The Future is both Digital and Flexible
Digital SignaturGregor Halff began on April 1st as the dean of education at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). CBS and Halff, among others, aim to incorporate new important perspectives in the development of their study programs. Halff brings with him an international perspective since he has lived and worked abroad for over 30 years. Most recently, he served as the deputy dean and professor of corporate communication at Singapore Management University.
SIGNATUR has asked Gregor Halff about his perspective regarding digitalisation and how education will be delivered in the future.
Is Denmark a frontrunner in education within the digital context?
The way in which Denmark has digitalised its public sphere, its connections between the state and its citizens, and its major infrastructure makes it a clear leader globally.
However, other regions and countries are further along in the commercial application of digitalisation, such as California, the coastal megacities in China, clusters around Hyderabad and Bangalore in India, and Singapore. There are also surprising regional hubs, like Nairobi and Berlin.
Because the majority of university graduates work in commercial organisations, these countries and hubs have a precise view of which capabilities – digital and otherwise – graduates will need to possess in order to offer value to their organisations. That knowledge typically leads to shifts in educational systems and business schools in their attempt to best prepare graduates for a future position within the digital workforce. In Denmark – and in Europe generally – we need to catch up. However, we also have a fantastic opportunity to think more deeply about what digitalisation might mean for society by not exclusively focusing on its commercial value.
Will digitalisation influence the programs and the delivery of education at CBS and at other institutions?
A leading business university like CBS needs to preemptively address three different trends simultaneously. First, the collective intelligence that results from digitalisation makes the general knowledge of the individual graduate less valuable. Secondly, artificial intelligence is constantly improving upon its ability to unlearn and relearn without much human intervention. Thirdly, the students of today are going to live and work longer than any generation before them, so the first two challenges will impact them significantly during their working lives.
Therefore, all business schools should be asking themselves two important questions. Which capabilities will the individual graduate need to possess in order to offer value to businesses and society over the next 30 years? Also, with which curricula can the students best attain these skills?
Personally, I believe these capabilities will include an ability to create commercial value out of limited resources, the talent to strengthen social networks, and the competency to effectively apply financial literacy among many others. However, identifying and developing these capabilities for the future actually requires a deeper conversation between industry, universities, researchers, alumni, and students. We’re implementing a process at CBS to accomplish this.
Is the newly offered business candidate study a part of the answer to the learning, unlearning, and relearning cycle?
If we examine the interest that we have noticed for these programs, the answer seems to be yes. However, I think the future will be even more flexible. Because people will participate in the workforce for 50 years, they will need to have access to knowledge and ongoing learning opportunities to unlearn and relearn throughout their professional careers. We probably need to think through what universities can do to enable access to lifelong learning in addition to offering these more flexible degree programs. We must also understand that access to knowledge does not necessarily have to lead to a degree and should not require access to a physical campus. No country has yet developed a plan for lifelong, digitally-enabled learning. Here is an opportunity for Denmark to take the lead due to its robust public infrastructure and equitable society.
Should the universities follow or lead in the digital development within the industries for which they are training students?
The universities can be frontrunners in bringing together all parts of society, including the business and political sectors, that should be involved as we prepare for the digital future. The trust and objectivity that universities have cultivated over centuries can now pay off.
Which trends do you think influence the content of programs that train individuals for industries heavily influenced by digitalisation, such as the MSc in Business Economics and Auditing (cand.merc.aud.-study)?
I see two general trends. First, there is a focus on more quantitative content, such as data analytics, predictive analytics, and an understanding of algorithms. Secondly, there is an emphasis on more social content, such as leadership, networking, problem-solving, and trans-national team building. I believe that business universities have an obligation to offer curricula that include both types of content. Otherwise, the difference between high-profile auditing and auditing that can be done by a machine will further erode.
How will a change in the auditor industry not only change the educational content but also the way in which students are educated in the future?
Our goal at CBS is to offer online components within 90 per cent of our courses over the next two or three years. The most important factor that we need to work on is clearly pointing out more links between the industry and the theoretical knowledge. We can do this by including exercises, case studies, and problem-solving scenarios online. It would be a huge mistake to assume that blended learning is best done by recording a lecture. Blended learning requires the university to ensure that the students have opportunities to apply intellectual skills to real-life problems. Blended teaching makes that application easier to accomplish and allows the students to better develop their problem-solving skills for the future. An example of this can be seen in our new elective course, Audit Data Analytics, at cand.merc.aud.-study.