Dr Kakul Agha is a PhD from Aligarh Muslim University India; MBA(HR); PG in Higher Education Professional Practice from Coventry University, UK, and carries 23 years UG and PG teaching, research, dissertation, internship, consultancy, PhD supervision and student clubs experience in UAE, Oman and India. Since 2014, she is an Associate Professor at Skyline University College, Sharjah. Till 2014; was Head, PG Department, Middle East College, and Visiting Professor, Sultan Qaboos University, Sultanate of Oman. Dr Agha has published Cases, book-chapters and research articles in Work-life-balance and education domains. At Skyline University, she won “Award for Excellence in Teaching Effectiveness” (2016-17); “Excellence in Services” (2017-18) and “Excellence in Research” (2018-19). She received Award/Certificate from Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Dubai for Mentoring Innovation Projects (2018) and Award/Certificate from Sharjah Government for Supporting and Mentoring Students for Innovation during the UAE Innovation Month (2018).
What sort of education do millennials need? This is a prime question nowadays. Millennials, the “generation with a purpose” needs education that teaches them how to achieve their purpose. Primarily, millennials are disparate from their university professors, the Gen Xers, who fall between baby boomers and millennials, and are approaching the middle of their working careers and potential peak-earning years. A major proportion of millennials want to improve the society instead of just generating profits for the company and utilize their skills and competencies for a societal cause. Additionally, the pandemic COVID-19 has set forth new challenges and an urgent need for global stakeholders to manage the consequences of this crisis. The World Economic Forum (WEF) Chief Executive Officer Klaus Schwab, described the three core components of the Great Reset as stakeholder economy, better resilience, equity and sustainability and lastly to harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for public good. These indicators are strong enough to define what to teach and how to engage the millennials in contemporary university education.
The educators need to focus on developing knowledge sets, skills and competencies in Business Ethics. An appropriately designed course with practical information would enable students learn ethical decision making. There is a great need for creating, generating and sustaining an interest about business ethics among millennials, as they are the future workforce and entrepreneurs in the forthcoming decades. One of the core tenets of Business Ethics is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The topic of CSR is interesting as well as useful for people who want to give back to the society and have an inclination towards benefiting the world at large. Volunteering and charity are two critical pillars of CSR too. All this education could build a better set of workforce for the future. Additionally, this would let the world get rid of a number of unethical scandals carried out by the business world. In fact, this is what the millennials would love to do, make the world a better and cleaner place to live. Further, the millennials need to learn about sustainability so that the future can be secured in a positive way. Sustainability means learners know and use strategies of development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. So sustainability courses are a prime requirement in academic learning institutions targeted to the millennials.
The pandemic COVID-19 has left educationists pondering and debating over how and what is essential for university students. It is imperative that new educational estimates and policies should be arranged and institutionalized across the globe. The millennials also need new knowledge about managing their work-life balance. The most important lesson millennials are interested in, focuses on improving the three domains of work-life balance – physical, mental and social domains. During the pandemic, suddenly the millennials feel that requisite and timely importance should be given to creating a greater balance between their work and life related activities. They want to engage in building relationships in order to understand the people they work and live with. They like focusing on physical health by eating healthy and timely meals; visiting the gym and taking enough night sleep. They want flextime work arrangements and simultaneously focus on their lives. Beyond physical health, millennials also love enhancing their emotional health, through investing in relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues at work. Bonding is critical for them, whether on social media or in person. They also love volunteering and charity-related activities. So millennials need to acquire all these skills and competencies. The universities across the globe need to design and run “work-life balance” courses so as to build vital skills among the millennials.
Along with this, in contemporary educational world, importance needs to be given to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by United Nations in 2015 that address the challenges of the world and its people. As rightly said by thinkers that even the worst people and situations make us learn something, this pandemic COVID-19 also teaches us a host of things to improve ourselves and the world around us. “Core Life Skills” is an exquisite course that is the need of the hour. The educational institutions should lay more focus on developing and nurturing core life skills among the millennials so that they can live a happier and more fulfilled life. NICEF, UNESCO and WHO list the ten core life skill strategies and techniques as problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication skills, decision-making, creative thinking, interpersonal relationship skills, self- awareness building skills, empathy, and coping with stress and emotions. Self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence are essential tools required for the future generations of this world including millennials, in order to understand inner strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, the individual is able to discern available opportunities and prepare to face possible threats, which prompts for innovation. This leads to the development of social awareness of the concerns of one’s family and society. Subsequently, it is possible to identify problems that arise within both the family and society. Therefore, it is vital for educational institutions to carve out courses for developing and sustaining core life skills, creativity and innovation for millennials.
So what should educators do? The universities across the globe should focus on 2 vital aspects. The first aspect revolves around harnessing KSAs through valid content – Developing requisite knowledge, skills and abilities among millennials is essential. Institutions should design effective curriculum to build and harness knowledge, skills and abilities – so curriculum development is the need of the hour. Developing a requisite curriculum needs to be done at a fast pace so that once COVID-19 pandemic ends the universities can readily float such courses across institutions of the world. Content is a critical factor as without legitimate and balanced content, no major development is possible among learners. The content should effectively influence knowledge, behavior and skills development so as to positively impact millennials in the university.
The second aspect discuses about the teaching methods to be utilized in order for delivering learning among millennials. Teaching methods are key to success when it comes to student learning. The right methods related to the type of KSA to be provided to students, need to be deployed. Instead of teacher-centered methods, educators should focus on student-centered teaching methods. Student-centered learning engages students in their own success and incorporates their interests and skills in the learning process. It is crucial to use teaching methods that sustain interest and passion of millennials within the classroom environment. With the pandemic, enhancing the learning process at online learning platforms is also very essential. Student-centered learning is not only personalized and competency-based but also highly engaging for the learners, because the latter take greater responsibility of their own learning. It helps students nurture their interests and skills and further prepares the millennials to be part of the skilled workforce of the future. This method supports diversity of learning styles and pace among the students and even the time and place they want to learn. This enhances overall learning in a generation of humans and thus the overall world population at some stage. Some of the globally accepted tools for student-centered learning may include choice boards, self-assessment rubrics, group tasks and many such highly engaging methods. So in a way student-centered learning could be highly useful in universities for millennials. So in all the learning curve is steep and requires extensive effort to manage and organize the learning process of the millennials. Hence policy makers and academicians need to be fast and efficient in order to design and operationalize academic courses that enable millennials to be able to shape the world as a better place to live.
To conclude, the academic world has to join the movement of the Great Reset, identify new factors that have arisen due to the pandemic COVID-19, re-strategize policies, processes and rules of learning, discover new and enhanced tools, techniques and methods, revisit and choose emergent technologies and then only let the new academic learning process flow. This whole resetting process may take extra energy and time, but has to be carried out in a professional manner. The movement has to be at a global level involving each and every education providing institution and potential learner.