How to accelerate the digital transformation process in graduate education

Once again we must insist on the learning processes that business schools must carry out regarding digital transformation. And the title of our contribution today, we believe is very eloquent, since it highlights the expression “how to accelerate”, because the opinion in the professional graduate community is unanimous that we either accelerate the teaching pace according to the speed at which technological innovation events pass, or we will once again be a step or two behind the NT’s. And this we cannot afford, since graduate students are currently very informed of what are the answers to look for from a graduate specialization program.

Digital learning, e-learning, had long been included in the experience of higher education, but the impact caused by Covid-19 prompted the responsible administrators and especially the teaching teams of business schools, to carry out reforms in a measure that had not been done before, especially in terms of the speed of response that had to be given in the face of a totally different scenario, which had affected us in all countries and was affecting, in addition to health, the business tissue at all levels.

Teachers in every business school in the world were forced, with little or no warning, to have to familiarize themselves with a variety of online platforms to deliver entire courses completely remotely. Likewise, the complexity had some relief, when a platform like Google decided to innovate to satisfy this new demand, rapidly incorporating functions such as videoconferencing to its Classroom service.

Before the pandemic, educational institutions had the option of incorporating digital learning as part of their offering, but it was often seen as an advantage or an exception to the rule, appealing mainly to part-time or foreign students seeking more flexible learning methods arrangements.

But Covid-19 has been that turning point (we should say of no return) that marks a critical moment in teaching in general and in postgraduate education in particular, since all of us (administrators, professors and researchers) had the the impression that returning to exclusive on-campus courses as the norm after this traumatic experience of the pandemic continues to seem less and less likely today.

Education is often described as a sector that has been relatively slow to adopt digital technologies. However, it does not enable us to draw a hasty conclusion that conventional classroom education is going to disappear forever.

Our group of professors and researchers in the postgraduate field have been debating both the advantages and the disadvantages of this accelerated change, but it could not be ignored in the pedagogical plans. On the positive side, there are certain clear advantages such as that students are encouraged to learn independently and at their own pace. But this also has a drawback: that students face obstacles to interact and learn from the contributions of others, which do exist in the traditional educational model.

No less important is the questioning that is made about the ability of digital education to meet the needs of students who require additional support, which has unleashed a third way, which is education as a hybrid model, which after the pandemic may be more attractive to educational institutions and students alike.

Undoubtedly, the impact of Covid-19 on the societies of all countries has been very great, so it should not surprise us that the responses to these sudden forced changes in the education sector have led administrators, researchers and teachers to the conclusion, at least widely shared today, of a necessary rethinking of traditional educational structures in general. Which will no doubt lead to changes that would have been largely inconceivable before the pandemic, such as the cancellation of school exams in favor of coursework-based assessment, which have been forced to pass out of necessity.

We are immersed in a process of reevaluation of the models that were assumed fundamental and indisputable in the past, for which the most innovative schools and professional colleagues have seen the pandemic as their long-awaited opportunity to innovate in education and make it more appropriate for the changing needs of the modern world.

In order for this space to be a debate and to also have an informative value, I am going to leave you with regard to the acceleration of digital learning, which is what a world leading school such as the MIT Sloan School of Management is doing, which is the “Sloan School of Business Administration and Management at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) which has an online course entitled “Digital Business Strategy: harnessing our digital future ”.

For this reason, we are going to comment on the modules that make it up and their respective curricular components.

For Module 1 “Introduction to digital transformation” proposes “to review the practice of traditional and data-based decision making for companies in the second age of machines. Use the Matrix of Change tool to plan a coherent digital transformation”.

For Module 2 “Artificial Intelligence” he proposes “to investigate the commercial applications of machine learning”. Already in Module 3 “Platforms in a digital economy” he proposes “to correlate business success in the digital economy with the optimal use of the key characteristics of digitization”.

For a Module 4 “The platform revolution” in which it seeks that the student “distinguish between different types of platforms to determine how they can affect an industry and how to use them effectively”.

For Module 5 “Leveraging the Crowd” he urges “Recommend an experiment that uses the crowd to address a business problem”.

Finally, Module 6 “Limits to decentralization” proposes “to evaluate the usefulness of decentralized technology for a company and to reflect on the changes in company structures and the nature of work that are taking place in the second era of the machines”.

I want to explain to readers that the expression “second machine age” comes from the book “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies” and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies) whose authors are the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both of MIT, and who are the directors of the digital training area of ​​MIT Managemente Executive Education.

The book is a very good attempt to put in historical perspective the change in the production model brought about by the massive adoption of informatics. Even more: the change in the production model caused by the computerization of a good part of the work tools. This is undoubtedly reflected in the perspective that the modules give to this highly interesting MIT course.

Antonio Alonso, president of the AEEN (Spanish Business School Association) and general secretary of EUPHE (European Union of Private Higher Education)