We are living at a time of enormous uncertainty. Technology is rapidly advancing at a pace that we cannot keep up with, transforming the way we work, live and relate to one another. This has not only disrupted our businesses and political systems, but more broadly is redefining and reshaping our global society and systems.
Our traditional education systems are not necessarily preparing our young minds for the complexity of today’s issues. Keeping up with this kind of change is next to impossible for most businesses, it is no wonder that large, established education systems, with their legacy systems and institutionalised way of doing things, are being challenged with how to prepare students for the future. Coupled with the increase in global competitiveness, students are now entering the working world facing increasingly complex challenges, in entirely new contexts, with a much wider set of expectations.
Recent graduates need to understand and be able to approach the “wicked” problems facing our world with the ability to collaborate across organisations and with diverse groups of people. Students need be digitally curious, understand key, emerging technology trends and be able to apply technology to create digitally-enabled solutions. As new ways of working are emerging, developing capabilities such as empathy and adaptability are essential for graduates to lead in times of constant change. This means that HOW, WHAT, and WHERE students learn is transforming rapidly.
HOW students learn is as important as what they learn
We are moving away from the chalk and talk method of teaching into a more blended learning approach, that has real world application. With the future of the gig economy, graduates will have to adapt to more diverse environments than ever before. Students will have to learn how to apply their skills in shorter terms to a variety of different situations. Millennials and centennials in particular will have upwards of 30 jobs across their entire career. Students will learn beyond the classroom, moving into the “field”, where they will learn by doing. Learning will be problem based, hands-on and grounded in reality as well as society and community.
Students will also learn with and from technology. Digital content will enable teachers to focus more on facilitating personalised learning pathways for students, as facilitators and mentors rather than just as traditional instructors. With more data available, teachers will also be able to track the progress of each student in the classroom. In particular, AI will be able to quickly analyse this data, adjust assessments and learning criteria to meet each students’ needs so that they learn at their own pace. AI-driven robots like Amy, developed by Jaipuna, are already used in schools to teach students mathematics. She is able to understand why students make mistakes, then automatically teaches them what they need to learn to fill in the gaps.
Students will also have more freedom of choice around what they learn and how they learn it. Becoming lifelong learners is critical for navigating our future’s challenges, and students will need to be motivated to learn, and learning will need to be applicable and real to them. Institutions will work closely with their students in developing curricula and supporting their learning with tech enabled solutions.
WHAT students learn needs to prepare them for unknowable, future work requirements
Schools are now exposing children to digital learning at younger ages, robots are teaching them how to code. Being digitally literate and understanding how to use and apply technology to solve problems is a key asset in today’s world. However, as smart machines replace more and more human jobs that involve routine, repetitive tasks, academic curricula will also need to focus on building students’ skills that require human knowledge and face-to-face interaction.
Skills such as empathetic listening and awareness are essential for working in diverse, cross-cultural teams, as the world becomes more interconnected and organisations become more global. It is also a necessary skill for working in the “Age of the Customer” where deeply connecting to consumer’s needs is central for leading at an organisation in the digital world. As challenges confronting companies are now so complex and fast moving, graduates also need to learn how to be agile, adaptable and hyper-collaborative to accelerate growth in their future roles. Understanding how to rapidly innovate and learning from failure will be pivotal in student’s ability to respond to change.
These skills should be learned at all levels of education.
WHERE students learn is beyond the classroom, it is in the digital and social fields
While online learning, distance education and eLearning are now commonplace, we have seen a steep rise in the number of university level courses (undergraduates and graduate) being offered from the leading, tertiary institutions for a fraction of the price. The rise of alternative MBA programmes offers another avenue to study business relevant topics and critical thinking and problem solving without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. This facilitates access to higher education for a larger population, with the ease of completing a degree after work hours in your own home.
Leading, global universities, such as MIT and Oxford, are offering degrees in the hot topics of today, including AI and robotics, blockchain, and virtual reality and through collaborations with organisations such as GetSmarter, an education institution that develops no curriculum content of its own (it’s a platform business). These options are attractive as the world changes so quickly, employees will need to become students for life, but at a cost-effective rate. Digital Learning Academies, such as UDACITY, are rising in popularity and offering courses that prepare their students in future-focused jobs. Courses offered include Flying and Autonomous Cars and Design Sprint Foundations.
Finally, global classrooms and learning facilities are now opening as a gateway for education and collective learning and problem solving. 3D SocratesCoin is developing a “global classroom”: global community of faculty, students, campuses, and curriculum. The students will encompass all ages, cultures, and locations so that students get exposure to diverse perspective, thinking and learning from a young age. Another approach is an open learning campus that promotes immersive and collaborative work, such as The Camp in France which allows students to work with and learn from entrepreneurs, senior executives, researchers and experts in innovation labs to find new approaches to the universal issues of today’s world.
So… what now?
Traditional education systems need to be able to embrace change and successfully leverage these incredible opportunities to develop a future-focused curriculum and learning environment as well as adapt their ways of teaching in order to prepare students for their future roles. To drive lasting, positive change, successful graduates need to be socially conscious, digitally savvy and possess the right skills to adapt, respond and collaborate in a global, fast-paced environment. While many institutions will be slow to change, those that succeed in developing our next generation of future-fit leaders will be those who quickly transform how, what and where students learn to align with the changing global environment and our accelerated, digital age.