Is Education Today Teaching the Skills We Need Tomorrow?

As the industrialized world gives way to the digital age, disruptive innovation in education is needed because new jobs will be created just as others will be – and are being – consigned to history. Education institutions must move quickly to prepare students for the new employment paradigm that’s fast approaching.

A Tough Job

The rapid pace of technological change, especially in the areas of robotics, AI, AR, and VR, will mean that that the job landscape will change over the next decade in ways that might not be immediately obvious. For example, who do you think is more at risk from automation: a surgeon or a construction worker? A lawyer or a barber?

Alongside automation, current trends are already hinting at new career options that will mature in the 2020s. Examples include personal brand managers, urban farmers, remote healthcare specialists, smart home technicians, and VR experience designers. Other emerging work opportunities, like neuro implant technicians, may result from advances in technologies that are now in their infancy, while traditional professions are poised to take on a greater IT and data emphasis. An example is the legal profession, where instead of lawyers we might see positions like legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, project manager, risk manager, and process analyst.

Additionally, the skill on-demand model that’s emerging today will become more prevalent, with shorter contracts geared towards specific skills and projects. The rise of nimble exponential organizations will lead the charge of this trend.

Rethinking Education

Changes in technology and the job market are forcing education institutions across the world to adapt. And, by underpinning the work of educators, digital technology can deliver useful learning experiences that provide relevance, value, and tangible skills in an unpredictable world.

However, technology must be geared towards learning and achievement in a way that reflects how the job market is changing. It’s no longer enough to just put tablets in the hands of students and expect miracles to happen. Teaching techniques, learning outcomes, and even the learning environment must be redefined.

Teaching Techniques

Education authorities must have the vision and strategic plan to enable schools to create innovative learning spaces and environments such as BYOD, blended learning, flipped classrooms, gamification, makerspaces, and virtual learning.

What it is What it does
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Empowers students and teachers to use their own devices in the classroom and access information on the school’s cloud networks.  Students are more likely to work outside of school on their own devices, schools don’t have to invest in tech catch-up because students usually have relatively new devices, and apps can allow greater teacher and student interaction than ever before.
Blended Learning Mixes traditional classrooms and digital learning. Possible modes include face-to-face driver, where a teacher augments classroom learning with digital tools; online-driver, in which courses are primarily delivered online with teacher check-ins; and rotation that rotates between face-to-face classroom time and online learning.
Flipped classroom Prioritizes learning through activity. Instruction and lectures are delivered outside the classroom via, for example, short videos and podcasts. Homework is then done in the classroom to ensure concept mastery through group work and discussion.
Gamification Applies video game design and mechanics to learning. Examples include the language learning platform DuoLingo, which allocates skill points, and apps like Math Tricks, which are approached as fun games.
Makerspaces Delivers a platform for students to design and make things. Examples of equipment and ideas that can be utilized include 3D printers, programming zones, computer repairs, and robotics.
Virtual learning environments Uses a web-based platform to deliver the digital aspects of courses. Benefits include economizing teacher time, overcoming time and location restraints, and enabling instruction to be networked between different campuses.

Gamification in Action: Math Tricks

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Source: Google Play

Digital infrastructure sits at the heart of many of these innovative education modes. Flipped classrooms, for example, depend on tech that even a few years ago wasn’t quite there yet, including broadband access, processing power in devices, and multi-media production for sound, image, and film.

Today, more institutions are investing in cloud solutions as part of their IT infrastructure. As well as email and calendaring, other functions are heading towards the cloud, including collaboration, enterprise resource planning, and learning management systems.

Learning Outcomes

Unlike traditional education methods that tend towards the one-size-fits-all, competency-based learning relies less on time as the measure for completion and is instead based on acquiring skills in units. Learners can skip modules or move to the next module only if they can demonstrate mastery. This approach encourages self-learning, learner-led pace, and the repositioning of teachers as facilitators.

Moreover, online, computer-mediated instruction can individualize learning for each student, reflecting the fact that students learn at different rates. The teacher moves from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.”

While most people are aware of the high demand for IT-based hard skills that will forge tomorrow’s data scientists and AI experts, certain soft skills – the type that competency-based learning can engender – are also highly valued by employers. Or they will be, even if many employers don’t know it yet. A survey of 350 executives by the World Economic Forum spanning 9 industries and 15 regions identified the 10 skills that are expected to be most in demand in 2020:

  1. Complex problem-solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Collaboration
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision-making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation skills
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Moreover, the learning journey won’t stop on graduation day. The increasingly skill-specific and on-demand nature of the working world will mean that job seekers will need to keep refreshing and sometimes reinventing their skillset to flourish in the job market. For those of us who are early- to mid-career today, the word “reskilling” may increasingly feature in our work vernacular.

Education In 2020 and Beyond

While education has a very wide range of issues to consider, technology will deliver a whole range of benefits.

By 2020, digital infrastructure will enable cloud-based learning to become a dominant force in education. Cloud will ease the burden of knowledge transfer and underpin an education ecosystem that will expand beyond teachers, parents, and students to include hardware and software vendors and teacher trainers.

We will begin seeing different learning forms emerge, including learning simulations that supplement teachers, true mobile learning, seamless transitions between face-to-face and online learning, and personalized learning algorithms where data analytics hones a truly personal study experience.

The next decade should see some exciting innovations ─ biosensing tech that can measure things like heart rate and eye position will provide valuable data for educators, with AI able to look for patterns like whether exercise scheduling and duration might, for example, influence math performance. Cloud VR will be heading towards creating fully immersive virtual environments and collaborative possibilities that we’ve never seen before.

With the rise of cloud-based platforms, schools no longer have to be silos of information and educators don’t have to feel like they’re on isolated islands that lack support and feedback. The power of learning anytime, anywhere, and with anyone can motivate everyone to be a lifelong learner.

Advances like ubiquitous connectivity, open-source technology, cloud computing, mobile devices, and personalization can empower learners through collaboration, communication, reflection, and engaging with their peers anywhere in the world.

So does all this mean the end of physical classrooms?

While some may argue that e-learning and VR may replace physical classrooms, it’s more likely likely that the relationship between the virtual and physical worlds will be complementary rather than a case of one or the other. An interesting study on what may be an undervalued issue involves the environment in which students learn: Research in the UK shows that classroom and school design can heavily impact learning outcomes. On a study of 153 classrooms, seven parameters – light, temperature, air quality, ownership, flexibility, complexity, and color – were found to influence student progress by up to 16%.

To prepare for the job market of tomorrow, education institutions need to apply all available tools: skilled teachers (or facilitators), a mix of teaching techniques, conducive learning environments, AI- and cloud-powered technologies, and the application of the insights of educational psychology. For students, this would empower a competency-based, personalized experience that could lay the foundation for the evolving job market and lifelong learning.

It’s also imperative that education and employers move closer, so the disconnect between learning outcomes and the skills employers need doesn’t continue.

What do you think? Are you ready for the job market in the next decade? Leave a comment below.

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