“How should educators change the curriculum to prepare future generations for a career in digital?”
Thinking about this question, I take a different position – that recent college graduates are actually entering the workplace well prepared for careers in digital.
Current and future generations have grown up in the age of digital. They are very well versed in digital technologies and solutions. Their curriculum incorporates far more technology than ever as opposed to a “few” years ago when I was in college. Each year, the use of technology surpasses the previous year.
Where I believe the real challenge exists is in the application of technology. The first question should be, “Are companies (employers) ready for new technology?” Students may have been exposed to more technologies than employers currently utilize. It may be hard for management to extract value when they are unfamiliar with new technologies. As such, education has to occur within companies to match what their newest employees have already learned. Of course, these are generalizations that don’t apply to everyone.
The curriculum needs to evolve by better reflecting real-world applications and business decision tradeoffs. The industry introduces new technologies and capabilities, but their value is generated with proper applications. Practitioners must align strategy with tradeoffs (financial and performance). That is the aspect that needs to be taught and reinforced. Case studies are great teaching aids, but don’t necessarily replicate real-world decisions with business impacts. Having real money to make decisions changes everything. Ideally, there could be real-world applications as students take on live projects for customers to “live through” considerations from strategy to optimization to analysis.
One focus point that digital requires is data analysis. This is an area that must evolve to address business decisions as data-centric. Technology and digital generate tremendous amounts of data. Knowing how to sort, process, classify and cull out insights is critical. Students need to be able to tell the story and have the ability to interpret the data that informs and supports their analysis. Without this critical skill, the value and effectiveness of digital solutions is highly minimized.
Another aspect that digital evolution certainly has “influenced” is the need for direct in-person communications. Students are much more proficient and almost exclusively rely on digital communications. That is efficient but does not account for all situations, and many are intimidated by person-to-person interaction. Students need to be pushed to get into interpersonal communications, to stand up for their thoughts, network with colleagues, and collaborate. This is not second nature to younger employees and needs to be specifically taught and reinforced. It is an area of concern that can have tremendous implications.
Overall, digital is a constant evolution and causes all of us to change rapidly. Gone are the days of “I know how to do everything here,” or “my legacy knowledge keeps me valuable.” Now, the skill sets are changing and everyone (students and working professionals) need to evolve. Students are better positioned to adapt to technology, and while that is an advantage, there are other gaps (such as the application of digital decision making and communications). This will be the new normal, and we’ll all have to learn to adapt. The future is bright, and so are we … if we take action.