Developing the digital classroom

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For anyone involved in higher education, digital is simply not optional any longer, says Uschi Schreiber, Global Markets Leader and Global Government & Public Sector Leader at EY.

In a digital world, we need digitally proficient people — people who are intuitive in their use of technologies, not just trained to use them.

The digital revolution isn’t just about connecting devices to the internet; it’s about working differently.

Help wanted

In the 21st century, public and corporate sectors need people who can:

  • Take information from other parts of the world and apply it locally
  • Discover and locate knowledge and discern what’s useful in an ocean of availability
  • Contextualize knowledge to a range of industries
  • Present knowledge and solutions with authority

Open education resources today focus primarily on technical knowledge — but we need to think broader. We need to produce people who are digital naturals, who have strong technical skills and who can think critically and innovatively.

The higher education sector should take advantage of digital technologies to increase these wider skills and fast-track the delivery of experience to make students more work ready.

The government and corporate world also need information. Higher education organizations are ideally placed to better meet this wider need for knowledge. They could add value to their knowledge creation activities, allowing external users to outsource some knowledge discovery functions and focus on activities of higher value to the market.

People on the move

Global mobility is another priority. Companies are increasingly moving people around the world, a trend predicted to rise over the next 10 years. We need qualifications to be relevant to multiple destinations and to be accepted in those destinations.

We also need people who can function in different cultures and value systems and seamlessly move between mature and fast-growth societies, and who can recognize that there are things to be learned from emerging and fast-growth economies as well.

Moving the dial 

So, how do we use open education to change the paradigm, from a drop-in model of higher learning at discrete points when the cost-benefits to students tip in favor of study, to an “always on” model, discovering and adapting to the changing needs throughout a working life?

How do we use digital learning to enroll for life?

I am constantly advising governments and university leaders that while to date the market has primarily employed digital adaptees, those days are over.

We need digital naturals, and both the content of education and its means of delivery contribute to honing the skills and knowledge of digital natives.

We also need educators who can deliver both technical expertise and the complementary cultures, skills and experience that enable graduates to apply those skills in the workplace.

EY advice to policy-makers

  • Moving now is essential. This needs to be decisive and not just incremental.
  • Remember the first rule of quality management — it is the user who defines quality, not the supplier.
  • Don’t wait — your competitors in other parts of the world are moving fast and the next generation of students is behaving like global customers.
  • It’s important to develop a strategy for rapid digitization of all aspects of higher education — not just adding a digital channel that re-packages the existing.
  • Directly address the barriers (such as history, culture, assessment methods, infrastructure such as broadband access, well-resourced learning support, funding systems etc.).
  • Build deeper relationships with industry. Ask employers — not just the educators and accreditors — what they want from course accreditation. Ask what industry can contribute to the establishment of the requisite infrastructure.
  • Build a model for lifelong enrolment through open education.

Read our article: Developing the digital classroom