Modern society faces change at ever increasing speed, driving companies to adapt to new information technologies efficiently and flexibly (Andal-Ancion, Cartwright, & Yip, 2004; CEN, 2016). Thus, digital transformation refers to companies that are reinventing themselves within the digital world.
According to Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends report from 2017 (Mallon et al., 2017), the most digitalized companies will be the most prepared to lead the market. Already in 2015, over half of the 987 high level executives surveyed in the McKinsey Global Survey (McKinsey, 2015) recognized that digital transformation was becoming a key priority for their businesses, where they were already driving digital initiatives.
However, digital transformation processes are complex and do not only consist of introducing technology into the company. As in any other business transformation, it involves changes to the culture, business models, organizational processes, and, above all, employee skills (Uhl, A. & Gollenia, L. A., 2016). According to the above-mentioned survey (McKinsey, 2015), lack of leadership and talent are the leading challenges that companies must address in order to meet the priorities of the digital transformation.
In the European Union, aware of the potential for economic growth that the digital transformation may represent for Europe, a number of initiatives are being carried out in order to bolster the digital transformation at European companies (Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship, 2016). Said initiatives include the European program ERASMUS+ for innovation and research projects in the education sector. Technological innovation is one of the program’s keys, and, accordingly, Universidad Europea is participating in and leading projects that promote digital competencies such as the latest: Be@CyberPro, which, among other objectives, aims to foster digital ICT security skills among young people.
Higher education must become a driver, preparing its students to be successful in a complex digital world that is constantly changing, and in which companies are carrying out digital transformation processes. As with all change, the digital transformation entails an opportunity for those students who develop the digital skills appropriate to their future businesses while studying. But what are those digital skills?
The majority of universities have, to a certain extent, integrated the use of technology within their studies. However, in a complex digital world, having basic digital skills is not enough to satisfy organizations’ future needs. These digital skills must be applied to new situations, generate new ideas, solve problems, and make decisions. The effective use of learning strategies, along with the digital tools used in the classroom, play an important role in the innovation necessary to carry out this change and to prepare students for the new professions of the future.
A large number of jobs of the future are still unknown, but what is known is that they will all require basic digital skills and 90% of middle managers and executives will also need to have digital skills specific to their professions (Curtarelli, Gualtieri, Shater Jannati, & Donlevy, 2014).
According to a survey carried out in July 2017 with participation from universities, students, and new educational technology companies in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Asia, and Africa (Navitas Ventures, 2017), 50% of respondents expect traditional university models to be affected by 2025. Leading universities expect the timeline to be longer (by 2030), while one of every four students and companies expect it to be within the next two to three years.
This represents a clear indication of the expectations of the higher education system’s beneficiaries with regard to the acceleration of changes to university models. In addition, it is worthwhile to highlight that two-thirds of students find the role of universities in the use of technology to support their access to the job market to be extremely important, a standpoint companies agree with. However, the universities surveyed do not share that priority, but they do consider their students’ experience in the digital transformation of higher education to be the key area for development.
The development and certification of students’ digital skills is an important step toward improving students’ journeys to find jobs. In order to reach this goal, academic transformation is necessary, with the entire university community acquiring the digital skills necessary for the future; the students’ curriculum must be reviewed in order to ensure that they will reach this goal by the end of their studies and thus ensure their success. Educational leaders must have information on the current level of their students’ digital skills, in order to make the appropriate decisions to prepare them to take on the challenges of the future.
From that need stems the project Digital Transformation of Higher Education: an Assessment Framework for Improvement of Digital Skills, funded by the David A. Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (2018) given by Laureate Education Inc. (Baltimore, USA). This award recognizes the trajectory of professors in the field of excellence and innovation in higher education teaching and learning. In this case, it was given to the Associate Professor of Programming Languages and IT Systems and Senior Researcher for the School of Doctoral Studies and Research, Maite Villalba de Benito. This project aims to generate a framework of reference to assess digital skills for the entire university community applicable to any higher education institution, as well as to carry out the global digital transformation at Universidad Europea.
Andal-Ancion, A., Cartwright, P. A., & Yip, G. S. (2004). The Digital Transformation of Traditional Business. MIT Sloan Management Review (Vol. 45). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0015090
Uhl, A., Gollenia, L. A. Digital Enterprise Transformation: A Business-Driven Approach
to Leveraging Innovative IT. Routledge, 2016.
CEN, E. C. for S. (2016). A Common European Framework for ICT Professionals in all industry sectors – Part 1: Framework. Retrieved from http://ecompetences.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/European-e-Competence-Framework-3.0_CEN_CWA_16234-1_2014.pdf
Mallon, D., Atamanik, C., Chakrabarti, M., Choudhury, V. D., Clarey, J., Derler, A., … Moulton, D. (2017). Rewriting the rules for the digital age 2017. Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends.
McKinsey. (2015, March 9). Cracking the digital code: McKinsey Global Survey results | McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/cracking-the-digital-code
Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship. (2016). Accelerating the digital transformation of European industry and enterprises. Key recommendations of the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship, 1-20. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/DocsRoom/documents/15856