UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COLLABORATION'S NEXT LEVEL: A COMPARATIVE STUDY AS BASIS FOR A USER-CENTRED DESIGN OF A MASTER’S PROGRAMME IN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

D. Monett , C. Lemke

Berlin School of Economics and Law (GERMANY)
Traditionally, educational institutions do not ask future learners about their needs and interests when developing new study programmes, nor they do involve learners-to-be in the conceptual processes of those programmes. The voices and expectations of whole generations, mostly influenced by cultural, societal, and technological factors, might fade away when confronting the slow-moving, difficult to change educational structures and systems. It happens similarly with employers: ideally, educational institutions consider industry’s future needs and demands in advance when developing study and professional programmes that guarantee high employability of the learners and prepare them with the skills of the future. Yet, employers are not asked either and matching all three, i.e. their needs, the learners’ needs, and the actual skills learned during the studies, enter a complex spiral that gives no satisfactory answer to any of the involved parties alike.

There has been a solid exchange with dual partner companies at our university for a long time. Dual studies combine both university study phases and on-the-job training during the whole career. Students are involved this way in cooperative degree programmes that combine theory and practice successfully during their studies. Basic training needs that concern the digital management of these companies are already part of the curriculum, for instance.

However, a study programme that explicitly puts digitalization skills at the centre of the education is still not available, neither at the undergraduate nor at the graduate level. Actually, a truly user-centred approach that responds to high pressing challenges of both tertiary education and digital transformation at the enterprise (like a fast transferability of the learned contents into praxis, agile and adaptable learning offers, and modern and blended teaching formats, among others) is still a missing piece in the complex landscape that is today’s educational system. Above all, it requires a solid new education mindset, especially new learning and teaching concepts and structures, that engages the learners and fosters agile learning experiences.

We introduce in this paper a twofold comparative study on expectations of a master's programme that seeks to counteract the above-mentioned issues. On the one hand, we asked two different groups of employers to provide their opinions regarding the characteristics of an ideal technical-oriented, dual master's programme on digital transformation. On the other hand, we also asked students to provide their opinion on such an ideal master's programme. By doing so, we explicitly considered their concrete needs and interests before developing the curriculum and other educational aspects related to the programme.

We present and discuss the major findings of our comparative study in this work. We also share our experiences and lessons learned in the process of conceiving, developing, and accompanying the official approval of a future-oriented, user-centred, inclusive, and dual curriculum in the age of digital transformation.