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Digital Innovation In Business Education Meets Needs Of Future Workplace

The business education system is beginning to adapt to meet the needs of the future workplace with Moocs, nano-degrees and learning analytics.

By  Kariappa Bheemaiah

Mon Oct 27 2014

A decade ago, employees were worried about losing their jobs to outsourcing. Today, companies like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, ODesk and LiveOps can gather teams on the cloud to perform research, sales, marketing and almost any other task.
Companies like Accordion Partners are redefining the face of the investment banking industry by furnishing freelance financial experts who work with a plethora of competing Wall Street companies, providing them with technical expertise on a project to project basis.

Technology is further adding to this transition, allowing companies to hire talent irrespective of mobility, location or borders.

It would be safe to say that companies now have access to a buffet of talent which they can mix and match to address the preferences of their customers.

Even the social aspect of working in an office has not been spared. Internet sites now allow individuals to rent cheap office space within an organisation for a short time.

These changes are providing companies with flexibility and adaptability. Rather than spending an immense amount of time and resources on training their employees, companies now have agile, high performance, skilled talent at their beck and call.

An element of commonality in all these jobs is the manifestation of our inherent capacity to adapt and make sense of the environment around us – our ability to think. Yet, it is often seen that this fundamental ability is often ignored in the business educational system. Or is that about to change?

The current business education system is a costly business. Students studying a bachelor’s or a master’s degree end up incurring vast sums of debt.

To make matters worse, at a time when innovation is the mantra in most organisations, the skills learnt by these students are not always in cohesion with the required skills of the future workplace.

Our education system needs to be overhauled not only from an economic standpoint, but also in terms of its pedagogy and the variation of subjects.

Fortunately for us, educators and innovators are already taking a step in this direction.

Evolution in the education system

Just as technology is giving the workplace a facelift, business education is being up-ended.

The biggest game-changer in the education system is the development of massive open online courses – Moocs.

The advantages of this new method of online teaching are multi-fold: there is a reduction of fees and an increase in outreach of courses; students can learn at their own pace and without the need of expensive faculty; and employees can now see graduates as co-workers or entrepreneurs, rather than ill-prepared assembly line workers in a knowledge economy.

As a direct consequence, Moocs also allow faculty to concentrate more time on their research – a greater allocation of funds can now be siphoned towards research, thus reforming the cost structure at business schools.


As the “Internet of Things” moves towards the Internet of Everything, the evolution in technology is creating a dearth of technical skills. In a recent report by the McKinsey Global institute, it was stated that by 2018 the US alone might face a 50%-60% gap between the supply and demand of people with an advanced training in data analysis, statistics and machine learning.

As the need for specialists in the fields of data mining, cognitive computing, web based services and content curation begin to increase, the public sector is now entering the field of education by providing short courses in the form of nano-degrees.

The leader in this domain is Udacity, which has provided nano-degrees in web development, iOS development and data analysis.

The advantage of nano-degrees is their focalised nature. Rather than going through an entire course, these degrees focus on a core module and offer a learning style that is extremely collaborative and adapted to the current workplace.

Students are given a real-time project which they all need to complete by performing multiple tasks. At the end, the tasks are amalgamated with the aid of the course guide, thus leading to the end of the project and the reception of a qualification certificate.

Unlike Moocs, nano-degrees are paid qualifications. However, the cost is quite marginal – about $150 – making them increasingly affordable.

What Moocs and nano-degrees share is the reception of a validation certificate by an institution or a university, formalising the applicant’s participation and performance.

Learning analytics

As education becomes digital, teachers and school leaders have access to an increasing amount of data. This data, which is primarily created by the students, offers educators the possibility of creating models which discover methodologies and tools for predicting and tailoring courses based on each students’ profile.

One of the leaders in this domain is a Dutch public organisation called Kennisnet, which is dedicated to IT innovation in education, as well as in vocational training.

Learning analytics can be seen as a formative aid to help students discover which learning pattern best suits them while they are still in school. In this way each student can develop their individual self-learning methodologies and share these techniques on a collaborative platform. The teacher’s role would be one of providing guidance, rather than instruction.

By capitalising on our innate curiosity, business students of the future will not only be able to self-learn but also to innovate.

In an education system that is based on curiosity, experimentation and sharing, innovation and entrepreneurship will no longer be a facet but rather an evident characteristic.

Moocs and nano-degrees offer the possibility of developing a specialization – allowing individuals to become experts in a subject of their choice.

The findings in a report by the Institute for the Future highlight the initiatives that are already underway in bridging the gap between the collaborative learning space of today and the collaborative workspace of the future.

It also predicts that as technology continues to make giant leaps, the future concept of work will be transformed to celebrate our inherent creativity and sociability.

A collaborative education system will lead to the creation of an extended workforce. This would lead to the creation of a collaborative economy which will set the stage for a new paradigm of economic growth and prosperity.

There is still a long way to go, but the changes in the foundations are already becoming apparent.

As Moocs and nano-degrees gain more popularity and traction, businesses will need to reconsider the way they look at these qualifications and the way they hire people.

This would mean redefining the skill-sets required of personnel, reanalysing the importance of their cultural adaptability and measuring their expertise and knowledge as indicated in their journals, blogs and social media contributions. In other words, it would reshape the future of HR.