The evolution of higher education as a driver of innovation is becoming widely recognized as a catalyst for global engagement. Technological discoveries and innovation trends have shifted from exploration of new ideas to establishing ways in which countries can harmonize their integration. This means that technology in higher education plays an increasingly vital role in broadening Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) reach outside their countries. To keep this momentum, HEIs must critically assess their technological advancements in order to remove barriers that would otherwise limit global engagement. The integration of technology in higher education must acknowledge that faculty and students must be equipped with the necessary tools and skills to sparkle global collaboration.
Though HEIs have different approaches to global engagement, there are fundamental areas that they must encompass in their strategy.
First, HEIs must collaborate with other institutions in the area of technology. Single actors in this area cannot succeed given the common agenda and need for networking with other Institutions with similar technological objectives. Secondly globalization generates technological risks and it is imperative that Institutions minimize risk by partnering for effective global collaboration. However, it is important for HEIs to consider government and Institutional regulations as a consideration for the formation of partnerships. Third, HEIs leaders must ensure commitment to the global engagement strategy as they advance technology. They must have specific strategies to address them first as institutions and then as partners.
Technology as driver for change in Higher Education
Higher education has many benefits such as enhancing financial security and creating avenues for enhancing career development. Higher Education also prepares the recipients to be mentally and emotionally prepared to mitigate around life challenges by being exposed to opportunities that they can exploit should they face adversities. The education attained also plays a key role in promoting the quality of life of individuals and their families through the increase of opportunities to enhance income, access health care and avoid poverty related misfortunes. Incorporating technological advancements into institutions of higher learning to support relevant systems promotes the learning processes in the institutions which in turn helps the learners to achieve the best and reap the highest benefits. This makes a case to revolutionize technology in institutions with the main objective being to support teaching and learning programs and increasing efficiency in the overall education systems.
The African Union has developed a Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016 –2025), which reflects the Post-2015 Development Agenda. CESA 2016-2025 comprehensively documents the vision for education in Africa and the training systems in order to realize full potential in competencies, skills, innovation and creativity. This is with the aim of nurturing African core values that promote sustainable development at the national, sub-regional and continental levels. Continental education strategy for Africa, emphasizes regional cooperation, and that public - private partnerships should have the necessary human capital for sustainable development, so that they can become players in the knowledge economy. In a globalized world, international academic cooperation is increasingly important and must be driven by technology. A key indicator of technology is the availability of Internet connection at the household and institutional level. Africa household connectivity (18.0%) is below the average percentage of the households connected to Internet in the world (53.6 %). Africa, for example, must put strategies in place to reverse this trend. The following table shows the continental variations in this crucial technology indicator.
Figure 1:percentage of households with internet access for the year 2017
Note: ** Commonwealth of Independent States
Source: ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/
In an attempt to understand technology as a driver towards shaping international collaboration in higher education, a major concern is whether HEIs are effectively utilizing opportunities created by advancements in technology. The second concern is whether the Institutions are engaging the right people to identify these opportunities and use them to their advantage. There is also concern whether the Institutions are using technology to address the challenges they are facing.
Technological advancements in higher education particularly digital technologies have been key in expanding knowledge, but they have not succeeded in making knowledge accessible to everyone or addressing the challenges nor have they helped to bridge the digital and knowledge divide. To do this there is need for:
Change in Mindset: Institutions of learning need to acknowledge the relevance of technology in the education sector and put in place right systems that can support and uphold technological advancement. HEIs must engage communities and all stake holders in the effort to enhance technology adoption.
Teaching & Learning ICT: There is need to not only have ICT taught as a subject in HEIs but also incorporating into teaching of other subjects. Learning and teaching tools have to be aligned to the latest technological advancement for full realization of HE and global engagement.
Revisiting institutions frameworks to align with the national digitization strategies: Institutional framework have to be flexible in the sense that they can be revisited and revised to be up to date with upcoming trends in the various economic sectors. To advance technology, there has been a global agenda for digital transformation and institutions can align their frameworks and systems with such global agenda in order to capitalize on benefits linked to the digital transformation. Some of the key measures that institutions could take include focusing their efforts, including finances, towards implementation of policies in line with the digital transformation and creating an integrated policy framework.
Incorporating new and different learning designs: To encourage and promote a deeper and all-inclusive learning approach, institutions need to redesign their teaching approaches. This will create a platform for active and online learning approaches that could see educators and students work together in an interactive learning environment to come up with innovative technological solutions to real life challenges. There are for example existing models in place where institutions can comfortably educate a huge number of students around the globe without being limited by student mobility issues. In addition, there is technology, which enables practical subjects to be taught even when there are limitations of equipment.
In conclusion, technology is a catalyst for global engagement but must be availed, used and shared strategically for it to be effective.