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Digital and Education Megatrends

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Digital and Education Megatrends

Cyberspace is no longer separate to the “real world”, according to Professor Belinda Tynan, RMIT’s DVC Education. “Technology is not new now; it’s part of us,” she told RMIT’s Strategy Week session on digital and education megatrends.

ABS statistics for 2014-15 show that 88% of city-dwellers and 79% of Australia’s regional population have access to the internet, she said. For those under 15, the figure jumps to 97%. A typical home has six internet-enabled devices, and each person spends an average 10 hours per week on-line.

Social media data shows high daily usage by Australians; 15 million on Facebook, five million on Instagram, 3.8 million on LinkedIn and two million on Tinder, Tynan said.

Globally, a 2013 report from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford highlights a seven-fold increase in international bandwidth, 2.5 billion internet users and the likelihood that computing power will continue to double every 18 months for another decade or two.

Strategy Week - Digital and Education Megatrends

These developments offer great potential in areas such as education, health and free speech, but they also can exacerbate, rather than offset, inequality, Tynan said. For example, data speeds in the Middle East and Latin America are six times slower than in the USA. Our reliance on technology has also increased our vulnerability to hackers and amplified public distrust in governments and other institutions, she said.

Lucy Ryan gave a presentation on “Digital Disruption; Millennials and the future of the world of work”. At 27, she leads the global digital customer experience at insurance giant IAG and has consulted to large companies, not-for-profits and start-ups across five industries, including events management, marketing and hospitality. She’s also the managing director of Thrive, a start up to equip people with life skills. All up, she’s had eight jobs over the past 11 years.

“I represent the future of the workforce,” she said, noting her diverse range of experience and Thrive’s focus on compassion, empathy, authenticity, courage and passion. “My truth is I have a heart for people. I believe every human has the same values and, while I’m a fan of diversity of thought, I believe we have more in common than we care to believe and that will unite us.”

On millennials, Ryan said 90% routinely research products online, 50% use their smartphones to research purchases and they are 2.5 times more likely to be earlier adopters of technology than other generations. But they still rate human communication (including using digital tools like video-chat) number one, over email, texts, websites and Facebook.

On jobs, Ryan noted that many entry-level roles are disappearing and 70% of young Australians have first jobs that will radically change or disappear in the next 10 to 15 years because of automation. Almost 60% of students are studying or training for occupations where at least two-thirds of jobs will be automated. And more than 50% of jobs will require significant digital skills, but students are not learning them at school.

A school leaver today is forecast to have 17 jobs across five careers, Ryan said. What millennials need, therefore, is to develop T-shaped career skills, with a deep specialty complemented by a broad and diverse range of other skills that allow them to apply their specialty in multiple professional arenas. “Portfolio careers are the new trend, spanning multiple part-time roles,” she said.

Ryan also highlighted millennials’ concerns about money. Almost 80% are worried about the mortgage debt they may face; 68% are concerned about their education debt; 76% worry about the potential costs of raising children and 78% fear they won’t have enough money for retirement.

For RMIT, Ryan highlighted four major digital trends: privacy, digital first, personalisation and automation.

Privacy, she said, is a central human need and we want organisations to morally and ethically steward our data, not just abide by a privacy policy. “How will RMIT build transparency and trust around privacy and let customers tailor their access levels?” she asked. But she agreed with an audience member that her generation was “not too fussed” about some privacy issues, such as public Facebook comments. “Part of me thinks: ‘they’re going to find out anyway, it’s probably already in the public arena’,” she said.

Digital first will become the way we do business, Ryan said, allowing customers to interact with organisations how, when and where they want.“ RMIT must equip students and staff with the digital literacy to allow everyone ‘my channel of choice on my terms’”,she said.

The trend towards personalisation means people have no tolerance for interactions that aren’t meaningful. RMIT must create personalised and human connections, at scale, Ryan said. She agreed with an audience member that personalisation, such as Facebooks’ newsfeed algorithms, could become creepy and said we are at an interesting point in that discussion.

