What does 'digitalisation' or 'digital transformation' mean? The MIT Center for Digital Business defines 'digital transformation' as follows: 'We define Digital Transformation as the use of new digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics or embedded devices) to enable major business improvements (such as enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations or creating new business models)' (Ruoss, 2015). A prerequisite for digital transformation is ongoing technological development – especially in the areas of information and communication technologies (ICT). Digital transformation is providing companies with chances to improve their existing business models as well as opportunities to also develop completely new, 'disruptive' business models. Platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com are transforming the tourism sector, Amazon now has the world’s largest selection of books and electronic payment systems such as ApplePay are replacing banks in their role as traditional service providers. The correct handling of digital change will be crucial for the survival of many companies.
Educational institutions such as HTW Chur are also affected by digital transformation. For example, the NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition 2014 (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, Freeman, 2014) identifies the improvement of digital and media expertise among both students and teachers as a particular challenge facing universities and declares that the preparation of students for the digital future is a core task of universities.
HTW Chur recognised the opportunities presented by digital transformation at an early stage and adopted digitalisation as a strategic initiative under the motto 'we are developing with the digital future'. The following objectives were set in the 2017 annual goals: the strengthening of students’ digital expertise and the development of the digital learning and teaching offering. At HTW Chur, these objectives are pursued, in particular, via the Blended Learning Centre (BLC). Using technical aids, those students who are unable to attend on site are also provided with the opportunity to participate in lessons. HTW Chur provides lecturers with an easy-to-use option to stream or record their lessons with the telepresence room. This allows students to follow lessons at any time and irrespective of where they are. Moodle, the learning platform used at HTW Chur, allows for a range of assessments in order to track the individual progress and participation of the students on the platform.
Thanks to addressing digitalisation at an early stage, HTW Chur is now able to provide a comprehensive service offering relating to the digital transformation.
Digitalisation is omnipresent in the research projects of HTW Chur, including in connection with the keywords of 'Big Data', 'Industry 4.0' and 'digitalisation in the tourism sector'. This is illustrated by the research projects listed below that are funded by the federal government’s Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI).
The WISDOM project of the Swiss Institute for Information Science (SII) deals with the topic of big data and combines data from online news services, blogs and social sources in order to identify relevant players, topics and trends and integrate these in metrics to support decision-makers. This allows the application partner Orell Füssli Wirtschaftsinformationen AG (OFWI) to recognise interrelationships between companies and provide its customers with more precise information with respect to their financial standing.
Under the keyword 'Industry 4.0', digitalisation and networking represent one of the biggest challenges. At the same time, however, they also provide the opportunity to gain competitive advantages. As part of a research project conducted in cooperation with the University of St.Gallen, the Swiss Institute for Entrepreneurship (SIFE) developed an Industry 4.0 roadmap for Swiss industrial firms (link in German only).
The 'booking tool for group trips' project (link in German only) illustrates the process of digitalisation in the tourism sector. The objective is to create a booking platform that allows for (group) trips to Graubünden to be planned online. The platform should propose accommodation, excursions, etc. that can be booked with just a few clicks of the mouse and allow for individual planning within the calendar. The project is opening up the potential of club trips for our business partner Graubünden Tourism.
The examples provided illustrate that digitalisation is a cross-cutting issue at HTW Chur. In the Department of Applied Future Technologies, the Department of Entrepreneurial Management and the Department Lived Environment, research fields have been defined that are geared towards digitalisation. In the focus area of Applied Future Technologies, required technical bases including Image Processing, Optoelectronics, the Internet of Things and ICT are researched; the research focus area of Big Data and Analytics deals with the analysis of large volumes of data. Within the focus areas of Entrepreneurial Management and Lived Environment, digital strategies are researched and e-tourism is further developed.