By DAVID MYTON
The good people at LinkedIn have crunched the numbers – some “billions of data points” – and have come up with the top 10 skills that will help you to get a job this year. They include cloud and distributed computing, statistical analysis and data mining, user interface design, data presentation, and mobile development.
Every single one involves some technological and digital expertise to a greater or lesser degree.
It is beyond unlikely that this demand for the digitally skilled will diminish in the next several years.
Indeed, it will only grow as even areas such as retailing begin to look at, for example, using artificial intelligence to enhance the customer experience.
So how are universities going in equipping students to deal with this digital present and future?
Obviously some are performing better than others but there seems to be a general feeling that at least some of them could do with lifting their game.
One recent survey found that 63% of students polled think university staff need to improve their digital skills to keep up with the ever changing field.
Some 68% think students should be taught more digital skills to help them to cope with the modern workplace while more than half believe technology is developing faster than universities can cope with. More than two-thirds believe “university staff need regular training to improve the way technology is used in their organisation”.
Writing in The Guardian one learning technologist told how he was struck by the “huge gap” in the abilities of both students and lecturers when it comes to modern technology.
“Some lecturers are brilliant, always bugging me to help them find some new whizzy bit of tech to use. Others follow more, shall we say, traditional methods.
“Research backs up what I’ve found, with UCISA’s TEL Survey 2016 citing cultural factors, a lack of vision and staff skills as reasons for less extensive use of technology to enhance learning.
“Meanwhile, the HEPI Rebooting Learning Report says that ‘pockets of innovation are found in almost every institution, but few have fundamentally changed how they teach …’.”
Many universities are doing a good job, transitioning for example to digital learning and teaching platforms and utilising technology both in education and research.
It is time, then, according to some for universities to engage in “digital leadership”, defined by the World Economic Forum as “a leader’s contribution to the transition toward a knowledge society and their knowledge of technology … Digital leaders have an obligation to keep up with the ongoing global revolution. They must understand technology, not merely as an enabler but also for its revolutionary force.”
In an article in University World News Dr Sonal Minocha and Dr Dean Hristov declare that society needs more evidence of digital leadership in higher education.
Existing digital leadership initiatives at universities are, they say, predominantly inward-oriented “with the focus largely on campus ‘business’, the student experience, technology-driven delivery of pedagogy and recruitment of students … ”.
But attention also needs to be given, they say, to devising a digital future for university research that demonstrates its reach and impact.
“The sector is yet to identify new ways of shaping and curating data and engaging with various communities with the research it produces. Within this context is the need to harness the power of visual analytics in measuring impact and visualising data.”
They list a number of ways this could be done including visual analytics and visual data dissemination and Infographics, which give digital leaders “the opportunity to break down complex theoretical concepts, enrich contextual data and make it more accessible to a wider audience”.
Are they right? Should universities be doing more to demonstrate digital leadership, both internally and externally?