I always enjoy immersing myself in a day of finding out what the world of education is up to in the context of its own digital disrupted environment. So a day at the Global Mindset Conference on Digital Transformation and Emerging Trends, was a good chance to see how the thinking and practice has evolved over the last few months.
First up, was Stephanie Fahey from EY (Ernst & Young), who reminded us all that market volatility is increasing, students are demanding much more from their education experience and the digital global market place is allowing much greater competition.
EY in the UK have answered this challenge by launching a blended education and on-the-job scheme, where graduates are selected initially through blind testing. This means their results and university of graduation are excluded in the early stages of hiring, so that diversity and creative capability can shine through, rather than just picking the high marks from the perceived top UK universities. At the end of the scheme, the business gets tailored employees along with a diversity of capability that reflects the 21st century work place.
For me, this seems familiar ground. Thirty years ago I started at the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) on a graduate scheme, which at the time was seen as ideal in getting the best for the broadcaster. It worked. Out of the 12 on my course, 10 are still working for the BBC decades later. The scheme though was later dropped, as it was seen as a heavy cost to recruitment. It looks to me that the concept has come full circle as it is seen as a good approach to tackle our new working needs.
Professor David Sadler, Deputy Vice-Chancellor from the University of Tasmania, gave a personal perspective of how the digital revolution is changing education on the island state. As the only university in Tasmania, they have a unique position in bridging the digital divide between students, staff and the community.
The university is shifting subject material to reflect digital needs. In his view though, MOOCS had not led to the collapse of universities and the on campus experience is something students love. In Tasmania, they are therefore shifting the university closer to the community, with campuses moving to CBD locations to give a more immersed and convenient access to the community they are part of.
Driving digital change in the back office is a challenge many education establishments seem to own up to having, with a complexity of systems, slow process change and a mound of paper-orientated activities. It was really refreshing to hear a case study from a business that has tackled the challenge and in doing so, looks like a beacon for industry innovation.
Tania Gomez, General Manager at the Linx Institute, gave a passionate account of how her company had gone from a fully paper-based organisation to a fully cloud technology-supported paperless office. The training company has shifted rapidly from 3 to 3,000 students across childcare, disability, aged care and community services areas, by using a limited range of student systems, content creation and management tools, and a desire to create a business operation designed for the digital native.
The results have been impressive. The compliance requirements alone used to mean a ton of paper-driven activities and archiving. This has now been replaced with the ability to access everything instantly wherever the team member may be. This back office revolution has enabled huge flexibility for staff to work at home or in the office, and for students to interact far more effectively online, in classrooms and in one-to-one sessions. For a growing smaller business, there is the advantage of being more nimble. The lessons for universities are clear though: business operations in the 21st century will require wholesale change, not small iterative innovations.
How educational content will be created and shared with students is potentially under a huge transformation, if VR (Virtual Reality) takes off in the way some see that it might in the sector.
Ritchie Djamhur , Head of Sales, Learning and Culture at Bing Lee Electronics, demonstrated beautifully how the technology creation has skyrocketed in accessibility in just a few months. Investment by the big technology players in this medium has been big news recently with Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Sony Playstation all making commercial product moves.
For Ritchie, VR creation has hit the point where anyone can do it – with a few basic tips that is! The storytelling is still key, it is just that the shooting and production approach needs to adjust to handle certain challenges unique to VR. He gave a fantastic demo of a 4-hour creation project with a higher education institution, using simple low cost equipment available now, along with some simple production steps. The result was an impressive insight into how future students and staff may easily create VR content to deliver a much more accessible and immersive way to learn.
Overall, the event showed that there are many ways education and life long learning can adapt to the opportunity that digital disruption gives. It just takes the insight, passion for change, and the desire to simplify processes. This is combined with a focus on the experience-centred design for students, academics and professional staff.
Personally, I would have loved to have the ability to create VR as a part of my education and learning. It certainly seems fun and more creative than making Powerpoint presentations!