The nature of work is changing and in order to adjust to this change and ensure workers are equipped with the skills required to succeed, education will also need to undergo a transformation.
According to the Google Australia-commissioned ‘Future Skills’ report, Australians will be spending an additional three hours per week in education and training1. However, unless the post-secondary education experience is transformed, this training will not be giving people the experiences they need to actually be successful in the work they want to do. This is according to Instructure Senior Vice President of Product Mitch Benson who spoke to RMIT staff in June about how to transform the learning environment for students. Instructure is the owner of Canvas, which is RMIT’s learning management system.
Research conducted by Instructure has found that only half of former students at post-secondary institutions say they have gotten the experiences they need to be successful at work. This is compared to around 80% of current students.
“We need to move from the dissemination of information into an environment of active learning that produces better results, because currently we’re not giving students the experiences they need to actually be successful in the work they want to do,” says Mitch.
With a growing number of people taking up additional learning and education later in life, the demographics of students are drastically changing. Students now come from a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and are increasingly older, mid-career, upskilling and mobile. As a result, their demands are also changing.
“The demands that are coming from these students are new and interesting – they want different kinds of support, they want to be engaged in different ways and they want to be supported in different ways. They’re asking for a change to the way things were done in the past,” says Mitch.
Yet training providers are struggling to adjust their traditional education models to fit these new demands. Many institutions have now adopted technology and blended learning, but alone these don’t necessarily make students better prepared for the future of work.
“What you should be focusing on is the outcome you’re trying to achieve and not just doing technology for technology’s sake,” says Mitch.
If you adopt these technological tools and only do so with the lowest level of engagement, limiting yourself to the lowest common denominator, then the level of outcomes that you get are substantially less. However, if you use the tools to drive social collaboration and actively engage students in learning, the outcomes are substantially higher.”
The question though, is how can education providers do this?
One of the functions of the Centre for Digital Enterprise is to provide a model for institutions in how they can start to work with industry partners to build systems that facilitate continual and lifelong learning.
As Pi-Shen Seet, Ann-Louise Hordacre, Janice Jones and John Spoehr wrote in an essay for The Conversation, “the VET sector requires increased collaboration between industry, educators and governments. It also needs responsiveness and flexibility in delivering skills, from formal qualifications to micro-credentials or non-formal education to reflect the needs of rapidly changing technologies”2.
The Centre for Digital Enterprise is an example of this, created as a partnership between RMIT University, Wodonga TAFE and Sunraysia Institute of TAFE with support from the Victorian Government. We create modular training solutions in collaboration with industry partners based on specific problems identified through consultation and co-design sessions. We focus on online and blended methods that can be delivered directly into the workplace and utilise emerging technologies in both the creation and delivery of training.
After partnering with a business, the Centre undertakes an extensive consultation period to explore challenges being faced and digital skills gaps. We then host co-design sessions to investigate specific training directions and to provide industry input into the creation of learning objectives, materials and delivery methods. Our close partnership with our business partners means that we have industry input at all stages of the training development process, allowing us to address specific issues relevant to the particular sector.
Our aim is to rapidly deliver improved vocational pathways and employment outcomes, taking an iterative approach that provides frequent opportunities for the incorporation of feedback. Because our learning resources are electronic and web-based, they can be updated as new information emerges, ensuring that training meets current industry needs and content can be easily customised to specific business needs or in response to changing technology applications.
The Centre creates immersive, learning-by-doing environments that not only enhance the student experience but also act as a demonstration of the capabilities of new technologies. Our training incorporates the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications, which enables us to explore scenario experiences and the operation of equipment. This further supports learning in the workplace, while also transforming the learning environment to better engage students who may not have been in an educational setting for several years.
The most unique aspect of the Centre though, is that our training resources are shared continuously across the VET sector through the partnership between RMIT University, Wodonga TAFE and Sunraysia Institute of TAFE. This consortium approach offers the opportunity to leverage and build on existing expertise, contextualising it to local needs to guarantee that training solutions will be applicable across diverse learning situations.
We’ll be hosting industry workshops later this year in Melbourne, Wodonga and Mildura that will showcase some of the training the Centre for Digital Enterprise has developed and provide insight into our co-design processes.
For more information, or to register your interest in attending our workshops, contact the Centre for Digital Enterprise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 AlphaBeta 2018, Future Skills, Google Australia.
2 Seet, P-S, Hordacre, A-L, Jones, J & Spoehr, J 2019, 'Jobs are changing, and fast. Here’s what the VET sector (and employers) need to do to keep up', The Conversation, viewed 2 July, <https://theconversation.com/jobs-are-changing-and-fast-heres-what-the-vet-sector-and-employers-need-to-do-to-keep-up-118524>.
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