"Digitalisation": Rector Prof. Dr. Johannes Wessels about the new special topic of the Press Office
In a world characterized by increasing digitalisation, the University of Münster also needs to ask itself how it is identifying and making individual use of the opportunities which this digitalisation presents. It is important to remember that digitalisation is not an end in itself, but an increasingly important possibility, now and in the future, for the University to present itself as a modern and successful institution. In line with this approach, one of the planning principles laid down at the beginning of the Rectorate’s term of office in 2016 was: "The University of Münster acknowledges that digitalisation, and the possibilities it presents in all core areas, is an important opportunity for modern forms of teaching and provides a basis for enabling excellent research to be carried out."
We will continue to develop our digital services for the long term, and in such a way that we create the digital conditions appropriate for a traditional university. A university such as Münster, with a major focus on teacher training, thrives on direct exchanges between, and among, students and teachers. Discussions across faculty boundaries are becoming increasingly important as the nucleus of excellent, cross-disciplinary research. Digital elements such as the University-wide sciebo campus cloud today play an essential role in promoting such exchanges at all levels of the University, and will continue to do so in future. At the same time, digitalisation cannot, and will not, replace dialogue between people. But the use of digital elements makes it possible to meet the requirements of students who, as far as their lives and educational background are concerned, are becoming increasingly heterogeneous. Digitalisation is also playing an increasingly important role in internal matters such as family-friendly policies or mobility, for example in the form of teleworking. And, last but not least, the University of Münster sees it as part of its social responsibility as an educational institution to provide students with the competence to handle these new technologies.
A look at Münster University today makes it clear that digitalisation is already embedded in the fields of research, teaching and administration. Excellent research is unthinkable without high-performance IT resources and data-intensive applications. This means that long-term research data management, and the availability of the infrastructure needed for it, are key components of digitalisation at the University. This includes providing a wide range of services and advice, and this is why a centre of competence and services for eScience is being set up at the University Library. The centre simultaneously provides answers to any questions relating to "Digital Humanities". Münster University has set up the CRIS@WWU research database to document the research activities being undertaken at the University. It is an important tool for all researchers.
In the field of study and teaching, the University is creating the infrastructural conditions for expanding not only already established services for digital teaching formats such as Learnweb, but also services to record lectures. Münster University wants to encourage its teaching staff to use the opportunities which these present and to develop new teaching formats and content themselves. The aim is to provide needs-based advice and support for teaching staff. At the Centre for University Teaching (ZHL), and for the purpose of coordinating central advisory and qualifications services, the University is setting up a new office – ZHLdigital – which can handle both didactic and technical requirements. Teaching programmes which can be accessed anytime and anywhere make individual learning possible. This not only makes it easier to combine studying with looking after a family, but also promotes inclusion. For the Rectorate, however, it is important that any infrastructural or technical expansion is geared to requirements and to users. In this way, the digital services on offer will continue to supplement and support studies which will still be based on the principle of direct exchanges between people.
In the administrative field, the Rectorate sees the particular potential of digitalisation in the modernization of administrative processes. Accordingly, for Münster University the term ‘digital university’ also means the widespread establishment of digital processes for the long term – for example, in the form of the close-to-paperless office in the administrative departments, electronic examinations and modern services on offer to students.
All these practical considerations cannot disguise the fact that huge social changes are going hand in hand with the advance of digitalisation. This is resulting in very exciting questions for the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will attract increasing attention and make Münster University an important partner for decision-makers.
Prof. Dr. Johannes Wessels is Rector of the University of Münster.
Source: "wissen|leben" No. 1, January / February 2018