Universities are generally still regarded as the first choice of higher education and we do not expect this to change radically soon. However, with the rapid advancement of technology and how curriculums cannot evolve quickly enough, universities–and even professionals– can leverage new forms of teaching to ensure students graduate with the necessary skills required in the workforce.
Traditional learning may have benefitted us so far, but newer and unpredictable times await ahead. What we need today is an unconventional way of looking at learning. Breaking away from the system, students and professionals alike, need to find new ways to gather useful experience and holistic knowledge that can be applied readily to live problems at work.
When we change the way we learn, we redefine ourselves and therefore our future. And this is how the future of education looks like.
MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses
According to Class Central, a MOOC aggregator, higher education institutes in every corner of the world have already implemented measures that would arm their students with employable skill
For example, the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi is offering a web intelligence and big data course via Coursera. The Universidad de Santiago de Chile in Chile is offering a digital marketing course via Udacity. The Peking University in China is offering a course on drug discovery via edX. The University of Western Australia has a sociology course for students via Open2Study.
We believe that this trend is similar to the case of startups and corporations. It’s not about battling one another for market share—it’s about banding together to create something more effective, meaningful and inclusive
We foresee that universities will also need to deepen their relationships with the workforce. According to a 2017 Student Development Survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters in the UK, more than half of the companies surveyed believe that the skills gap could be more effectively solved if more educational institutes and employers worked together.
Doing so allows universities to tailor their curriculum or design new measures to equip students with up-to-date skills that meet the needs of employers today. Doing so would also make universities more attractive to prospective students. After all, universities are viewed as more than just places of education—they are seen as a stepping stone into the workforce.
A university that can guarantee or improve the possibility of employment after graduation would no doubt be a more attractive institution than one that cannot.
Experiential Learning: Internships
Internships are also becoming an increasingly important means to learn skills. According to the 2017 report by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, 60 per cent of young people have resorted to seeking unpaid work experience just so they can advance their caree
Instead of simply listening to a lecturer talk or processing information from a textbook, internships are important learning experiences because they are experiential.
Experiential learning is the most effective means to acquire skills. According to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in the US, internships can significantly boost a student’s competency in domains such as communication skills, initiative, teamwork and analytical skills. But the study, which surveyed 1,144 students from 40 majors across three years, also had a disclaimer: employers need to provide guidance and mentorship before this can happen.
It’s no secret that interns at most large corporations are given limited responsibilities, and that’s because it’s likely that people have already been hired to perform specific roles. An intern is not going to be able to write a tagline at an advertising agency. Copywriters do that. An intern is not going to be able to sell a product to a prospective client. Salespeople do that. Interns are usually just extra help that’s nice to have around. Forget making coffee and running trivial errands. You don’t learn anything from that.
It’s a different story at startups, though (trust us, we know). For early-stage enterprises, staying lean to grow fast is the name of the game. This means that employees are often juggling multiple tasks instead of specialising in just one area. Because of this, interns won’t just be an extra pair of nice-to-have hands – they would likely be given real, considerable responsibilities in shaping the product at hand.
If you are a professional looking for an industry or job change or are a just-out-of-university human raring to learn on the job, Austern International, InsideSherpa, Intersective, Sage Corps, Corkscrew Startup School are some startups that have emerged in recent times to facilitate experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages.
Professionals to grow from strength to strength, it is important to have a mentorship framework within every organisation. This will carve out a learning and a career pathway for every employee.
There is no better teacher than experience and getting mentored by a senior level employee is the best way to learn the ropes. From internal systems to learning tricks about the trade, a mentor can guide you and help you avoid all typical pitfalls. While many learning-focused corporates have some form of mentorship in place, the situation leaves much to be desired. The more we include this organic way of learning within the corporate and startup systems, the better prepared we'll be for the future workforce.
What we need today is a way to keep learning every day. Times change in the blink of an eye and our knowledge becomes redundant. So, what is essential is to stay tuned to the changes rippling across our world. To scratch this itch, NewCampus and many other learning schools and institutions like General Assembly, WeWork Labs, Lewagon offer paid workshops, classes, free networking events, etc., to help you connect with the leading change makers across industries.
Sign up for a learning membership or Meetup group of your choice. Keep a tab on their upcoming events and conferences. Ensure that you invest in learning every day and make it a habit. This will help you cultivate a lifelong learning mindset and help you build skills that will ensure that you stay relevant, even in the future.
We have through this series on The Future of Education illustrated that the ways we work and learn have changed through the ages. Humans are no longer required to perform repetitive tasks. Robots do that better. How we learn today has also evolved. Universities are no longer the arbitrary choice of higher education— other ways such as MOOCs, free online MBAs and lifelong learning schools are now available.
The demands that employers have for their staff have also changed. With technology becoming more prevalent in every aspect of a business, employees must now be equipped with the right digital and soft skills to stay relevant.
We have to change the way we learn because technology is advancing so quickly that some of the things learned in school become redundant by the time we graduate. Learning can no longer be confined to schools. Working can no longer be confined to offices. The way we learn today has to go beyond conventional lectures and textbook readings.
“The one thing they will definitely need—I mean, nobody knows what the job market will be like and precisely because of that—the one thing they will need is the ability to keep learning and to keep reinventing themselves throughout their life.” DR. YUVAL NOAH HARARI, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
The impending Fourth Industrial Revolution means that corporations and educational institutes must work more closely. Operating as silos would not benefit either party. On the other hand, companies will need to constantly upskill their workers to stay ahead of the curve. We need ways of learning that can equip us with the skills that are in demand.
The future will be all about learning on the go.
Everyone must now work to learn.
Research by: Alywin Chew
This article is the last in our 3-part series on 'The Future of Education' commemorating the International Day of Education that falls on January 24. Read the first part on Disruption in Education, and the second part on What Employees Want.
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