Creating Agile Curriculum to Synchronize Education to the Industry Clock

Dennis Bonilla, Executive Dean, College of Information Systems and Technology and School of Business, University of Phoenix
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Dennis Bonilla, Executive Dean, College of Information Systems and Technology and School of Business, University of Phoenix

Dennis Bonilla, Executive Dean, College of Information Systems and Technology and School of Business, University of Phoenix

Technological advancements, like social media and cloud computing, have become one of the significant catalysts changing the landscape and needs of businesses today. Tech innovations penetrate the workplace, converging with and impacting business at all levels and at an accelerated rate.

Information Technology (IT) is making its way into even the most unexpected job descriptions, affecting many industries not historically considered a place where tech skills were required. A 2016 White House Fact Sheet shared that two-thirds of all tech jobs are outside of the tech sector. Additionally, a Deloitte study of more than 10,000 businesses representing a broad cross-section of industries found that 41 percent of respondents had implemented cognitive and artificial intelligence technologies and 35 percent were in pilot programs.

As technological advances become the norm of businesses today, IT know-how will become a key component of all careers. According to a University of Phoenix survey, nearly four in five Americans agreed that, in the past two years, technology had changed the way they worked. An overwhelming majority of respondents (91 percent) said that using technology efficiently is the key to the future success of organizations. Businesses that do not embrace technology run the risk of becoming obsolete or extinct.

Despite the growing importance of technical knowledge, IT education seems to be lagging behind the industry clock, resulting in a skills gap. Technology is accelerating so rapidly that it can be difficult for students to keep pace. Likewise, we now have a workforce that requires additional training to understand, manage, and implement new technology.

 At University of Phoenix, we believe that curriculum must be agile and continuously updated to reflect industry trends and keep pace with changing technology. 

Education that Keeps Pace with Technology

Institutions of higher education face the unique and challenging task of developing and maintaining a curriculum that is current to the needs of today’s industries. Unfortunately, the skills gap suggests that traditional education is not keeping up with disruptive technology.

Institutions that require courses on technology are not always agile enough to integrate the latest technologies throughout students’ studies. Meaning that by graduation day, the tech skills and knowledge learned are forgotten, or worse, may become entirely obsolete in the face of innovation. Education that lags behind technology may result in jobs going unfilled or workers having to change careers or return to school to learn new skills to do their jobs.

Educational institutions must create models that operate at the speed of these transformations. At University of Phoenix, we believe that curriculum must be agile and continuously updated to reflect industry trends and keep pace with changing technology. This way, when students enter the workforce after graduation, they possess the relevant skills and knowledge in rhythm with the industry clock.

Creating Agile Coursework

Maintaining relevancy between curriculum and industry means receiving frequent industry input and aligning curriculum to the standards and tech innovations that employers say they expect and use in their day-to-day operations. Technology is no longer siloed solely to one department in the workforce; it is continually woven across the organization into more roles, as companies continue in their digital transformations.

Education must reflect this change and prevent itself from siloing off tech skills and only teaching or using them in technology classes. Courses should be revamped to make them agile, integrated, and reflective of how technology is used. Creating agile curriculum also means incorporating entrepreneurship opportunities, hands-on learning, and coursework for students that is a blend of IT, business and the humanities and arts.

University of Phoenix does this by working with industry leaders in tech and business to ensure that our curriculum is relevant and agile enough to change as industries evolve. Leaders at the University regularly meet with industry advisory boards comprised of partners from organizations who are leaders in their space. They provide insights on the skills they look for in their employees.

Making a Change

Just as innovation does not stop after students graduate, their tech education must not stop either. To make higher learning more agile, it takes the efforts of educational institutions, businesses and the workforce all playing their part. All educational institutions must synchronize learning to the industry clock and integrate the industry’s latest tech innovations. Without doing this, the skills gap will only continue to grow.

Businesses should encourage employees to pursue education and training programs to help keep pace with the latest developments. One avenue to reach this goal is for organizations to partner with educational institutions that provide flexible curriculum and short-burst learning opportunities. These collaborations can help quickly upskill employees that have the tenacity but still need the tech skills to advance their career and the company.

The workforce needs to incorporate a greater understanding of how technology fits into their daily working lives even if they do not want a career in IT, as it may soon play a role in their profession. Even those who do not view it as their primary responsibility should gain an understanding of how technology is changing their professional field.

Jobs across multiple industries are going unfilled. If the skills gap continues to widen and organizations are unable to find qualified candidates, all sectors may fall short of being able to recognize their full growth potential. For businesses to advance and become more streamlined, they must change their culture to one of employee awareness of how technology is changing day-to-day operations and to maintain an environment of learning, as things are not about to slow down on the tech front.

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