to deliver the commitments made in the Digital Education Strategy.

We are committed to continue to drive innovation in digital education as part of your experience at Oxford and we are excited to see what can be achieved as a result of this strategy.