Mark Nichols

Executive Director, Learning Design & Development, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

Mark Nichols

Executive Director, Learning Design & Development, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand


Mark Nichols is Executive Director of Learning Design & Development at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand since 2019. He was Director of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) at The Open University, United Kingdom (2016-2019) and Executive Director at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (2010-2016).

He has valuable experience in executive management, professional team leadership, change management, organisational design and research.

Mark holds a PhD in Distance Education from the university of Otago, New Zealand. He is author of more than 29 publications in e-pedagogy and he has recently published the book Transforming Universities with Digital Distance Education – The Future of Formal Learning.

Abstract of the talk

So Much More than a Transition: Perspectives on the Digital Transformation of Higher Education in the Post-pandemic Age

'Digital transformation' (Dx) is the complex process by which education and research are disruptively changed as a result of digital technology possibilities. It represents a deep and sustained cultural shift. Transformation is much different to transferal. In this talk between Associate Professor António Teixeira (Universidade Aberta, Portugal) and Dr Mark Nichols (Open Polytechnic, New Zealand), the phenomenon of emergency remote teaching is evaluated in terms of whether it represents a new normal and it contributes to quality-driven, fair and inclusive Dx?

António and Mark will draw on their experiences as change agents. Both will take a future perspective reflecting on the possibilities and challenges of digital education, the educational response to the Covid19 pandemic, and the complexity of transformational change. The final keynote of the EDEN 2021 conference will consist of a brief presentation from António then Mark, followed by a conversation in which delegate input is welcome.

António will be talking about the futures of open and digital education; discussing the ethical, pedagogical and technological challenges of learning in hybrid environments; analysing the importance of responsive research and innovation transfer; and reflecting on the dynamics of institutional disruptive transformation.

Mark’s key themes will relate to the potential of technology in education; the barriers to transformation in our practice; and the need to change an organization’s entire operating model rather than just teaching practices. Transformation is difficult not because teachers must change practices, but for the reason that everything in the institutions needs to be touched by a genuine shift.