Online, online, online… That’s been the mantra for all universities since on the onset of COVID-19.
This “warp speed” shift to online has been a matter of survival for many universities. Arguably, however, this rapid change is simply playing catch-up, to position universities where they should have been about a decade ago.
“Broadly speaking, most institutions are still largely encumbered with legacy technologies and struggling with decreasing perceptions of relevancy,” says Dr Peter Beven, Queensland University of Technology’s Director for Open Professional Education with QUTeX, the professional, executive and corporate education arm of QUT.
“Indeed, in one recent study of global executives by IBM and Oxford Economics, the common view held was that higher-education institutions globally fail to adequately update and keep pace with industry changes.”
Compounding this problem, universities must now also deal with the fact that learning experience and “job fitness” are going to define the value of education post COVID-19.
The skilling challenge faced by adults in the workforce, and employers themselves, was the catalyst for the creation of QUTeX,” says Dr Beven.
“While we have developed an enviable reputation for delivering leading-edge and impactful education for many years, we have brought this same philosophy to the professional education environment.
“Equipping professionals with targeted skills and providing a new, customer-centric experience to participants will define our success in the future,” he says.
The consumer market has generally shifted away from products and service orientation to that of “experience”, whether courses are delivered online, blended or face to face. It’s now a given that students want the option of all three.
“Additionally,” says Dr Beven, “learners have an expectation that courses will specifically address employer-required competencies based on the stage of their career and experience level”.
This is where the ultimate value of micro-credentials and digital badging will come into its own. The focus is to align credentials to professional and industry competency requirements.
QUTeX has continued to rethink the education experience and how to move from being a transaction “course seller” to becoming an individual’s partner for lifelong learning. QUTeX has placed this at the centre of its strategic focus through a range of new initiatives to shift the relationship with the learner.
The QUTeX Capability Practice is one such initiative. It is a support program that combines targeted education with the notion of community. Courses are designed with a focus on specific employer-demanded competencies, but also where the participant can continue their engagement with QUTeX trusted advisors for career support, development and performance.
The first of these to be rolled out is the Digital Capability Practice, where QUTeX provides not only a portfolio of short courses targeting specific “digital competencies”, but will evolve to become a virtual community of practice.
“This delivers a very different paradigm for the learning experience,” says Professor Malcolm Thatcher, QUTeX lead for the Digital Capability Practice and former Queensland Health CIO.
“All organisations are challenged with digital transformation,” he says. “The Practice concept provides a deep ongoing community of peers and faculty to support improved job performance.”
Further Capability Practices are on the drawing board for roll-out over the next 12-18 months.
Fundamentally, we are changing the traditional university business model, but specific to our market in QUTeX,” says Dr Beven.
The focus of QUTeX is on better job performance, support for career progression and community, which allows QUT to deliver on its promise of being the university for the real world.