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Technology platforms are the keys to transformation of universities


Technology platforms are the keys to transformation of universities

Brendon Trezise

Brendon Trezise | General Manager Strategic Consulting Group, Oakton

It’s tempting to go down theoretical byways in a discussion about the future of education.

We can distract ourselves with the concept of universities and colleges having to create a new model that will enable them to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist. Or, with the idea that they’re currently continuing to educate people for knowledge worker jobs that may soon cease to exist.

But, however much we theorise, the practical reality is that provision of tertiary education is moving away from the exclusive domain of universities. Students are making the salient decisions about what and how they will study.

Triggers for the evolution of education

In a world in which people will change not just jobs but careers several times before retirement, the traditional university model of multi-year degrees, delivered at a time and place dictated by the university, will not suffice. The focus has to shift from ‘careers’ to ‘skills’.

While students may still attain an initial degree or tertiary qualification through which they will accumulate the basic skills to enter the workforce, they will incrementally upgrade or expand those skills through continuous learning over the length of their work life in order to be able to move within their ‘skill cluster’ or embark on entirely fresh fields of activity.

To do this, they will need ways of quickly acquiring certified skills that will equip them for what are likely to be abrupt career changes.

Effectively, therefore, they will create their own ‘degrees’ based on the topics that are most relevant to the moves they want to make.

Tearing down education silos

This fundamental shift in learning models will challenge traditional university ownership of end-to-end delivery of ‘qualifications’ to students. Some fragmentation is likely, with some institutions specialising in content creation, delivery, and research, while others really will put the ‘student at the centre’ by enabling them to connect to the content they need through devices and at locations and times of their own choosing.

Such institutions will strive to own the relationship with the student over his or her full working life and will probably not look like universities and colleges as we know them today.  They will be skilled at enabling people to meet their highly individualised education requirements in an extremely fluid workplace over an extend period of time.

Can you deliver?

So, the only option for survival that current tertiary institutions have is to give themselves the means to deliver to students the experience they themselves will define. This is possible only with technology that will enable the institution to be operationally as agile and collaborative as possible.

Traditional rigid and diverse point solutions will have to make way for platform based solutions that can evolve with institutions’ changing needs. The objective is to remove limitations on the way a university operates without necessarily fully knowing how it must operate in the future.

In that context, one might look at technology platforms as the foundation and the platform provider as a founding member of the education ecosystem of the future.

It’s essential, therefore, to choose a provider with global reach, corporate-strength solution development and delivery capabilities, deep experience in education, and the appetite to actively contribute as a partner in what will effectively be the democratisation of education.

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