A Changing Future for Education and Learning

As long as there have been people, there’s been education. The goal of learning remains, while the methods are changing.

The way education and training is delivered has changed dramatically in the past 20 years moving from mostly face-to-face, classroom-based models to ones that might include an online component or be digital altogether.

Some new trends are suggesting that the leap from the classroom to computer is about to change again and the kind of skills that learners (and employers) need are changing with it.

Education on your phone?

Online education takes away the classroom requiring just a desk and a computer. Now, universities and colleges are wondering if you even need the desk and have started asking: why not use your phone? Leah Belsky, a senior VP from Coursera, outlined the latest thinking on online education and suggests that we are in for another big change in the years to come: handheld learning. 

Why does this matter? If you are looking to engage others in online learning, designing for mobile will present new challenges and opportunities. Required format for materials, lesson plans, along with differences in learner attention and comprehension are all likely to be affected by a shift to mobile handsets. Does this mean more access to learning or just more noise on our phones?

Future/Present Skills

Coursera also commissioned an international survey of their learners with the aim to provide some insight into what skills are in demand in the workplace. The results suggest that what is in demand most is technical and manufacturing skills much more than analytical skills (think: MBA, MA) in recent years. More Coursera users are looking to enhance specific skills in a domain rather than improve more general, strategic skills.

What does this mean? It’s hard to tell. The data certain counter the prevailing idea that the world needs the kind of analytical skills that only humans can bring. This might be a weak signal that illustrates the effect that AI is having on the market as more organizations are seeking to use ‘big data’ methods and tools to inform decisions, prompting less demand from humans.

It’s important to note that Coursera has a lot of data and experience to draw on and it has a vested interest in the subject matter. This gives them both credibility and reasons to look to other sources for data before making judgements based on these two trends.

Nevertheless, in both cases, we are looking at indicators that the market for education is shifting and both what we learn and how we learning is shifting, too.

The coffee is on and change is brewing.

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