How are business students being prepared for digital disruption?
This article originally appeared on IvyExec.
At Athabasca University (AU), staying nimble is the name of the game. A leading Canadian online institution, its Faculty of Business prepares students for the challenges and expectations that lie ahead in the business world—especially when it comes to the ever-changing digital landscape. Dr. Joe Cox, Canada Research Chair in Digital Disruption and Organizational Transformation at AU, understands these obstacles better than most.
“My background is in the field of microeconomics, which blends economics with parts of psychology and behavioural science. It focuses on understanding the incentives driving the behaviour of consumers, organizations, and markets,” says Cox. “My research focuses on the digital economy and the application of microeconomics to understanding behaviours in digital environments.”
Dr. Cox has applied his research in numerous settings, giving him a unique opportunity to share key findings and developments with his students.
Of the practical applications of his research, Cox says, “My work on illegal file-sharing demonstrated the most prolific pirates also have the highest demand for subscription-based services. A few years later, Netflix and Spotify have developed new business models around these preferences. By the same token, some of my work on gaming demonstrated a significantly higher willingness to pay for limited edition variants of software titles. As a result, I recommended publishers take advantage of this trend by releasing a wider range of variants of individual titles, such as deluxe or collectors’ editions. This type of release strategy has now become much more commonplace in the industry.”
Dr. Cox recognizes these kinds of changes are becoming the norm—not the exception. And, unfortunately, many students aren’t equipped to handle them once they enter the workforce. Cox believes traditional degree programs have left students less prepared by failing to address technology in their curriculum.
“The technological landscape is changing so rapidly that conventional degree programs are struggling to equip graduates with a single set of skills that will be relevant throughout their working lives,” says Cox. “While most business graduates might be familiar with a handful of commercially relevant technologies, many lack a detailed, operational understanding of how they work. This gap limits the extent to which recent graduates can successfully deploy and work with these technologies.”
In his role at Athabasca University, Dr. Cox is working to help tackle these challenges. The Faculty is designing curriculums and degrees that serve real-world applications. Read about how AU is integrating artificial intelligence into a business course.
“We aim to make our graduates not just work-ready, but promotion-ready.”– Dr. Joe Cox
Increasing demand for grads with business and tech skills
“I believe the digital shift is increasing demand for graduates who can bridge this divide and are fluent in the languages of both business and technology. Business programs of the future will need to teach students technology skills such as coding and data analytics,” says Cox.
Athabasca University is responding to the changing nature of student demand through its offering of a new course that is powered with artificial intelligence. The course is a cooperative learning experience that enables senior level program students to practically apply their knowledge and skills in a distributed environment.
The school prioritizes the importance of practical application in learning to ensure each student, regardless of their career path, has the knowledge to excel.
“Our courses are unified by our goal of letting students look under the hood of digital technologies and the way in which they impact commercial activity,” says Cox. “Our range of programs and courses are designed to help them understand what different disruptive technologies do and how they function within a business environment.”
At the end of the day, Dr. Cox and the entire business faculty at AU want to ensure students don’t just prepare for digital disruption but embrace it. “We aim to make our graduates not just work-ready, but promotion-ready,” says Cox.
“When it comes to digital technology, the pace of change will only become faster and faster over time. If you don’t keep up with the change, you run the risk of being left behind,” says Cox. “Ongoing education is the best way to equip yourself to thrive in this rapidly changing environment, and Athabasca University is uniquely placed to be able to support learners through this journey.”