Preparing New Grads for the Future of Business with HPE Digital Learner
When it comes to preparing students for the working world, universities and business schools are racing against the clock. Technology has disrupted business practices, forcing institutes of higher education to reevaluate their curricula and the way they deliver learning.
On top of offering traditional in-class degree programs, business schools have discovered that remote learning is one way to help students acquire the skills and certifications they need to find a job. It’s also an efficient way to encourage personal development long after they graduate.
Moving to a Competency-Based Curriculum
I'm the Dean of the Business, Tourism and Entrepreneurship Division and a full professor in International Business at the . My division consists of three Business Schools (one AACSB and two ACBSP accreditations) and a school of Tourism, Hospitality, and Culinary Arts (ACPHA and ACF accreditations). The School of Business and Entrepreneurship (AACSB) consistently ranks in the top 40 business schools in Latin America and is currently the 55th best MBA program in the world according to the Eduniversal Rankings 2021.
Our school occupies a leadership position within the university, and our teaching methodologies serve as a reference for other faculties, including our schools of health, science, and engineering. When we pilot a new educational approach or technology, the other schools take notice.
UAGM recognized a gap in the skills we were teaching and the skills our students needed to compete in a rapidly changing employment market, so a couple of years ago, our business school moved to a competency-based curriculum. We wanted to align our new program with the skills today's employers require. These include applying knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and analytics to everyday business practices like supply chain management, human resources, and marketing. These tools and technologies didn't exist a few years ago, but now, they drive business decisions at every level, and should be core components of business school programs.
Closing the Skills Gap with HPE Digital Learner
Our new curriculum was a starting point, but it wasn’t enough to close this gap. One of my colleagues, Dr. Antonio Llorens, an information systems specialist and data scientist, thought of another way to address the issue. He drafted a working document based on a partnership with that would teach and certify students in HPE’s new technologies. We were all intrigued by the idea, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought all plans to a stop.
Fortunately, it proved to be only a temporary setback. A few months into the pandemic, the Latin America division of HPE Educational Services reached out to UAGM and asked us to evaluate their new platform. I saw this as a way to accomplish two goals: 1) to close the gap between our curriculum and the cutting-edge knowledge our students needed to compete on the job market, and 2) to implement remote learning during the pandemic.
At UAGM, we encourage our alumni to continue learning and improving their skills long after they leave our campus. We thought HPE Digital Learner would also be a way to forge deeper connections with our alumni and offer continuous learning opportunities to our faculty, students, and alumni alike.
The Netflix of IT Certifications
HPE Digital Learner stands out for two reasons. The first is its wide spectrum of courses encompassing HPE technologies and broader IT industry trends like blockchain, cloud services, and digital asset management. The second is the cost-effective subscription model. Whether being used by institutions like ours, students, or post-graduate learners, it’s affordable for everyone. I like to think of HPE Digital Learner as the Netflix of IT certifications. You can take as many courses as you want for a single subscription fee. The only limits are your time and motivation.
The Business, Tourism, and Entrepreneurship Division adopted HPE Digital Learner for the January 2021 semester. We already had a digital transformation strategy in place, and were looking to incorporate more digital learning tools, but that would have been two or three years down the line. The pandemic forced us to accelerate our plans.
We had considered partnering with other companies to establish our future curriculum and add remote learning options for our students. However, these educational partnerships only prepared our students to work with their specific technologies. HPE Digital Learner doesn’t stop at HPE technology. The platform offers students a wealth of technology-agnostic knowledge and soft skills they need to succeed.
Starting Small and Preparing New Grads
We were excited to launch our partnership with HPE Digital Learner, and we started a small pilot, with seven professors and 25 students. This focus group allowed us to test the HPE Digital Learner platform before expanding its use within the School of Business and Entrepreneurship and other departments at UAGM. Some of these students graduated in May 2021 and have said they plan to use the platform to keep their qualifications up to date and earn new certificates to further their careers.
HPE Digital Learner is flexible, and it’s greatly benefited our third- and fourth-year students. We’ve melded the platform with our curriculum so that as these learners approach the end of their university studies, they can then use HPE Digital Learner to get certified in cutting-edge technologies in tandem with their regular coursework. This will directly improve their job prospects.
In addition, this self-directed learning path allows our students to customize their education to respond to immediate needs in the labor market. As a result, they can graduate with exactly the qualifications employers are seeking.
Investing in the Future of Business and Industry
UAGM's partnership with HPE Digital Learner has moved the Business, Tourism, and Entrepreneurship Division into the Industry 4.0 space. We help our students and our staff master the technologies —like blockchain and the Internet of Things—that will power future businesses.
Puerto Rico may be a US territory, but we need to remain competitive on an international scale. The island must embrace change to attract investors and continue building our thriving biopharmaceutical, medical device, consumer product, and retail industries. Giving our students the tools to quickly earn certifications in the latest technologies is a good investment for the university that will pay dividends to the Puerto Rican economy.
Remote learning tools like HPE Digital Learner challenge the status quo in higher education and force universities to re-evaluate their role in our rapidly evolving technology and careers spaces. I can cite myself as an example. I have an MBA in Marketing and a PhD in International Business. I was a marketing executive at Leo Burnett, one of the world's top advertising agencies, and Triple-S (a Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance company) in the late 1990s, and now I teach and run a business school. I couldn't have had such a varied career were I not a lifelong learner. Nor could I have imagined a marketing MBA that taught analytics alongside branding and internet advertising.
Setting the Stage for UAGM’s Evolution
I firmly believe that UAGM's partnership with HPE Education Services has set the stage for the next step in the university's evolution. HPE Digital Learner is helping our instructors, students, and alumni keep abreast of industry trends, engage in continuous learning and meet their educational and career goals. In addition, HPE offers competitively priced institutional and individual subscriptions, making HPE Digital Learner an excellent investment for the university and our graduates. It opens so many doors and pays for itself many times over.
Over the next few years, HPE Digital Learner will play an increasing role in our strategic plan. We hope to start offering specialized certificates alongside our degrees and diplomas. For example, accounting students will be certified as CPAs, and MBA students specializing in quality management will get their ASQ, Six Sigma Green Belts, or CQE certifications alongside their graduate degrees.
I am thrilled to be working with HPE Education Services. UAGM's pioneering partnership is an international first in the academic sphere, and I hope we set an example for universities in Latin America and worldwide.
Being the first at something can be daunting, but it was an easy choice. HPE Digital Learner is a superior remote learning platform that aligns with our mission as a university and as a driver for innovation in Puerto Rico. It prepares students for the job market, keeps professors abreast of industry trends, engages alumni in lifelong learning, and broadens the scope and effectiveness of our capacity-based curriculum.