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Blurring the digital boundaries: What collaboration looks like for today’s university students

Universities are made up of many worlds within one; a multi-sphere of different departments, different focuses, different work and different processes, but all operating within the same overall heading.

And as technology has evolved, so too have all these different departments, harnessing the power of tech to get better, quicker and faster at what they do.

This new generation of workplace technologies is empowering people within working and university environments on a widespread scale, creating a whole new set of core trends that are reshaping how we all work and learn. According to Microsoft, the trends are as follows:

Digital natives leading the way

Today’s generation of learners and workers includes the first ‘digital natives’. Digital is second nature to them and connecting with people has no geographical, time or device boundaries.

Data going to waste

Organisations are increasingly collecting data, but very few are using it to their full advantage. In fact, only 14% are analysing it and using it to enhance business performance (Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study).

Unlimited interaction – any place, at any time

The interconnected world means it’s possible to collaborate and share information internally and with external partners at any time of the night or day.

Rapidly-changing learning curve

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, around 50% of what students learn during their degree will be out of date by the time they graduate. Organisations are now having to explore new ways of continuously developing their workforce, e.g. open knowledge sharing etc.

AI continuing to grow

Bit by bit, AI and machine learning are making an impact on sectors far and wide. According to PwC, come 2030, advances in AI will boost global GDP by $15.7trillion. Automated grading, personalised, adaptive learning platforms and ‘smart’ classrooms are literally just the start…

It can be very tempting for us to head off in our different directions and start using these new technologies

But the upshot of this is, particularly within universities, that departments often become more unattached from each other, as they go off down their different technological routes, and for students in the outside world, this can result in a disjointed experience. While it’s not the main denominator, fragmented student journeys are one of the factors that can lead to students feeling isolated, overwhelmed and unsupported and, in worse case scenarios, dropping out.

However, that’s just one side of the picture. We’ve also seen plenty of processes that enable universities to use technology to achieve greater collaboration and create more inclusive learning environments.

Take the University of Edinburgh, for instance…

They’ve used the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform to create a dedicated hub for chatting, scheduling, planning and where notes and attachments are available for all staff and students to use for free. They’ve really benefited from this approach from all angles; 48% of its Masters in Marketing students say it’s been really useful, 54% frequently used it and all of them said they would use Teams again. Meanwhile, one of the university’s business school lecturers says the platform has been an ideal alternative to announcements and class emails for students.

‘I have found the number of student emails overwhelming in recent years and so I started to look into chatbots, Slack and other communication tools. I gave Teams a trial in semester 2 (2018/19) with two MSc courses and I am currently using it for my 15 dissertation students.

‘The students themselves have reported a mostly positive experience using Teams and it is easy for them to navigate. I have pushed for them to create groups for their projects on Teams so they can communicate, meet and engage with one another in an educational setting rather than switching between multiple Facebook or WhatsApp groups.’

And the benefits of using Microsoft Teams are being felt globally (even as far as the other side of the world!)

Dr David Kellermann, a lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, has combined Teams with AI to more than enhance the experience of his students — he’s transformed the classroom and learning experience, while creating a community of learners. (He explains how he achieved it in this ten-minute video).

Digital transformation is the here and now and it’s the future in a world where learning’s continuously evolving and new advances can easily lead to major discrepancies between new and old ways of working. The key for universities, is joining up the digital dots, in a way that works organisation-wide, as well as for their students. Thanks to platforms such as Microsoft Teams, it’s easy to achieve and the possibilities, are endless.

Are you a university that’s interested in learning about how you can use Microsoft Teams to harness digital transformation and facilitate greater student collaboration?

Our highly-successful higher education Assess2Progress consulting sessions will show you how. To find out more or to book a place, contact us on 01675 466 477 or go to