Digital Transformation and Innovation initiatives at James Cook University
Digital Transformation Strategy

Beyond Blended: Digital Transformation and Innovation initiatives at James Cook University

Blended Learning is the purposeful combination of face-to-face and online activities designed to optimize student engagement and the achievement of learning outcomes. Adopting a blended learning approach is in line with curriculum approaches in national and international higher education contexts as researchers have described it as the new normal.

The use of digital transformation techniques is now a standard practice in higher education. This approach of adoption of such techniques & innovative initiatives has been implemented at James Cook University, Australia to combine offline and online learning in a way that one compliments the other.

Source: elearning.adobe.com

Blended learning via adoption of digital transformation techniques provides individuals with the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds. For example, a student might attend classes in a real-world classroom setting and then supplement the lesson plan by completing online multimedia coursework. As such, the student would only have to physically attend class once a week and would be free to go at their own pace without worrying about scheduling issues.

Blended learning via the adoption of digital transformation techniques is often referred to as “hybrid” learning and can take on a variety of forms in online education environments. While some organizations may only use these techniques on rare occasions, others might utilize it as a primary teaching method within their curriculum. The James crook university’s strategy of digital transformation of education is something which other universities should also follow.


1. The Transition of Blended learning via adoption of Digital Transformation Techniques

There are two key principles commonly associated with blended learning via the adoption of digital transformation techniques. Students who can share information and work with other students directly in a collaborative setting have a more enriched learning experience, and collaboration between students can be improved upon if group activities rely on information gathered from online resources or lessons which can only happen via the adoption of DT techniques. It’s also been suggested that students who complete online coursework followed by interactive, face-to-face class activities have richer educational experiences.

Students who can share information and work with other students directly in a collaborative setting have a more enriched learning experience, and collaboration between students can be improved upon if group activities rely on information gathered from online resources or lessons which can only happen via adoption of digital transformation techniques. It’s also been suggested that students who complete online coursework followed by interactive, face-to-face class activities have richer educational experiences.

James Cook University has been carrying out blended learning in their curriculum for the past few years and now they have made a transition into a new Learning Management (LMS) system through digital transformation. They have developed a Digital Maturity model for this transition and has made an agile staffing plan for their current team of Blended learning. They plan to implement Hi and Low-touch support for curriculum enhancement at the university. A studio-based approach is being followed by the university for such transformation.

2. Design Process

The learning design-cycle is situated in a framework of continuous improvement and includes the following phases.

  • Planning
  • Designing
  • Implementing
  • Reviewing
  • Improving

This framework along with a proper road map for digital transformation, combined together can give stellar results. This framework recognizes that students are given priority and promotes a learner-oriented approach. The Blended Learning design cycle is intended to guide academics at each stage of the process.

As the first step in this process, a subject vision has been set to move ahead with the designed plan. The idea of developing a mission or a vision is that it is a blend of aspiration and realism.

When all learners, no matter their previous achievements, jumps into something new, it has the effect of leveling the playing field.

— Laura Fleming

3. The 5E’s

The 5E’s - Digital Transformation

One of the inquiry-based models for constructing blended learning is 5E’s model. 5E’s model is derived from the concept that students learn and retain knowledge when they have had the opportunity for discovery through a variety of experiences purposefully designed by the teachers of learning facilitators.

Students use their prior knowledge to make connections between new information/experience and prior knowledge. To help students make these connections, learning facilitator structure experiences that are organized into five phases.

3.1 Engage

This phase focuses on mentally engaging students by capturing their interest and giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their prior knowledge. It helps to make connections between prior knowledge and new ideas.

3.2 Explore

This phase focuses on facilitating activities that give students the opportunity to explore the concepts /skills. This allows them to engage with the problems and describe them in their own words. It also helps them to acquire a common set of experiences to share with their peers.

3.3 Explain

This phase focuses on the facilitator to provide the concepts and terms already used by the students to develop explanations for the phenomenon they have already experienced. It also helps them to acquire a common set of experiences to share with their peers.

3.4 Elaborate

This phase focuses on the students to apply their knowledge/skills to develop a deeper understanding or better demonstration of skill. Here students need to discuss and compare ideas.

3.5 Evaluate

This phase focuses on reviewing and reflecting on their learning new understandings/skills. Here the students provide evidence of learning.

4. Summary

Digital transformation has been creating major impacts in the field of education for the past few years. Not only education, but digital transformation can also be an effective tool for the progressing of a developing economy.

The transition of blended learning into a new learning management system at James Cook University, Australia is a perfect example of this phenomenon. They have opted to migrate to an approach beyond blended learning through a digital transformation which has turned out to be a great success.


Reference: BEYOND BLENDED: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AND INNOVATION INITIATIVES AT JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY, James Cook University, Australia

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