What’s in your backpack? There may be more than you think. Just a laptop and a smartphone open up the door to seemingly endless technology, says Bentley CIO Phillip Knutel. And the implications are big: Many employers expect millennials to be adept at everything from social media to electronic collaboration and communication to content management.
A recent monster.com article lists proficiency with technology as one of the top essential workplace skills for college grads. According to career counselor Norm Meshriy from Career Insights, “Technology is just a given. We have to work very effectively and efficiently, and technology provides tools that allow us to do that.”
It starts with having the right hardware on hand. “Instead of requiring all students to have a standard laptop, we’re offering the choice of two lighter, sleeker Windows-based Ultrabooks or a MacBook Air,” Knutel notes. “These are the types of go-anywhere devices professionals in most fields have embraced.”
Accounting and Finance majors who require software that is optimized to run on a Windows platform may prefer one of the new Ultrabook options. The choice for Computer Information Systems students depends on their goal: Those learning to develop their programming skills may prefer a Windows machine to gain experience with a computing environment widely used in the enterprise, while MacBook Air offers the flexibility of having one machine to develop software and apps for both Apple and Windows devices. Media Studies majors using the multimedia software available on the Macs in the Media and Culture Lab might instead choose a MacBook Air.
Students are also proficient with their smartphones and carry them 24-7. Wi-Fi provides ready access to library resources and collaboration, organization and communication tools. Many professors are finding exciting new ways to incorporate mobile technology into courses, including Poll Everywhere or “clickers” for instant class feedback.
Mark Frydenberg, founder of Bentley’s innovative CIS Learning and Technology Sandbox, shares his Top 10 list of online tools that today's students can use to leverage technology:
- Collaboration Tools: Use Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online to edit documents for group projects.
- Calendaring Tools: Keep appointments on Google Calendar or Outlook, and learn how to synchronize them between a computer, tablet and smartphone. Schedules become so complex that it’s important to be able to create and share calendars to stay organized.
- Cloud Tools: Store files in the cloud, share files between devices, and realize the enterprise opportunities that are made possible by cloud computing. Get accounts on Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box and other cloud-storage services to store and access files from all your devices.
- Social Media Sites: Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to manage professional and personal connections. Understand how companies and organizations use these tools to better connect with their customers
- Decision-Making Tools: Trying to decide when to hold a meeting? Use Doodle. Trying to make group decisions online? Use Loomio.
- Communication Tools: Get on Skype or Google Hangouts to have a conversation with someone across campus or across the country as if they’re sitting at the same table.
- News Aggregators: With so much to keep track of, there’s no time to read everything. Install the Flipboard or Pulse apps on your mobile device, or try another feed reader such as Feedly to be able to glance at headlines from your favorite blogs or websites.
- Search Engines: Know which search engine to use and how to use its advanced features so that you can narrow down the results by date, location, type or keyword in order to find what you’re looking for, even faster. Check out the library’s databases and Google Scholar when doing research.
- Content Management Tools: The easiest way to become an expert is to show that you already are one. Create a blog on a website such as Wordpress or Blogger and write about your interests. Use social media tools to promote your message and let people know you’re out there. Curate other people’s content on Pinterest or create your own microblog on Tumblr.
- Multimedia Tools: The world today communicates visually and online. Be able to make or edit simple videos, or modify images. Store audio on Soundcloud, video on YouTube, images on Flickr or Instagram.
Knutel also encourages students to become immersed in real-world tools and technologies such as Qualtrics, SAP, and Bloomberg. At Bentley, faculty develop curriculum with hands-on projects in the many high-tech centers and labs throughout the campus: Accounting Center for Electronic Learning and Business Measurement (ACELAB); Bentley Library; Center for Languages and International Collaboration (CLIC); Center for Marketing Technology; CIS Sandbox; Media and Culture Labs and Studio; Trading Room; and the User Experience Center.
It probably comes as no surprise that a Bentley study identified technology skills as key in preparing millennials for the workplace. Moreover, business executives fully expect that millennials will bring an elevated technical competency to their companies.
“Graduates can really hit the ground running if they’ve had the chance to learn to use technology tools prior to entering the workforce,” says Knutel. “That kind of learning has been a large part of our student success. Many alumni have told us that they were in high demand because they were immersed in real-world projects and tools in their Bentley courses.”
If your college campus doesn’t have this level of resources, he suggests pursuing volunteer or internship opportunities that will provide exposure to technology used in your field of study.
“Familiarity with web-based tools for collaboration and communication is critical to the success of today’s digital students,” adds Frydenberg. “In many cases, they know how to use some of these tools in a personal context, but have not experienced how they might be used in a business environment.”
According to Frydenberg, many companies are taking advantage of the cloud and online tools to improve business processes, save money on technological infrastructure, and create connections among their employees. “Students with an ability to network professionally, promote themselves and their companies using social media and the Web, and stay organized and connected using online tools are going to be a valuable commodity in the workplace.”
Kristen L. Walsh is a freelance writer.