The Myth of Digital Transformation

  • Bill Johnston
  • Sheila MacNeill
  • Keith Smyth
Part of the Digital Education and Learning book series (DEAL)


In this chapter the idea and aspiration of digital or digitally enabled transformation at the levels of the sector, institutions, and educational practice is explored and challenged. Claims and descriptions of digital technology as radically transformative are revealed as, at worst, a myth and at best as a conflation of transformation with what is actually closer to enhancement. The evidence for a notional digital transformation of universities is considered and found to be variable across macro, meso, and micro levels of analysis. A varied pattern of good practice in the adoption of digital practice for learning and teaching is described and related to sector-wide initiatives and programmes for change in the period 2000–2010 (e.g. Jisc/HEA, E-learning benchmarking and pathfinder programme 2005–2008: an overview. Higher Education Academy, York, 2008), many of which continue to have a legacy contribution to the development and enhancement of effective practice. The research base relating to the educational benefits of digital technologies for learning and teaching is explored, tempered with a critical consideration of the concept of ‘affordances’ in relation to educational technology. In conclusion, the chapter then explores emerging possibilities for genuinely transformative change relating to the digital in higher education.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bill Johnston
    • 1
  • Sheila MacNeill
    • 2
  • Keith Smyth
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Psychological Science and HealthUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Academic Quality and DevelopmentGlasgow Caledonian UniversityGlasgowUK
  3. 3.Learning and Teaching AcademyUniversity of the Highlands and IslandsInvernessUK

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