Case #3: Leading Digital Transformation


DISCIPLINE:Teaching Assessment
RESEARCH AREAS: Authentic learning, authentic assessment, digital learning and teaching, teaching excellence in higher education


Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is undertaking a digital transformation (Dx) to enhance the ways in which many of the important functions of the university are facilitated. Importantly, this includes the mediation of the academic teaching and student learning experience. Digital transformation, at its most simplistic, is the process of transforming an organization’s core business to better meet customer needs by leveraging technology and data (Clark, 2018). In essence, it is the move from a predominantly analogue service delivery model that might use information and communication technologies to deliver or automate existing workflows (digital in part), to an more customer (student) focused approach that uses the capabilities of these technologies to reshape and redefine the ways in which that customer experience is mediated; that is the ways in which students will engage with the university, at least the relevant parts of it (digital at heart).


QUT is embarking upon Dx with the intention of seeking to be more deliberate and effective in the use of educational technology to enhance the student learning experience. To enable this to occur, such Dx in learning and teaching will need to occur across the full range of functions that students will need to interact with on their learning and teaching journeys. In order to progress this work, it is useful to envision these journeys as ones that occur across both a physical as well as a virtual campus, noting that increasingly for many of those students studying online and by distance, their journey will occur on the digital campus only. Such transformation will require enhancement of the Digital Learning Eco-system as well as an increase in the academic uptake and usage of educational technology by instructors. It will also require that consideration is given to the preparedness of both instructors and students to be able to access and engage with that learning and teaching experience.

“It is the affective qualities described within the Five-Pillar Model that are central to building the constituency necessary to achieving change, at scale, across such a broad community as a university.”


It is the affective qualities described within the Five-Pillar Model that are central to building the constituency necessary to achieving change, at scale, across such a broad community as a university. In this respect, while it is vitally important to be able to describe a vision, it is equally important that humility is demonstrated in consultation with the impacted community and, at the same time, respect and empathy are demonstrated. It is in this way that the requisite trust can begin to be established and the relationships built that will enable change to occur.

In progressing any change or transformation agenda, it is equally important that colleagues are provided with concrete guidelines that inform them, in exact terms, as to what future success looks like. More importantly, it must allow colleagues to measure their own current practice against any such guidelines. In this way, they must also be provided with exemplars and relevant support (including online self-help resources) that offer access to such materials, preferably with clearly described and consistent case studies that describe how other instructors have succeeded. These supporting materials must also be clear and as unambiguous (i.e. outcomes focused) and objective as possible. It is by this mechanism that instructors who are able to help themselves may do so and, those who aren’t able can be identified and supported via other means. Thus, a full range of supporting resources and materials are provided, ranging from self-help to one-on-one support. Alongside this will be a requirement to demonstrate innovation as a means of both building champions within the community and describing models of future success.

With reference to action-orientation it must be acknowledged that meaningful change should be allowed to occur across a longer time frame. While there will certainly be a requirement for short- and medium-term goals and aspirations, it will take time to achieve true underlying change that is required to ensure transformation. The long term goals is for this change to be meaningful and enduring.

It is the facilitation, enabling and empowering of instructors; the building of learner confidence; and, the elimination of barriers that will be important hallmarks of a successful transformation. It is also important that any success is grounded in, and evidenced by, explicit and deliberate scholarship. Excellence in teaching, and learning, are more often than not grounded in rigorous scholarship and research as opposed to happenstance and chance.


The impact of this transformation agenda will, in its most simple forms, be measured by the improvements in the reported experience of instructors and students across their teaching and learning. Of course, as the transformation process matures and becomes increasingly sophisticated then better measures will need to be devised. What will be most important, though, will be remembering that the digital transformation of the learning and teaching experience has been progressed to enhance the academic teaching and the student learning experience. Thus, the truest and best measures of success will be those grounded in measuring improvements in learning and teaching, as opposed to technology. The end point of such transformation should be: the enhanced ability of the student to access their learning experience at times and in places of their choosing; and, the opportunity for them to learn by means of increasingly sophisticated and authentic ‘real world’ learning experiences, that will better prepare them to succeed in the increasingly digital world into which they will graduate.


Clark E., (2018) Digital Transformation: What is it? In Educause Magazine (May 2018) at:

Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., & Brown, C. (2014) Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(2), 205-222, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.819566


Headshot of Kevin Ashford-Rowe

Professor Kevin Ashford-Rowe is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital Learning) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Prior to this (2012 – 2018) he was the Director of the Learning and Teaching Centre (LTC), at Australian Catholic University (ACU).

He was an invited member of the International Advisory Panel for the former New Media Consortium’s 2016, 2017 and 2018 Horizon Reports. He has also served as an invited member of the National Advisory Panel for the New Media Consortium’s Australian Horizon reports 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.


At QUT he is leading the University’s Digital Transformation (Dx) in learning and teaching and he is the service lead for the digital learning environment.



Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching