A shift is underway in education. From a heavy emphasis on teaching to learning; where the learner has the agency – to learn anytime, anywhere, at her pace, about the topics that interest her.
A teacher in front of a room imparting information for students to learn is how most of us remember getting an education. The traditional ‘sage on the stage’ model is proving glacial, inadequate, and disconnected from the real world.
The pace of change is mandating faster and smarter learning methods with a greater emphasis on lifelong learning owing to automation.
A rise in online, self-paced learning is side-lining the chokeholds of the traditional education system. Taking learning from a standardized structure to one based on diverse needs and pace of individual learners. Personalized learning options are giving learners the control to be active participants, not just passive recipients, in their learning process, and be quick to adapt to new skills. An online nanodegree in self-driving cars; a finance certification for non-commerce people; dominant industry players teaching courses on their core products, and more. The restrictions of age, specialty, location, and costs are becoming fluid with modular learning options.
What’s driving the uptick in flexible and non-traditional learning options?
Digital undercurrents are disrupting the dynamics of demand and supply of learning. Gain a sense of the forces that are under play.
1. An evolving demand landscape
The demand for better, faster, and smarter learning methods is led by two sets of factors, one arising from the shortcomings of current chalk and board learning, and another from the merits of flexible learning solutions. A lowdown.
2. New dynamics of supply
As the demand for learning is shifting gears toward self-paced learning, solutions are emerging to meet the needs. Even before coronavirus pandemic, there was a heavy growth in the EdTech space. According to the latest reports,
The surge in EdTech has accelerated since COVID-19 – with a cornucopia of language apps, video conferencing, co-editing, smart calendar scheduling, translation, and other EdTech tools swamping the market. New touchpoints for learners, including computers, video magazines, video games, and MP3 players, are creating new products and sources of supply that are more aligned with the needs of a range of learners – a hallmark of this age of hyper-individuality.
Among a variety of alternative flexible education and credentialing systems coming to the fore, a few methods facilitating a move from classroom-based mandated courses to anytime, anywhere individualized education that stand out are:
1. Project-Based Learning
Closely mirroring the workplace dynamics, project-based learning proves a highly immersive method of content delivery that promotes peer collaboration. It’s a problem-based approach to education and gives learners the opportunities to get hands-on experience and develop critical thinking skills (much-in-demand in modern workplaces). It has found its place in online learning as well. Virtual and augmented reality could further improve online, project-based learning.
For brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, these times are an opportunity to push project-based learning to augment remote teaching and get previously hesitant teachers onboard for personalized education.
2. Stackable Credentials
Fitted together like the bits of lego, there is a rise in learners who are taking slivers of online content and cooking their own expert persona. Combining project management and business writing with photoshop skills, for instance. Enthusiasts call it the world of stackable credentials.
On an informal level, it provides learners the option to pick and choose the specializations they value most for their career advancement and professional development . On more formal daises, some institutional providers are now unbundling the idea of degrees, such as an MBA, into digestible finer pieces that fit the needs and schedule of a learner. Resulting in smaller courses are like nanodegrees. Talking to an international daily, Scott DeRue, the dean of Ross School of Business at University of Michigan says,
3. Digital Badging
Much of the self-directed and self-paced learning was ignored or even missed entirely by the employers and formal education system. The reason being no proof of existence for one’s skills and competence. Digital badging has been the answer and one of the most prominent innovations that lent flexible learning a validation in the outside world. First proposed in a 2011 seminal paper by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation, digital badges ever since have acted as a solid indicator of an individual’s accomplishments and skills gained through self-learning. CredForce is among the firsts to systematically acknowledge and support flexible learning for new-age skills by according accomplished learners’ digital badges that have now become a regular part of hiring conversations across geographies.
4. Robotic Learning
This one is straight from the future. Thomas Frey, a futurist says that by 2030 students will learn from robo-teachers 10 times faster than today. According to him, a robot will deliver lessons, and the classes will be tailored to every student’s needs. The bot-instructors will be smart enough to personalize lessons and allow every learner to absorb a subject at a much faster rate – four to 10 times the speed of today. Perhaps even completing under graduation in less than a year!
Borrowing DeRue’s analogy of the music industry, when the sector faced disruption from the internet, it looked to offer premium experience through live concerts. The mojo of on-campus education lies in a hybrid of online and offline world education. Learning is no longer about ‘seat time’ in the classroom. Leading higher education leaders are already pacing up with the change by transforming their products, adopting immersive experiences, and making education more flexible and relevant.
Flexible learning isn’t only a function of going online. The idea is to bring the focus back to the learner, prepare instructors to become coaches and guides, and reimagine courses. Reset, rethink, and rebuild the experience of learning and the milieu of education.