Empowering Learners to Become Confident Digital Explorers | LE Campus Learn, Share, Connect

Employers around the world say today’s workforce is not equipped to work in a digital economy. According to the UK government’s 2022 digital strategy report, employers say less than 50% of new hires have the necessary digital skills and they are struggling to find people talented enough to help their business grow at the same pace. . UK companies also say basic IT skills and an understanding of data ethics, data reporting and data visualization are essential, but often lacking when recruiting new employees. This lack of digital skills in the UK is found across Europe. That’s why we believe universities and business schools should design programs and assessments that can help students become confident and able to use a range of digital tools, platforms and other software that suits them. will help them succeed in their careers.

We’ve worked with college students and professionals enrolled in master’s and other business, leadership, and management degree programs over the past two decades, and we’ve deliberately designed digital learning programs that spark high levels of engagement, drive enhanced digital outcomes and equip learners with a wide range of digital skills and competencies that fuel their confidence. Here’s what we learned.

What does it mean to be a digital explorer?

We define digital explorers as those who feel comfortable and confident learning and using digital platforms; who wish to enrich their ways of working, collaborating and communicating thanks to digital tools; and who use the access that digital technology provides to connect with thought leaders, business experts, learning communities and start-ups to broaden their horizons, gain new knowledge, embrace diverse global perspectives and explore new career and development opportunities.

Educators are uniquely positioned to motivate learners to become digital explorers because they understand the digital skills and knowledge businesses need. However, this means that educators too need to learn a range of digital skills and abilities. Fortunately, we are now in a “no-code” era. This means that even if we do not have programming and coding skills, it is still possible to use many digital tools and platforms quite easily.

How do we help our students become digital explorers?

First, we focus on the development digital skills and life skills. These are:

  • Digital design skills: these include the design and development of websites (using Wix, for example); video recording and editing (with programs such as iMovie and Lumen5); development of video and audio presentations and pitches (with platforms such as Loom and Canva); creation of interactive digital content (with Genially and ThingLink); and the creation of digital profiles (using platforms such as YouTube and interactive CVs).
  • Data source, analysis and visualization: access and identify relevant industry, market and customer data (e.g. digital reports from Euromonitor and IBIS); undertake primary data collection (using platforms such as Otter.ai); and analysis using visualization software (e.g. Tableau and Flourish) to create data-driven and actionable insights
  • Productivity: project mapping and real-time collaboration (with the help of systems such as Mural, Miro and Google Docs); and ongoing communication, virtual team meetings and information sharing (with virtual chat platforms such as Slack and MS Teams Channels).
  • Marketing and digital communicationUtilize customer engagement platforms and develop content and marketing campaigns (using Mailchimp enterprise marketing server, Canva for design, and Google Analytics to monitor performance).

The ability to work with digital platforms to generate outputs, such as dynamic data visualizations, video content, infographics, collaborative flowcharts, and audio-visual presentations, is a cumulative learning process. In our courses, we have observed how learners build on their existing experience of using digital platforms when learning to navigate new ones. Many digital platforms have similarities in design and functionality that facilitate this cumulative learning process. Therefore, acquiring digital skills tends to become easier over time. This also applies to us as educators when selecting, testing and choosing a new digital platform.

Educators should clearly identify the digital skills and competences that students need to acquire at the module planning stage. This ensures that digital skills development is not an afterthought. For example, you might want students to be able to design an interactive website containing their own video content, data visualizations, and other interactive digital content related to the course material. In this case, you will need to choose a host platform and digital tools for video recording and data visualizations – these could be Wix.com, Loom and Flourish, respectively.

Second, we believe virtual collaboration and teamwork are key to becoming a digital explorer. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to be able to work in remote and hybrid environments. Our ability to work, collaborate, share knowledge, negotiate and make decisions within virtual teams is increasingly critical. The Chartered Management Institute says that according to employers, the area in which learners most need training is their ability to work effectively in teams. Many educators use team projects to allow learners to practice working in a collaborative team. We now need to ensure that this teamwork is supported by digital tools so that students are prepared for the world of work from anywhere.

When students form virtual teams across international borders, they can contribute with local and contextual information. This simulates a real business environment where employees need to coordinate work schedules, commitments, and deadlines across multiple time zones. For this to work, educators must facilitate the use of digital collaboration platforms so that students become accustomed to working flexibly, while becoming highly productive individuals.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to digital collaboration and teamwork platforms. We use Canva, Mural, Miro, LucidSpark, Microsoft Teams and Google Docs to enable virtual team collaboration. These platforms enable live editing, real-time access to shared data and documents, and facilitate the creation of shareable digitized outputs, wherever students are in the world. We can also track team progress and tailor our feedback to specific team needs. This method has helped us as academics break away from the traditional classroom setting.

Third, we believe that connecting learners to the wider world is one of the primary responsibilities of an educator today.

When we interact with learners through digital platforms, we can bring industry experts, alumni and organizations into the virtual classroom without the usual limitations. These interactions give students new insight into organizational practices, cultures and work approaches around the world. We have used alumni and our own business contacts to invite outsiders into these collaborative workspaces to give students feedback from a practitioner’s perspective.

Creating these digitally extended learning experiences without geographic, time, and financial restrictions has led to more industry interactions and given learners access to practitioners based outside of their country of study. It is increasingly important to expose learners to different cultures and business practices to broaden and broaden their horizons, thus preparing them for the world of work.

In summary, with the current digital skills gap estimated at £63bn a year in lost GDP and employers reporting that less than 50% of new hires have the necessary digital skills, it is of the utmost importance that students and executives learners through the study programs acquire advanced digital skills and competences. As the world of work has undergone significant digitization, it is essential that learners adapt and proactively engage with digital platforms and collaboration software, develop a digital-first mindset and be led to become dynamic digital explorers.

Mike Cooray is Professor of Strategy and Transformation at Hult International Business School (Ashridge), UK.

Rikke Duus is Associate Professor at University College London, School of Management.

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Norma A. Roth