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The implementation plan for the digital agenda has been approved by the Executive Board, which means that all teams involved can begin working on UvA's digitalisation strategy. What will happen next? And what will this mean for our students and staff? To find out, we spoke with Maarten Emons, programme leader for the digital agenda and Director of Information Management at the UvA.

‘The adoption of the digital agenda by the Executive Board was both a final step and a starting point’, says programme leader Maarten Emons. ‘In recent months, we have worked with faculties and units to identify what is needed to realise all our ambitions. It is impossible to achieve every single ambition right away in 2023, so choices will have to be made. We have listened carefully to what the faculties say they need. We have also checked to see whether there is enough “energy” in the organisation to successfully carry out a given initiative and whether we are making sufficient investments in renewal. These efforts have resulted in the implementation plan for the digital agenda.’

Maarten Emons, programme leader digital agenda
Maarten Emons, programme leader digital agenda

Results of prioritising for 2023

More than half of the budget for 2023 has been allocated to making improvements in connection with education and teaching logistics. The largest portion of this will be used to support initiatives that have already been started and will be continued in 2023, while around 20% will go toward new initiatives. ‘We intend to realise a much more radical overhaul’, Maarten explains. ‘Based not on who complains loudest or is the most stubborn, but rather according to priorities we've set based on a vision and an articulation of our collective needs. We are going to pay a lot more attention to the actual user and respond to specific needs rather than offering generic solutions. I'm quite proud of this!’

The implementation plan for the digital agenda includes nearly 50 initiatives – far too many to list here. With that in mind, Maarten shares a few examples of recently completed and upcoming projects.

Improved course registration for students

‘As of December, all faculties have made the switch to course registration via GLASS. A major advantage of this is that it allows all students to register in the same way and at the same times. Students from a variety of degree programmes and study years are taking part in efforts to improve the course registration process.’

I have used it twice so far in my Master's, and I thought it was a good system. It's very well organised, with everything on one page. And I liked that there's no need to hurry. That makes the entire process more relaxed. Nynke Verhaar, Political Communication student

Admission to Master's reduced from 67 to 14 days

‘We are working to drastically reduce the processing time between application and admission to a Master's. This will give students a clear answer more quickly on whether they will be able to enrol in a given Master's programme. It will also reduce the administrative burden placed on our staff.’ Further information will be soon made available on this page about UvA’s digital agenda.

'One-stop shop' for all students’ questions

‘Searching for the right place to find answers to all your questions has for years been a source of frustration for many students. That is why we are so happy that ‘Ask a question’ is being introduced at Student Services. Here, students will find a ‘one-stop shop' for all their questions – it’s really an exciting step! We expect to be able to share the initial results of the pilot sometime this spring.’

VRE (Virtual Research Environment) for all faculties

‘Since 1 January, all researchers have been able to use a VRE, a cloud-based virtual working environment. This offers researchers the calculation and storage capacity they need, while also making it easy to collaborate with other researchers and take the proper security and data protection measures. With the VRE, the researcher is in control and can combine various building blocks to create their own custom virtual environment. The VRE will undergo further development in 2023. This is in keeping with our strategy of continuously building a state-of-the-art infrastructure.’

The VRE ensures that you are working in accordance with GDPR guidelines, it saves time because students and staff no longer have to travel to a single location for coding, and it promotes collaboration, because people no longer have to be in the same place to look at the same data. Eddie Brummelman, associate professor of Child and Youth Care Sciences

Continued development of Research Management Services

‘Research Management Services (RMS) enables researchers to manage all the paperwork related to their research in one place. This makes things easier and saves time because it eliminates the endless search for procedures, contacts and answers. Each question will only be asked once and the answers will be reused in other procedures. The system provides support, monitors progress and archives information. Every faculty has its own customised RMS environment.’

Hybrid Learning Theatre facilitates the integration of online and physical teaching

‘Two rooms at the Roeterseiland Campus have been designed and furnished specifically for hybrid education (M3.02 for FEB and B.103 for all faculties). The unique room layout enables the lecturer to have contact with every student, while a member of AV staff with technical expertise is on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly. These experiences with the Hybrid Learning Theatre (HLT) are being taken into consideration in efforts to draw up a vision on hybrid education at the UvA, which we expect to yield results sometime around the summer.’

The HLT is a lecture hall full of facilities with comfortable technical support and yet a warm atmosphere. The students can easily present their work simultaneously online and in the room. I really like to be there with my students. Lucy Hall, lecturer in Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics

Digitalisation and the longer term

‘In addition to further developing the initiatives we've already started, we are also working toward longer term goals. This includes strategic themes such as lifelong learning, responsible IT and digital sovereignty, sustainability and data & AI for the UvA. Although this is mostly still in the planning stage in 2023, it will ultimately have a major impact. At other organisations, for example, I have seen how much innovation is generated when you start working in a more data-driven way. I find that really energising!’

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