With technology replacing transactional and production-driven roles, millennials want to be equipped with career skills that remain relevant, so they still have a job in 10 or 15 years. “For RMIT, what new value and job opportunities are you creating in the market?” Ryan asked.

Strategy Week - Digital and Education Megatrends

She urged the audience to think about a quote from Google, to “fall in love with the problem, not the solution”. “I spend so much of my day asking two questions,” she said. “What are we trying to achieve and who are we trying to achieve it for? Tell me what customer needs you are solving.”

“Digital doesn’t mean taking people out of the equation,” Ryan said, citing another favourite quote. “For me, digital is a way to facilitate connection, at scale.” Organisations must understand how to use digital for a purpose and become customer obsessed. “The underlying theme of a lot of trends is about connection; people want to be seen, heard and belong and digital is a powerful way to make this happen,” she said. “Develop customer understanding as an organisational discipline so you know when it makes sense to have face-to-face interaction.”

A final quote to consider is: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In conclusion, Ryan posed three questions. How is RMIT genuinely connecting with students outside of a technical or academic context, to help them belong? How is RMIT equipping them with real digital skills? And how is RMIT preparing students with resilience and a growth mindset required to thrive in multiple industries and careers?

Jolly Nga Wan Yau, an RMIT digital media student and digital business entrepreneur, began by describing “what kids do”. This included: endless scrolling on Facebook on their phone, to get daily news, socialise and for entertainment; playing interactive games like Pokemon Go; watching YouTube videos; and synching their phone to their computer at the end of the day.

For her generation, YouTube is much more than just cat videos, Nga Wan Yua said. It offers edutainment (education plus entertainment), is interactive and collaborative, and fosters a connection with other students and a sense of community through its “many to many” model. In contrast, television has a passive “one to many” model, which is less attractive to young people.

RMIT’s own YouTube channel was not watched much, Nga Wan Yua said, because the videos needed to be more interesting and interactive and less professional. “YouTube is not the same as television,” she said, adding that it was not about looking visually great, it needed to be more unstructured and tailored to students.

Strategy Week - Digital and Education Megatrends

Digital technology could be used to help students with their work, Nga Wan Yua said. For example, she and another student have set up a Facebook group for their class, with about 80 members, sharing questions about assignments, collaborating and giving a sense of community. And the business she has developed to teach Mandarin to her peers uses apps and games on smartphones and iPads, not textbooks.

On digital education at RMIT, Nga Wan Yua said RMIT Blackboard allows teachers to post documents and students to submit assignments, but students still had to ask questions by email. More effective, she said, would be a discussion board to allow group comments on topics. She also said access to on-line lectures was not available to all students across all classes.

Nga Wan Yua said RMIT could improve its digital education by using a team-based messaging app like “Slack”. “It’s like Facebook, but teachers can moderate it and students and teachers can both post,” she said, adding that quite a few RMIT teachers were already using it. “It’s a lot like social media, so it’s familiar, and allows many to many communication.”

“We need to be more aware of new tools,” she said. Digital games and quizzes and platforms for students to collaborate to learn are examples of what digital education can provide. “But we must also ensure the infrastructure and hardware is keeping up.”


  • Green ArrowThe underlying theme of many digital trends is about connection; people want to be seen, heard and belong. RMIT must use digital to create personalised and human connections at scale, and to genuinely connect with students to help them belong.
  • Green ArrowWith technology changing or replacing many jobs roles, RMIT must create new value and job opportunities and equip students with real digital skills.
  • Green ArrowDigital first will become the way we do business, allowing customers to interact with organisations how, when and where they want. RMIT must equip students and staff with the digital literacy to allow everyone ‘my channel of choice on my terms’.
  • Green ArrowRMIT must build transparency and trust around privacy and let customers tailor their access levels.
  • Green ArrowRMIT must prepare students with the resilience and growth mindset required to thrive in multiple industries and careers.
  • Green ArrowMillennials prefer “many to many” models such as YouTube, which are interactive and foster a sense of connection, rather than passive “one to one” models such as television.
  • Green ArrowRMIT must ensure its infrastructure and hardware keeps up.