The Importance of Digital Education

Publish Date

13 MAR 2018


Kai Beckmann


To be successful in the workplace of the future, people will need to have the right digital education. Whether in school, at university or on the job – the digital transformation that is under way is making IT skills more important every day.

Industry 4.0 Needs Education 4.0 
Digital transformation is underway. People working for start-ups are not the only ones who need digital skills – increasingly, industrial workers in plants, staff in administrative positions and managers of banks need to be adept in the digital realm as well. Our educational system and, in particular, the way we learn and teach must therefore be adapted for this era of digitalization. This is true for all educational levels – from primary school to vocational schools and universities to continuing education. 
A digital education will allow people to continue to participate in social life in a self-determined manner in the future. In addition, digital education will ensure that companies remain competitive. Simply put: Industry 4.0 needs education 4.0. With the digital transformation, we must radically alter both how we learn and what we learn. This is because digital skills have become a fourth key competency alongside reading, writing and arithmetic. 
The end of business as usual 
I am convinced that the digital transformation of the economy and society can only succeed with digital education. This requires a policy of investing in our digital infrastructure as well as qualified staff and training – something that the Bundesarbeitgeberverband Chemie (German Federation of Chemical Employers’ Associations (BAVC)  is calling for as well. The prerequisite for the digitalization of the educational system is a comprehensive and efficient IT infrastructure. This starts with broadband connections at educational institutions.  
Secondary schools are responsible for providing an elementary digital education and for strengthening education in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), which will only become more important in the future. Students should learn how to use software tools in computer classes and understand how computers, the Internet and data protection function. This could then serve as the basis for learning about more in-depth digital and IT topics during professional training and development.  
New options for lightning-fast data assessment makes it possible to tailor learning content and methods to students’ individual needs. Intelligent software can track their progress and identify which material has been mastered and which areas still have a need for more instruction. In this way, courses can be personalized while focusing on developing the individual students’ potential. 
In order for digital education to become a reality, educational training for teachers must be modernized as well. Digital education requires well trained teachers who are able to use digital media to convey the relevant information to pupils, trainees and college students. Furthermore, the government should do away with the prohibition against federal involvement in state education matters and develop selected projects as part of an excellence initiative, for example, in the area of digital education. It is important that these efforts be practical, with a focus on the needs of companies. 
New Paths to Digital Learning 
We must change not only what we learn, but also how we learn. Whether this involves digital platforms, virtual or augmented reality, online libraries or webinars – digital media make possible a host of new and innovative forms of teaching and learning in schools, vocational institutions and universities as well as in corporate training and development programs  
Digital learning means more than just digitizing traditional instruction materials. Using digital media in education will result in completely new areas of communication, cooperation and networking. Since digital instruction is not bound by time and place, it is more flexible, more individualized and more mobile than traditional forms of learning. In the digital era, course materials are created, shared with others and developed together in the cloud. With digital instruction, students learn at an early age to accept greater personal responsibility while also improving communication and teamwork.   
Education on Par with Digitalization 
As a company, we must ensure that our occupational vocational and advanced training efforts keep pace with digital transformation. At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we already provide our apprentices with regular digital training. We also offer junior managers a digital development program in cooperation with Stanford University. And all employees can use our learning app to get up to speed with the latest on digitalization. 
Despite all the changes that are taking place in the wake of digital transformation, the goal of education remains the same: It should enable people to develop as individuals and allow them to participate in social, political and economic life in a responsible manner. That is why we need education that is on par with the latest technology. 

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