Lecturers at the Institute of Linguistics and International Communications Figured out What Skills of the Future Can Be Gained in Digital Educational Space

It is not enough for a successful modern specialist to improve his/her professional competences. S/he must be in command of unspecialized skills, which help in generating of ideas, thinking consistently, and interacting with people. These competences are formed already during studies. Exactly what skills are valued by employers and students in the era of Industry 4.0, and in what way modern lecturers can help develop such competences? Linguists at South Ural State University have figured that out. Following the results of their research, an article has been published in a Q1 International Journal of Instruction (indexed in Scopus).

The transition to Industry 4.0 means a deeper and deeper immersion into digital reality. New requirements are imposed not only on productions, but on their personnel members as well. The latter must demonstrate such competences as adaptability, creative thinking, digital literacy, emotional intelligence, and more.

“In this new industrial era the role of lecturers changes fundamentally. A teacher’s former main function –  transmission of knowledge – has shifted towards technology and informational means of instruction, and now a modern teacher acts as a guide into the world of information. Members of the academic staff help students choose reliable sources, distinguish between important data and nonessential ones, and turn the materials, comprehended by students, into knowledge. In addition, it is namely the teaching staff who are responsible for providing students with the competences especially valued by employers,” notes Director of the Institute of Linguistics and International Communications Elena Yaroslavova.

Lecturers of the Institute of Linguistics and International Communications of South Ural State University have figured out which soft skills students and employers pay attention to. Associate Professor of the Department of Modern Languages, Candidate of Sciences (Philology) Tatiana Peredrienko, senior lecturer of the Department of Modern Languages Oksana Belkina and Director of the Institute of Linguistics and International Communications, Candidate of Sciences (Pedagogy) Elena Yaroslavova have held an anonymous questionnaire survey in order to determine the elements of modern competences, which will be in priority during training, and later, in professional activity of the future specialists.

“Having studied the relevant works by scientists, UNESCO documents, business reviews by industrial stakeholders, and drawing on our own experience in teaching, we have revealed, conducted research on and developed a detailed typology of 6 soft skills, and specifically focused on their transformation within the course of four important stages of the education evolving, in order to understand which constituting elements of these competences will be of the highest priority during training, and later, in professional activity of the future specialists. Those include digital literacy, critical reasoning, creative thinking, the ability to solve problems, work in a team, and the intercultural communication. A key moment of our work at this stage of research was the analysis of the needs both of employers and students in terms of ranging the abovementioned 6 competences. Among the survey participants were 45 Bachelor’s degree students and 45 employers. To verify the accuracy of the obtained results, 10 randomly selected students and employers were asked to take additional survey, and that totally confirmed that the skills we had picked out are the most in-demand ones today,” shares Oksana Belkina.

The authors of the research have figured out that for students among the most important skills are digital literacy, critical reasoning and the ability to solve problems. They care less about developing their creative thinking, ability to work in a team and engaging on intercultural communication. At the same time, employers give a different assessment to the importance of competences: thus, the majority wish that their employees could solve problems, were capable of critical reasoning and working in a team. Digital literacy, creative thinking and intercultural communication are not as important to them.

To form these competences, an innovative educational space is required. Since modern universities (and SUSU is one of them) train students from many countries, it is namely the multi-level language environment that is in command of the required instruments for efficient digital training. Lecturers must use modern technologies to form not only the students’ secondary linguistic identity, but also their competences, which are in demand in the job market.

“To find the most suitable form of training in the new educational environment, the academic staff now need to combine the traditional in-class “face-to-face” teaching with the use of outside-class blended environments, as well as of various digital platforms and resources. Moreover, we need to guide students along their individual paths while providing them with the possibilities to personalize their studies. Since new educational options and resources are emerging all the time, lecturers must be aware of them, know how to navigate them, suggest the most helpful variants to their students while additionally monitoring their work and progress,” explains Tatiana Peredrienko.

Photo: Research authors Oksana Belkina, Tatiana Peredrienko and Elena Yaroslavova

For instance, the soft skills elective course developed by Norbert Berger, a research fellow of the Department of Modern Languages and Professor of University of Graz, is very popular with SUSU students. Within this course, students in tandem with students from Austria and Great Britain master the skills of delivering presentations at conferences and holding negotiations. Students participate in online projects and learn English at the same time. Linguistics teachers of the major university in South Ural region are also developing courses based on the Moodle corporate system of education management. These include interrelated modules on different language aspects. An individual ESP course is created for every speciality.

According to the researchers, such approach allows students to form soft skills while simultaneously learning a language, and to enter the job market as competitive specialists right after graduation.

South Ural State University is a university of digital transformations, which is conducting innovative research in most of the priority fields of the development of science and engineering. In compliance with the Strategy of Science and Technology Development in the Russian Federation, our university is focused on the development of big scientific cross-disciplinary projects in digital industry, materials science, and ecology. These fields study the objects of metallurgy, mechanical engineering, power engineering, housing and utilities sector, safe urban infrastructure and human well-being.

SUSU is a participant of Project 5-100 aiming at enhancing the competitiveness of Russian universities among the world’s leading scientific and educational centres.

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Daria Tsymbaliuk, photo from the library of Oleg Igoshin, and the Institute of Linguistics and International Communications
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