Sunday, October 22, 2017

Educating Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce

The report Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce (Hajkowicz, Reeson, Rudd, Bratanova, Hodgers, Mason & Boughen, p. 87, 2016) suggests, not surprisingly, that education is critical for the future workforce. The researchers suggest new jobs require lifelong learning (and relearning) provided by the educational sector, with business and government.

One initiative the researchers point to is Iceland's ‘Innovation Education’ (Thorsteinsson & Denton, 2003), teaching students to identify, research and solve problems. They suggest using nationally developed teaching materials, which are then adapted for local use. A local example cited is the National Digital Learning Resources Network (NDLRN), used by Australian teachers.

Hajkowicz et al. (2016) touch on the potential of so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), but point out their low retention rate. Unfortunately, the authors seem to be assuming that MOOCs are the only form of digital learning available, ignoring several decades of successful delivery of on-line courses by open and distance universities, which predates the now fading MOOC fad. The authors suggest "better understanding" is needed if digital learning is to be into traditional campus life. However, I suggest Australian universities have now passed the tipping point where most courses are blended. Better understanding of how such on-line materials are used is required, but essentially the change to e-learning has already happened.

Hajkowicz et al. (2016) suggest that workplace learning combined with mobile technology is a natural fit for re-skilling and training. I agree, but this is not as nascent as the researchers suggest. My work in the field suggests it is happening informally, driven by the needs of the students, even where not officially recognized, or endorsed by educational institutions. This is not being held back by technology (existing Learning Management Systems such as Moodle, have been retrofitted for mobile access). The problem is that while VET teachers are trained in workplace learning, their university counterparts are not.

While discussing the need for investment in re-skilling the workforce, Hajkowicz et al. (2016) don't address the need to re-skill university educators in how to provide this form of education. Initiatives such as the ACS Intern Program, currently running at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University, require specialised supervisory skills.


Hajkowicz SA, Reeson A, Rudd L, Bratanova A,
Hodgers L, Mason C, Boughen N (2016)
Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce: Megatrends and scenarios for jobs andemployment in Australia over the comingtwenty years. CSIRO, Brisbane. URL

Thorsteinsson, G., & Denton, H. (2003). The development of Innovation Education in Iceland: a pathway to modern pedagogy and potential value in the UK. Journal of Design & Technology Education, 8(3). URL

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