“It will be vital to constantly innovate to remain competitive and grow.”
Interview with Clery Luz Neyra Vera, Director of Innovation and Transformation, UPC, Peru
It is not easy to make an online-based higher education experience as enriching for students as an on-campus experience. We spoke with Clery Luz Neyra Vera, Director of Innovation and Transformation at UPC in Peru, a university at the forefront of the digital transformation process, to learn about its approach. UPC is a pilot participant in IFC’s Digital for Tertiary Education Program (D4TEP) in which IFC’s education specialists advise universities on how they might develop their online offerings.
How do you make a digital tertiary education as engaging and enriching experience for a student as an on-campus experience?
UPC started its digital transformation many years ago, before the pandemic. Our goal was to create the best digital ecosystem for students, teachers and administrators. Our innovation framework has three pillars: learning, experience, and effectiveness. All the university participates in the innovation process, collaborators present ideas that are reviewed for alignment with our innovation pillars. Each year we assess how the innovation framework is advancing and maturing. Within this umbrella, we have developed the digital transformation roadmap, which uses digital tools to enhance the learning process, the campus experience, and the relationship with the student.
COVID has added impetus to our digital transformation roadmap. Suddenly, digital tools were the whole of the education experience. We had to look at cultural activities, sports, and social activities, and how to transform these to the new, digital space. What we have confirmed is that you need to put in place a robust digital architecture and infrastructure that allows students to function on their own in this system. We are utilizing leading software, we have created virtual laboratories, and we have a library with more than 370,000 digitized documents. Alongside this, we’ve discovered that constant training of our teachers is key to ensure quality and sustain academic demand. In addition, academic activities are complemented by cultural activities and psycho-pedagogical care, counseling, tutorials and support workshops.
In what areas of digital education do universities need support and guidance the most?
Institutions need support in formulating their overall strategy—how to develop a robust digital ecosystem that advances projects and investments that fully align with the goals each institution sets itself. They also need support in providing adequate resources such as software and computers for students and teachers, and training teachers in digital modes of instruction is essential to ensuring excellence and quality.
In response to teacher training needs in Peru and the demand for access to digital education-oriented pedagogical tools, UPC has made available for free a virtual space that offers such tools to higher education teachers in the public and private sectors. The platform, Educador Digital, contains a wide selection of materials such as articles and tutorial videos, offering teachers various tools to help them adapt to the new reality of social distancing and distance learning education.
As a pilot participant in IFC’s Digital for Tertiary Education Program (D4TEP), how has the experience helped you to fulfill your mission?
Working with IFC has been an enriching experience, it has given us greater insight into our digital maturity, providing comparisons with peers. It has helped us analyze different drivers in the space, understand our own strengths, and identify opportunities for growth. IFC has worked with the university’s leaders, offering us workshops and sharing knowledge on latest trends and best practices. We also worked with IFC on our investment and development plans and how to implement them successfully.
In the long term, are universities more likely to partner with Online Program Managers to implement digital plans, or will they do it in-house?
It depends on each university and its structure, infrastructure, and strategy. In this new, more globalized world shaped by an exponential growth of technology, it is necessary to constantly innovate to remain competitive and grow. Collaboration within the sector and between sectors is essential, as well as taking advantage of innovative entrepreneurs and startups.
How do you prevent a digital divide where students from lower-income families fall behind developmentally due to lack of access to the technologies?
The arrival of the pandemic in our country and the new normal we had to adapt to has put great pressure on families and created big challenges in providing access to the necessary digital education tools for students and teachers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken actions to address these challenges. For example, through UPC’s HELP program, which provides assistance for our students to help them gain access to scholarships, refinancing and software, licenses, mobile devices, and equipment that keeps them learning.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity
Published in February 2021