Positively Disrupted: Digital Technology Potential in Higher Ed

Pro vice chancellor of business and law at Curtin University, Nigel DeBussy, explores the idea of digital disruption in business education as a "creative disruption," enabling an incoming digital native student body to learn in an environment that gives them the ability to grow.


Nigel DeBussy: [0:15] It's interesting to consider how digital disruption to higher education and business is helping business schools to improve. Normally, we think of digital disruption in a negative way.

[0:27] We think about the challenges and the problems and, of course, the very word "disruption" implies difficulties and challenges, although of course there is such a thing as creative disruption, which is hopefully what we have here. In fact, digital disruption does create opportunities for business schools.

[0:48] Principally, that's around innovation and creating a more engaging learning experience for our students, our learners, enabling them to learn in ways that are more suited to their learning style in today's generation. Especially at the undergraduate level, we're dealing with a very different cohort of learners today.

[1:13] They're millennials, they've grown up as digital natives, and having the digital technologies available to us and using those in an imaginative and innovative way enables our students to learn much more effectively. There are lots of opportunities and ways that disruption can benefit business schools, as well as of course presenting a few challenges. There's no doubt that that is also the case.

[1:44] There's no doubt that if you go into digital delivery in a big way that there's a lot involved. It does require retraining academic staff, professional staff. There is an infrastructure required, a reasonably large investment. But there are lots of small ways that you can improve the digital delivery and the digital experience that you offer to learners.

[2:15] A simple thing is to use resources that most business schools already have at their fingertips. For example, just through our learning management systems, platforms like Blackboard, for example. They have a lot of resources, a lot of functionality, which often people don't utilize fully in terms of virtual classrooms and that kind of thing.

[2:40] Which can really quite simply with very little or no set up costs, can help start to deliver a quality digital experience to learners. Then of course, it's very important to encourage the learners themselves to engage with the digital technologies. We sometimes think, and of course it's true, that our younger students are digital natives. They have grown up in that environment.

[3:12] But at the same time, they don't necessarily know how digital technologies are used in the business world. They're more familiar with the way that teenagers might interact on social media and so on. Initiatives, for example, like setting up virtual teams of students who might be located in different campuses or different parts of the world.

[3:39] That can be a great initiative where the students have to work together using digital technology in order to interact and to collaborate. Of course, there is a lot of discussion at the moment around technology, particularly in terms of automation, and the impact that that will have on the jobs of the future.

[4:01] At my business school, like others, we've actually set up a Future of Work Institute, and obviously that's one of the things that they look at. I tend to be a glass half full sort of person, a fairly optimistic outlook, I hope.

[4:20] Whilst it's undoubtedly true that jobs will change and some jobs will disappear, I don't accept the more gloomy forecast that all our jobs are going to disappear and we're going to be replaced by robots. I think that as with previous waves of technological transformation in the past, all jobs disappear, but new ones that we've not even dreamt of yet will appear.

[4:48] Of course, that's why it's so important that the students, the learners that we try to educate today, that we equip them with core skills, develop their values hopefully, so that they can be adaptable and flexible and successful in a changing environment, which they will face when they get out into the workforce.

Filmed September 2019 at AACSB's Global Accreditation Conference in San Antonio, Texas, USA.