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Collaboration with industry experts in education improves the quality of graduates


Every industry is in its transformation journey. From healthcare to finance, businesses now realise the importance of making the most of the data they have and how they can successfully transform and remain relevant in the future.

The education industry is also facing a similar situation. Higher learning institutes today, be it colleges or universities, are spending more on digitising their operations. From library systems to taking class attendance, universities are implementing new technologies to create a more seamless studying environment.

One such university is Asia Pacific University in Kuala Lumpur. According to Prof. Dr Ir. Ts Vinesh Thiruchelvam, deputy vice-chancellor and chief innovation officer, APU, the higher education system seems to have struggled to keep up in terms of preparing students for this new digital universe as there is a shortfall in the labour market for these kinds of skills.

Prof Vinesh explained that technology advancements and the digital process transformation are too rapid- making knowledge, skills, and adaptability a wicked challenge. What comes with the digitalisation process is also heavy investment in tools and software to ensure advanced technology infrastructure is in place for teaching, learning and research activities.

“At APU, we have researched, benchmarked and strategised our digital infrastructure implementation. We have invested heavily to maintain our status as a top technology university in the country, not only serving the students of the nation but students from more than 130 countries. In short, we are developing digital-based skills for the world.”

With IoT integrated into the education system, most schools have used it to prepare their students to become highly tech-literate while others have used it to harness data, save money, and other specific needs.

“Our understanding of education must shift if we want to fully integrate IoT into our education system. An example would be interactive learning, where this provides students with a broader perspective in gaining knowledge of new topics with a better understanding and interaction with their friends and teachers. Real-world problems are discussed in the classroom by the education professionals and students are charged to find the solutions to these problems.”

He pointed out that in APU, they have already infused IoT as part of the digital learning delivery process. Digital teaching and learning have been piloted, tested and are now in the implementation process at the university. Also, academic champions were formed to develop and implement the process whereby these same individuals then became the train the trainer group for other academicians in APU. The establishment of the Centre for IoT Research (CREDIT) has been driving IoT research, project development for the industry, and engaging with students in the development of innovation for industrial based new product development.

With that said, students will also need to understand the use of data analytics in business decisions. By being able to offer good data analytics skills, students will differentiate themselves from other job candidates and help bring valuable insights to the organisation.

Prof Vinesh pointed out that there are some other reasons why it is important for business students to develop strong data analytics skills. First, all businesses nowadays collect data. Data serves an important function in many parts of a business, including marketing, accounting, sales, and even customer service. It is imperative to understand not only how data is compiled, but also its value in helping the organisation meet its goals.

Secondly, today’s organisations use data to make better decisions. Data-driven insights can inform important business decisions. For example, tracking sales trends helps businesses understand their customers’ buying behaviour and is usually used to inform marketing strategy. Analytics can also help an organisation determine where they can improve productivity and become more profitable. No matter what type of organisation the students work for in the future, developing and implementing a data strategy is often essential for business success.

Lastly, proficiency as an analyst can advance university students’ careers. Successful data analytics requires attention to detail and critical thinking—two skills that are highly valued by employers. Data analytics is quickly becoming another core competency required for many entry-level jobs. Exceptional data skills are crucially important for digital marketers and business analysts and can help the students advance to leadership and management roles within the organisation.

At the same time, the presence of the industry on campus is vital in imparting skills-based knowledge which is current. Data Analytics is a gateway for the Data Scientist profession that has been increasing in demand. The industry leaders have assisted in curriculum reviews, advisory panel support and a series of workshops, seminars, and talks. These activities have further added value to the learning process of Data Analytics programmes.

“At APU, we cover the entire spectrum of programme offerings for data analytics starting from Diploma, undergraduate, postgraduate to PhD levels. The further increase for the analytics wave in amplitude at APU is the strength shown by the Centre for Analytics (APCA) which has driven consultancy practices by researchers, project development by students and engagement with the experts from the industry such as TIBCO.”

With most industries looking to hire tech graduates straight university these days, Prof Vinesh said APU graduates are industry-ready for as their key skills are well developed while they are at university.