He said the courses don’t go into great detail but instead provide an overview of a topic.

Eoghan Hogan, director of product innovation at Torrens University, said the technology courses are responding to demand from companies for their executives to have a better understanding of technology and tech trends.

“The feedback from industry is that a lot of people who already have roles with them were lacking the tech skills or at least the tech understanding to be able to drive their businesses forward,” he said.

“Execs need to have a certain understanding of these tech skills or technical knowledge to be able to contribute to conversations and to make better decisions for the business.”

Businesses want executives with an understanding of artificial intelligence, user experience design, design thinking, data analytics and cloud computing among other things.

Torrens bundles two-hour courses into packages of several courses to meet the specific needs of different employers, such as an Executive Guide to Artificial Intelligence for instance.

“The whole offering is supposed to meet the demand of your busy executive, so they are on-demand, mobile-friendly, start and stop when you want, you can come and go or maybe drop in and drop out of the content,” Hogan said.

All up there are 80 two-hour courses, and the university is offering the 14 most popular free of charge to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the two-hour courses it offers 60-hour courses that go into more detail, as well as 120-hour graduate certificate course.

Nick Wailes, dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of NSW, draws a distinction between learning tech skills and learning about technology and how it works.

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Nick Wailes, dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of NSW

Nick Wailes, dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management, says learning about technology is mainly about asking smart questions when working with tech groups. 

“Senior executives spending time on learning how to code in COBOL or Pascal or build an app isn’t necessarily going to give them the skills they need to digitally transform their business,” he says.

“The focus should be on understanding enough about technology and understanding enough about how those products are built, so that when you’re working with a digital team you can ask smart questions, and you can really help translate the business objective you have into the technology roadmap.”

AGSM teaches a range of short courses in digital transformation that aim to equip executives to do just that.

Its Leading Digital Transformation Course starts with technology and why leaders should be considering digital transformation, to help them understand the landscape of business and how much technology is disrupting traditional business models.

The second part is understanding emerging technologies – cloud computing, mobile, big data, and AI and machine learning – and how they’re starting to affect organisations.

Finally, there is a focus on how leaders drive and lead a digital transformation in organisations, how they structure it and the sorts of choices they have to make. “One of the things that we talk about a lot is that these projects are not really technology projects. Technology is an important part, but they’re really business change projects,” Wailes says.

“We’ve designed it specifically for senior executives from non-technical backgrounds who are going to be responsible for delivering these outcomes and giving them the skills that they need around those things.”

The Leading Digital Transformation course starts with a block of three days followed by another two days about a month later. During the gap the executives are expected to build a digital transformation plan for their organisation or part of the organisation. They then present it to a panel of senior executives and to their classmates for feedback.

“You walk away with a really tangible practical implementation plan for how you’re going to drive digital transformation in your organisation,” Wailes says.

Students come from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds, including, for instance, financial services organisations trying to automate their services, and consider how their core functions operate and how a chief operating officer of a large health organisation can incorporate an acquisition into the business.

However, Wailes said that once the executives start sharing their experiences with each other, they realise that many of the challenges they are facing cut across other industries as well.



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