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The Digital Disruption of Business Education

When Bond University’s School of Business was being developed in the late 1980s, the worldwide web giving the public access to the internet had yet to be invented. Microsoft Windows had been around for a few years, but DOS was the operating system of choice until Microsoft launched their ‘revolutionary’ Office package comprising Excel, Powerpoint and Word on November 19, 1990.

It’s almost impossible to imagine what business, accounting, finance and commerce education looked like in those early days.

“The key skills that industry told us they needed were communication and teamwork,” said Professor Keith Duncan who has been with Bond’s Business faculty since the first students arrived in 1989.

“We put a strong focus on writing and oral skills with assignments that included essay-style submissions rather than multiple choice and class presentations using the then-very-new Powerpoint program.

“Right from the outset, these requirements tended to differentiate Bond business graduates in terms of their confidence and presentation skills in the commercial environment.”

Through the late 1990s and leading into the GFC in 2008, high profile corporate collapses and unconscionable practices in the global banking and finance sector saw an increasing emphasis in business education placed on governance, ethics and social responsibility.

“Once again, Bond was ahead of the curve, teaching cultural and ethical values as a core skills course for every undergraduate student, but these themes were also integrated into every subject offered by the Business school,” said Professor Duncan.

At the same time, entrepreneurship was being recognised as the key driver, not just of new business creation, but the emergence of whole new industries and sectors.

“Intellectually, we all acknowledge that many of today’s school-leavers will eventually work in jobs and careers that have not yet been invented,” said Professor Duncan.

“In a real sense, however, it is entrepreneurship – the ability to recognise those gaps in the market, the capacity to assess risk, the willingness to take advantage of new opportunities – that underpins the development of all those future businesses and industries.

“Bond has always recognised entrepreneurship as a stand-alone, teach-able discipline but, in more recent years, Bond Business School has been at the cutting edge of entrepreneurship education, research and practice via programs like the Bond Business Accelerator, Transformer, [email protected], Gold Coast Demo Day and the annual Ideas Camp, as well as the Bond Business Commercialisation Centre, the Innovation Workshop Series and our Business Model Generation and Execution subjects.”

But if the past 30 years of business education have been focussed on emotional intelligence skills – communication, teamwork, corporate responsibility, business ethics, entrepreneurship – Bond Business School’s Executive Dean, Professor Terry O’Neill believes that the next 30 years will be driven by digital intelligence.

“Access to big data has changed everything,” said Professor O’Neill who is recognised globally as one of Australia’s leading Data Scientists.

“Data has become significant in every aspect of business. But the true skill is knowing what to do with it – and that requires an in-depth understanding of data analytics.

“As for digital disruption, you only have to look at how the new live streaming subscription services have challenged traditional broadcast and advertising industries and how the sharing economy has undermined the accommodation, travel and transport sectors.”

While these advances in technology have transformed the business world over the past 30 years, they have also transformed the world of Bond Business.

In 2005, the Business and Information Technology faculties merged, embracing IT as a core pillar of the business environment rather than a separate, stand-alone discipline.

In 2007, the Macquarie Trading Room opened, giving Bond students access to live ASX data and, by 2015, the Bond Business faculty housed more Bloomberg terminals than any other university in Australia.

Re-launched as the Bond Business School, it became the first in Queensland to introduce degrees in Actuarial Science and a multi-million dollar refurbishment put data and technology at centre stage with the ultra high-tech Big Data and Commercialisation Centre, and technology enriched teaching spaces, collaborative co-working areas and the Transformer hub.

“The digital transformation has extended right through to the basic tools of the teaching trade,” said Professor Duncan.

“Our students today are digital natives – they’ve been using computers and touchscreen devices since they were born and you cannot hope to engage them with the old ‘chalk and talk’ or textbook approaches.

“Our academics have been at the forefront of adopting – and sometimes even developing - digital teaching methodologies and applications based on gamification and artificial intelligence.

“We operate what we call ‘flipped classrooms’, where rather than learn the theory in class and apply it to practical examples as part of their homework, they use apps and online resources to learn the theory at home, then workshop it in class where our teaching academics show them how the theory applies to real life case studies.

“Our students also work on ‘virtual internships’ where multimedia and video-conferencing technologies allow them to carry out project work for a Singapore-based client.”

From July 15 to 19, Bond Business School will showcase the future of business education with a series of workshops and presentations celebrating its 30 Year Anniversary. Professor Keith Duncan will host industry professionals Richie Hayes (Senior Account Manager with Xero) and Shari Frew (KPMG’s Queensland lead in Finance Strategy and Transformation) for a Business Links discussion on July 17, while Professor Terry O’Neill will join a panel of experts looking at the past, present and future of Business Data Analytics on July 18.

Click here for a full program of the week’s events.

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