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Job Skills of the Future – Added Value of Online Learning

02. september 2021
The development of competences for the needs of the labour market and, consequently, higher education as a key generator of these competences, are strongly affected by social, technological and employment trends and innovation in all fields. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the need for greater adaptability and resilience of both education and the economy.

The gap between higher education and the needs of the labour market is still significant, both in our country and elsewhere across Europe. There is a growing focus on the need for soft skills that students should develop over the course of their studies, regardless of the field of expertise of individual study programmes. Accordingly, the concept of knowledge is changing. In his book titled Future Skills – The Future of Learning and Higher Education, Prof. Ulf-Daniel Ehler says that “knowledge is no longer being thought of as something that is developed and stored in the minds of students, experts, represented in books, and classified into disciplines...“ Knowledge is defined – and valued – not for what it is, but for what it can help to do.” (Ehler, 2020: 14). Thus, if we want to manage future challenges in the best way possible, Ehler believes that during their studies, students need to develop their curiosity, resilience, self-confidence, and the ability to act in a self-organised way.

This was also one of the starting points for a survey conducted by DOBA Business School on the potential added value of online learning in terms of soft skills or the skills of the future in the business world, which students develop due to the study mode.

The online learning model at DOBA Business School

Online learning at DOBA Business School takes place fully online and is based on collaborative learning and the principles of constructivism. As such, it facilitates various forms of student interaction, mutual learning, and the resulting generation of new knowledge, as studies are primarily aimed at employed students who enrol in the study programmes with a certain degree of prior knowledge, expertise, and work experience. The central form of study activities is teamwork where students complete specific assignments that form a part of the final grade.

The survey and its results

The survey was conducted in two parts. The first part consisted of an analysis of the questionnaires filled in by the students during the last three years in which graduates of undergraduate programmes and their employers assess the development of organisational, social, personal and information skills.

The analysis of the results showed that graduates give a high assessment of the competences developed, ranging from 6.1 to 6.7 on a 7-point scale. Similarly high are also the assessments provided by the employers that pay the graduates’ tuition fees. Both graduates and employers give the highest grade to the development of personal competences, including initiative, positive attitude, and motivation to gain new knowledge.

The second part of the survey focused on the qualitative assessment of the development or upgrading of soft skills. During the interviews, randomly selected graduates from different bachelor programmes, who had not yet had previous experience with this study mode, highlighted that distance teamwork was the central study activity that helped them show more initiative, be more flexible and responsible, better organised, and better at communicating. Important organisational, social, personal and IT skills are thus developed through distance teamwork, skills which are not linked to the content of the study programme.

“The studies give you, at least to me, a confirmation that you can do it, as the studies, and the world in general, look for something different. This means that you have to take on different and innovative views because if you want to develop a business idea you need to think differently and more innovative than the competition.”

“I can say that I’ve developed a feel for management and the determination to stand behind my words. This skill has become stronger, the same as my organisation skills and decision-making, i.e. making a decision and seeing it through.”

A comparison of the obtained results with individual new studies on the subject of competences shows that online learning, as implemented by DOBA Business School, significantly facilitates the development or the upgrade of soft skills, which, in addition to professional skills, employers expect from their employees and which will continue to represent the needs of the labour market also in the future. This is an important added value of online learning at DOBA Business School, which opens up better career opportunities for graduates.

The competences developed by students in the course of online learning to a large extent coincide with:

  • The results of a survey conducted by the employment portal in the spring of 2021 among Slovenian employers, winners of the 2020 Reputable Employer Award, which showed that employers expect potential employees to show initiative, to work well in a team, to be flexible, and to have good organisation skills.
  • The top 10 skills that the World Economic Forum has identified as the top 10 skills of 2025 or skills of tomorrow and which, in terms of type of skill, are classified in the groups of working with people, self-management, and problem-solving.
  • The full range of entrepreneurial competences needed to transform ideas and opportunities into actions as defined by the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp): taking initiative, planning and management, working with others, learning through experience, and coping with uncertainty, ambiguity and risk.

Another important finding of the survey is that despite fully online learning, genuine friendships are formed among the students.

“As everything is online, you have no face-to-face contact for three years... We had Skype but there is no personal contact. However, this is by no means a reason for students not to form true and lasting friendships.”

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