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Tools and skills for a modern institution

The increasing use of digital tools in sectors from finance to healthcare is transforming the way work is done. So, what does this look like in education?  

Microsoft says that:

"The modern workplace is evolving at lightning speed, with distributed teams, brand-new business models, and complex security issues. The right digital tools connect and support employees, wherever they are, to encourage productivity, engagement, and collaboration."

What is the modern workplace?

The modern workplace, as outlined by Microsoft, is a flexible and ever-changing space.

With the adoption of digital technology, the way employees perform their everyday tasks looks very different in 2020 than it did in 2000, or even 2010.

Andy Tuke, cloud solutions consultant at Jisc, says:

“Due to the flexibility of modern working, including hotdesking and the increasing prevalence of mobile work devices, the modern workplace is location- and device-agnostic and not time constrained in any way.”

How does the modern workplace apply to education?

The modern workplace can be applied to the education sector in order to outline what Jisc cloud CTO Andy Powell refers to as the ‘modern institution’. 

Tools such as virtual learning environments (VLEs) are common in delivering teaching across HE and FE. A VLE provides remote access to everything from course content to online chat facilities. This allows flexible working for both staff and students, meaning they do not need to physically be on-campus – a key element of modern working.

The Northern School of Art updated its VLE system to make flexible working easier. Learning technologist Michael Egan says:

“It gives a lot of flexibility to mature students who need to work part-time and/or raise children.”  

Creative film and moving image student Angela adds:

“It’s a benefit to be able to hand in work from your desk at home if you can’t get in to school and to access information in real-time without any delay to your workflow.” 

Building digital skills

A modern institution also requires modern workplace skills, both for staff and students. While staff will use their digital skills within their current roles, students will also need to develop these practices for when they enter the workplace.  

The University of Sunderland is working to implement development plans for staff to work on their digital skills. David Conway, head of IT services, says:

“The key for us moving forward will be how we’re supporting staff to build their digital skills. We know we’ve got some areas of real strength in the delivery of digital education so we’re using the champions network to make sure where possible we’re upskilling other staff.” 

Lifelong learning and employability 

In 2017, Adobe commissioned a report from the New Media Consortium (NMC) examining digital literacy.

The report, Digital Literacy in Higher Education, Part II: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief, includes statements from various academic staff on the place of digital literacy in education and workplace preparation. Judith Bailey and Dr. David Santandreu Calonge from The University of Adelaide state: 

“Students need digitally confident academics. A degree is very often a synonym of employment and success but also of a huge and long-term debt for many families. Students need to have confidence that their courses and programs [sic] use authentic content and assessment which will (1) give them crucial transferrable skills and (2) prepare them for employment and future life choices.” 

It follows therefore that digital skills and knowledge of modern tools should be comparable across education and workplace environments. Tuke says:

“In the modern workplace, the information systems and tools we have become familiar with in the classroom, are in most circumstances, the same ones we will be required to use in our future careers.” 

The same can be said of the way we learn to work together, how we communicate and collaborate together, he adds:

“These ‘human aspects’ are in many ways as important a lesson from our education as the content we learn using these methods.” 

To learn more about the modern workplace, join us at Digifest at the ICC in Birmingham from 10-11 March 2020.