The world is changing - rapidly. Expectations of education are shifting. Requirements for learning are diversifying as people work longer, retire later, gain skills, re-skill, and up-skill.
This places new demands on lifelong learning as professional lives grow more complex. Education will face multiple supply and demand challenges.
A survey carried out by Jisc in 2018-19 consisting of 37,000 students from both HE (62%) and FE (38%) showed that almost 70% of university students thought that digital skills would be significant for their chosen career path, but only 41% of them believed that their courses adequately prepared them for a digital workplace.
Pearson's The Global Learner Survey (2019) surveyed 11,000 learners across 19 countries and highlighted the growth of learner-driven change - with demands for virtual learning, online degrees, micro and stackable credentials for adults, and on-demand learning.
Similarly, Skills Development Scotland's Skills 4.0: A skills model to drive Scotland’s future (2018) emphasised lifelong learning, online learning, and more integrated use of digital learning within the mainstream curriculum, and also a gig economy fuelling demand for shorter ‘stacking’ courses, and increasing competition among course providers.
A new mindset
Between 2014 and 2018, my role involved managing postgraduate clinical education, working in a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
I saw enormous growth in demand for new courses in varied formats, creating challenges for academics, managers, administrators and technical staff alike. Meeting that challenge required all of us to work together.
A new mindset is reshaping education. The 40-year career is gone and confidence in traditional educational institutions is wavering, with younger workers increasingly believing a degree is not essential. These people are open to alternative pathways, and they expect both digital and virtual learning.
To prosper - to meet and to exceed expectations from industry, government, employers and employees alike - will require new management approaches that alter our operational structures and facilitate continuous change.
Reaching beyond ‘business as usual’
We must diversify beyond ‘business as usual’. To truly maximise the potential of digital innovation requires the perceptive management of human factors.
We will need to communicate, collaborate, and work in multi-skilled teams. Creative digital engagement needs effective operational management. Top-down project management approaches are just too slow. Moreover, taking any initiative out of ‘business as usual’ means that ‘culture as usual’ remains oblivious to change.
It simply isn’t going to be fast enough or reactive enough.
Change needs grassroots-level responsiveness. Transformation leaders must support change agents, orchestrators and, above all, teams. Our focus must be on skills development, management development, culture shifts, incentives and customer engagement.
Adopting an agile approach
Agile is about continuous activity: learning, changing, and adapting. It’s a continuum of development in several iterations. It’s creative and exciting - and that shows in new and varied outputs.
Teams must feel a sense of ownership, have an end-to-end view, and a stake in the development process - they’re key to delivering something of real value.
In a sense, colleges and universities are victims of their own success, because when you do the same thing successfully for a very long time, it defines you. The structure of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees has become core to the operational status quo. But simply maintaining is no longer enough. Survival depends on agility.
Hazel Hynd is a researcher in business administration at Glasgow Caledonian University. Her Digifest presentation, Calling all agile leaders - education needs YOU! takes place at 10:30am on 11 March 2020. Registration for Digifest 2020 is now open and free for staff, students and researchers at members organisations.