Although the business school made a good effort to provide common study areas and a common space with plenty of computers, as well as billboards free for anyone to post things on, it is still lacking creativity as well as many other universities nowadays. Times change fast, competition for nearly everything rises and the need for creativity and innovation is the only way to thrive. The importance of creativity and innovation in universities is often underestimated and that is the main barrier and reason behind this lack of innovation in schools nowadays. Ideally, a university business school should be turned into an Innovation lab, which will tackle the various problems and translate the following features.
Firstly, the quality of the relationship between the students and the business community is crucial. As it is now, the relationship is minimal to non-existent and that is where the university has to start from: trying to build a common platform of communication between the students and the business community. Motivation and passion is what drives people. Just like the notion of the “third place” by Ray Oldenburg (1991), the business school should be that special place for the students where they can be in and get value in their every-day experiences and routines. This new innovation space should not restrict students to just dealing with their assignments and projects but to anything possible. The barriers of communication between staff and students should not exist, nor should this uncomforting feeling on the student’s behalf. Great ideas do not come easy, and most certainly do not come by students with restricted mindsets. Passion should not be an add-on but a way of life for students. They should feel motivated to want to head to this idea factory; they should feel like they are getting something out of it and it has things to offer them. It is all about Networking and adapting a networking idea! It should resemble a phygital community, which by the use of both physical and digital media provides an ideal environment translating innovation and inspiration.
Secondly, the technology and resources should not just be adequate, but plentiful: More computers, more innovative software and many more should be the start of this innovation center. And this Is where the proposed virtual environment should step in and make a change.
Virtual worlds make it easier to reach this “third place” mentioned earlier, and they provide a profound feeling of losing yourself in it and forgetting everything. They provide an experience very unique to each person either if it has to do with playing a virtual game like flying a plane or being part of a virtual workplace like this internship. Once the new technology is up and running, the process will automatically change. The more students will make use of this, the more things they will get out of it. This will hence act as a multiplier and the more students are motivated, the better grades they will get. The better grades they get, the better their performance will be and then the higher the university’s reputation will be. They key to this is using a phygital space. This innovation Centre should be open, not just to students but also staff of the university. Networking, socializing always brings new ideas and the more blends of people there are, the better. Different ages, professions, mindsets should be put together and this should be encouraged, translated by the new idea factory.
Therefore, out of all the topics covered in class, which are process-centric systems, social networks, mobility and digital transformation it is believed that the most appropriate approach to be followed for this innovation lab is the digital transformation. Digital Transformation is all about the Experience Economy and finding a good balance between the three main aspects of ISM: Technology, process and people. The latter is crucial as one affects the other and with a good collaboration between the three, it will be easier and faster to help the school transform into an idea factory. Although schools used to want students and externals out of their intranets, now things are changing; there is a need for new ideas to come in from the outside, to break boundaries and allow all these people in, the need for integration. It is proven that involving external partners and customers in the process is a step to a more successful transformation to the digital economy. Consequently, the same can be said for the business school. By having the right technology and resources and an innovative and flexible process, people (in this case students) will feel freer to innovate and develop their ideas with their interactions with people in this space.
Proposal and description
The virtual-reality internship (or training program) ideally will consist of a combination of user-generated content within an e-learning, virtual platform. Companies will be able to work within the program to create internship programs and real-job tasks and challenges that students will be required to tackle. Users (in this case students) will then be able to practice different types of professions, placements, and trainings through this “virtual internship” to gain job experience in place of participating in an actual graduate placement or training program, which might be harder to get.
The platform should be useful for both university students and new staff in companies. As it will be situated at the Newcastle university campus, and provided that students will find it useful and enjoyable, it will encourage students to visit this new idea factory more often.
What’s more, it could be integrated with the students’ studies: lecturers can promote this platform as a helping hand to students with related assignments or projects. The above will prove very easy, as this virtual software will be available to everyone, provided that they are students of the university and they can easily access simply with their university login and password.
Making it happen
A solution like that would require a lot of resources and hence relatively high costs to put into implementation. This section will address the challenges, i.e the knowledge and resources required for its implementation.
Dedicating a room in the library for Virtual Internships to take place would be ideal and not too costly. This modular new space would include a number of computers which will have the software and would be accessible to all students simply through their university login details. Each student would have to create his or her avatar, which would represent him or her in the virtual world. In this way they can see what a real job environment looks like. The software can even be installed on existing online virtual worlds like Second Life, to cut down the costs of creating is from scratch.
As the creation of such a software can cost up to 15.000 pounds, and if the university cannot afford this, could assign the task to a student in the software development department and provide a reward in return, or even assign it as a job.
The idea is a virtual-reality internship that consists of a combination of user-generated content within an e-learning, virtual platform or a virtual space. Companies will work within the program to create internship programs that university and university students will have access to. The initial idea is to help students and unemployed graduates, who find it hard to get a job – considering the bad economic situation and unemployment rates in the UK – gain work experience through this program. By taking part in it, users can get valuable, similar to real-life, work experience which will help them in the future, not to mention making their CV’s more appealing to future employers and then get a job. Users will then be able to practice different types of professions, placements, and trainings through this “virtual internship” to gain job experience in place of participating in an actual graduate placement or training program. At the beginning stage and until most students get familiar with the software, the main focus will be on companies, which should be able to provide actual work tasks or projects that need to be completed with real documents and processes.
Benefits for companies and students:
On the companies’ perspective, this software will be giving companies opportunities to test new job or task ideas and see how students (which could be future employees) could tackle them. Companies will want to work with it in order to gain innovative ideas from users that they don’t have access to without Virtuoso. They will also be motivated to participate in the program because then they will be able to recruit from a larger pool of applicants, and don’t need to train these people for their roles for which they are hired, as they’ve already learned how to do the job inside the virtual environment.
When it comes to students, it will address the problem of unemployment and the fact that students lack work experience, which jobs require. And hence find it hard to get a job considering the bad economic situation and unemployment rates in the UK. By taking part in it, users can get valuable similar to real-life work experience which will help them in the future, also making their CV’s more appealing to future employers and then get a job.
Also important is the fact that it allows students work in any field, for those students who are unsure of what they want to work in the future. This allows users to make better-informed decisions about careers to enter into in the future, and may provide them with a job after graduation: recruiters expect that over a third of entry-level positions will be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organizations, with demonstrates that virtual interns have a better opportunity at finding a job eventually.
Finally, a student’s participation in the completion of a task or a project as such can be recorded and presented as a video or case study and therefore the student can then add it to their CV as a real task they solved at a real work environment. Since this program will be recognized from companies, the additional part on the CV would count as eligible work experience.
Criticism and Conclusion
To be realistic, all ideas have their weaknesses and as this is a completely radical one, it has to deal with the following weaknesses. The success of this software is based on trust from the university to the companies and vice versa. It might take some time to establish partnerships with the companies, and also the costs might be relatively high.
The current lifestyle of people and particularly of young people is directly oriented and connected to the Internet. It is therefore clear that this change is necessary to keep up the ever-changing pace of the world. When it comes to evaluating this idea in terms of success and value it will be easy to measure success in the long-run, from not only the number of students using the software but also from their performance at school. As the sponsor – in this case the university – is interested in seeing the value of this idea factory, this will become apparent later on as the students will eventually feel free to express their ideas, come up with more innovative processes and lastly and most importantly be more motivated. It might take time to measure this change, but as soon as people start realizing the huge potential this will bring and the fact that they have a voice and they are all responsible in shaping the process, that is when this change will be a success.