Digital technology has been disrupting a wide range of industries, and education is no exception. The inescapability of all things digital has accelerated over the past two decades and continues to grow exponentially. Digital technology has already infiltrated our everyday lives—everything from the classroom to financial and health management. Rapid developments drive innovations that touch our lives in different ways. Last year two robots became part of my family. The one we call “Bob” keeps our floors clean from pet hair. The other one, Alexa, plays music, sends orders to Amazon, and tells jokes to my children when they get bored. This technology was not available ten years ago at prices consumers could afford.
The same thing is happening in the workplace. What we know now is that people today have to continue to develop and refresh both skills and knowledge in order to stay ahead of the constant innovations and new developments the digital world brings every day. What we now understand is that personal technology skills have to be updated every three years in order for a person to continue to have relevance in the workplace.
Towson University Continuing & Professional Studies is committed to preparing our students to meet the challenges of twenty-first century jobs. Those jobs require digital skills. HR professionals use computers to make decisions once made by humans. Project managers use complex software to track projects in real time. Sales people use Customer Relationship Management systems that provide infinite details depending on how they are sorted. Machine operators on the factory floor must program information and machine connectivity in ways never done before. In short: today’s workers must have a high level of comfort with technology.
Technology in the classroom
In an effort to best prepare our students for the high tech job market, we have decided to take advantage of classroom technology. All of our students use Blackboard, whether they taking an in-class or online course. Blackboard is a Learning Management System (LMS) that houses student assignments and a wide range of other tools too numerous to list here. Instructors who use Blackboard provide students with access to every PowerPoint presentation that was used in the classroom. Moreover, they can take attendance, grade students, and even provide tests and quizzes on one platform that saves a ton of trees. Not to mention how much more accessible student materials are for learning.
Another tool we are using in our Project Management Professional (PMP)® Preparation course is an online testing tool. This tool works with each student and provides customized tests based on personal strengths and weaknesses. As the student progresses through the course, the tests change to meet his/her changing needs. When preparing to take a big exam like the PMP, it is vital to use as many tools as possible. In this case, classroom technology provides a resources that we could not otherwise give to our continuing education students.
For our students taking our Cyber Security Specialist class, each week we record the instructor lecture and make it available to students via a technology called Panopto. Students in this class cover an extraordinary amount of materials over twenty weeks. For those that are new to the language, having this resource provides a second chance of any given class. It is especially useful for students who miss a class due to illness. This same technology has provided the basis for our new Hybrid Project Management Professional (PMP)® Preparation course.
Finally yet importantly, we have moved to electronic books for the classes where we can purchase them. We are currently using eBooks for our Professional in Human Resources (PHR)® Dual Certification course. Students can read from any digital device (think iPad, tablet, phone, etc) and track their progress, notes, and data in ways not available to hard copy books. As new eBooks become available in other subjects, we will continue to explore the best options for our students.
This is a short list of digital technologies that we are currently using at Continuing & Professional Studies. Nevertheless, it does represent a significant commitment to our students’ digital skills development. Our goal always has been to ensure that our students build skills while preparing for national certification exams. Providing powerful digital technology is just another tool that we offer our students.