To prepare students for a constantly changing, connected world, higher ed is creating more personalized and collaborative learning environments. Colleges and universities are in the middle of a significant shift in educational models, delivering both unique learning models and student campus experiences through digital transformation. Students are increasingly taking advantage of technology on demand to meet their own learning needs and chart their own path to workforce readiness.

With the likelihood of a workforce shortages in many industries, we need to be looking for new ways to help build a future-ready workforce. Today’s students–who are digital natives–are the key to solving real world problems. According to a recent Dell Technologies study on Generation Z, 80 percent of Gen Z (those born after 1996) aspire to work with cutting-edge technology and more than a third are interested in IT careers. Yet, 94 percent of the Gen Zers are worried about having the right skills and experience. Universities are finding a way to tap the potential of budding innovators and by giving them an opportunity to show off their tech savvy, while also giving students the soft skills to make them more confident as they prepare to enter the workforce.

Specifically, Texas A&M engages students with immersive learning with Aggies Invent, a 48-hour intensive design experience that engages 60+ students in multidiscipline/multi-level teams in hands-on projects that will push their innovation, creativity, and communication skills. The end goal is to provide students the opportunity to acquire skills essential to becoming successful innovation leaders and support them in founding startup companies. These events are held monthly during the academic year and have different themes. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate as a mentor as Dell with Intel and Nvidia supported the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) competition.

Texas A&M students enhance their workforce readiness skills #edtech #highered

Participating students were asked to address challenges using AR and VR solutions in a wide range of industries including healthcare, first responders, education, military, and designers. To reinforce the immersive experience at the event, students were provided with Dell Precision 7730 workstations, VR technology (HTC Vive headsets), and AR technologies including Microsoft Hololens, Magic Leap headsets, and Meta headsets. In addition, Dell and supporting sponsors lent their expertise to assist students all weekend long with mentoring and assistance with the technology solutions, product development as well as marketing.

Over the course of 48 hours, students self-organize into teams and selected a challenge that they would like to solve. In the first few hours of the competition, the teams identified the specific need to address, developed three different options to solve the challenge and presented to a panel on how their plan will deliver a unique solution to address their challenge. From there the teams worked to develop the concept, produce a 90 second video describing their idea and a final 10 minute presentation in which they presented to the judges.

About the Author:

Jennifer Sigmund is a senior higher education strategist for Dell EMC with 20 years’ experience working with education institutions. She is committed to driving Dell Technology partnerships and initiatives with higher education institutions to support better leaning outcomes, improve administrative processes, campus efficiency, and safety. She builds strategic partnerships with universities and education tech companies for student success initiatives and research.

Prior to joining Dell EMC, she was the director of product marketing at both Trillion and Polycom where she managed integrated solutions portfolios that helped educational institutions implement network connectivity, distance learning, and collaborative solutions.


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