The gift of technology

A message from the Executive Dean of Law and Business Professor Therese Joiner:

“Universities have a once-in-a-century chance to reset,” asserts Vivek Goel, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waterloo. The COVID-19 pandemic has proffered a precious gift to higher education communities: the impetus to accelerate change innovatively in response to the sudden and disruptive demands of technologically augmented, digital education.

ACU’s brand message ‘impact through empathy’ has been an exceedingly useful lens through which to guide deep listening, analysis and design thinking to more effectively respond to the dynamic needs of employers and, concomitantly, prepare students for future life and work changes. Digital disruption and technological advancement is key to these changes.

In this context, led by the Associate Dean Learning and Teaching Dr Bhavani Sridharan, the Faculty of Law and Business (FLB) is working with talented stakeholders across the university – such as IT Director Niranjan Prabhu, Dean Innovation and Industry Engagement Myriam Amielh and LTC Director Anthony Whitty – to elevate a COVID-induced react-and-respond model to a ‘reimagine’ model by leveraging new technologies to realise ACU’s vision of “delivering an engaging, technology-enriched and immersive student learning experience”.

The FLB is reimagining the curriculum by adopting a future-ready approach to enhance student life and livelihood skills. As an example, all business and IT programs will be designed to embed highly regarded industry certifications such as Microsoft and/or Cisco certifications. These certifications validate professional and technical technology expertise and not only provide students with valuable work skills, but also provide a boost to a career start or career change. Because the certifications are embedded as part of the curriculum design, students appreciate the domain context and the value add, whether working remotely or on campus.

The faculty is also embracing a novel technology called ‘Practera’ to trial nanoprojects, where students collaborate with an industry client to solve real-world problems and then present their solution to the clients. In other words, students will learn by doing (including in the virtual space), acquire important work and life skills, and benefit from the opportunity to forge lasting professional connections with team members. Next year, all business students will be afforded the opportunity before graduation to work on a partnered nanoproject.

Thanks to ACU’s tech-savvy team, the FLB Business School is leading the trial of HyFlex (hybrid/flexible) learning technology. This technology enables students to get the best of the pre- and post-pandemic world as they control where and how they learn. The beauty of this innovation is that it mirrors the peri- and post-pandemic hybrid way of working in many organisations, where employees switch seamlessly between remote to physical work environments. This will help students to connect with their colleagues regardless of location, enhancing a sense of connection and belonging, as well as allow students to practise and improve hybrid communication skills including listening, mindfulness, respect and presentation/rhetorical skills.

Finally, the novel and powerful FeedbackFruits will also feature in the FLB tech landscape. This learning technology has a self and peer assessment component which develops students’ capability to judge the quality of work of self and peers, so building their ability and confidence to give, receive, act and reflect on feedback – a vital lifelong competency within and beyond the workplace. FeedbackFruits can also develop students’ ‘coopetition’ skills – cooperative and competitive skills – particularly when implemented in the context of culturally diverse student groups. These are highly valued skills in a borderless world which calls for doing business not just with our neighbours, local buyers and suppliers, but also across national boundaries

We are living in an uncertain, dynamic and disruptive world. The FLB intends to stay relevant by working with talented people to offer learning experiences to students that engage them, are technology-enriched, authentic, and designed with a humanising lens. In so doing, we prepare our students for future life and livelihood opportunities and challenges.

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