Education 4.0: A Changing Learning Imperative

Aug 07, 2020

A vote of no-confidence is being passed against traditional classroom-centric education in favor of flexible, age-less, and personalized learning where learner controls the pace, place, tools, and subject matter of education.

There is a growing disconnect between education and the job market. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of children entering primary schools will work in jobs that don’t yet exist. How then does a system prepare students when most sought-after jobs in the near future would surface only 10 or five years from now?

Our education system is being held hostage by its past. One-to-Many form of teaching designed to produce uniform talents in the first and second industrial revolutions does not fit anymore. It is the age of hyper-individuality where uniqueness is not only respected but is encouraged and desired by the pace of changes.

Education 4.0 is a move away from the assembly line model with standardized curriculum and pedagogy toward personalized learning wherein premiums are on creative thinking and problem solving as much as on literacy and information recall.

The rise of flexible learning options is giving learners back the control of their education process and content with short, fast-moving, and elastic course options. A nanodegree in self-driving cars, certification in finance for non-commerce people, online courses by industry giants themselves, and more. Restrictions of age, specialty, location, and costs are disappearing with modular learning.

According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 1/3rd of the US undergrads take at least one online class. Also, adult learners and working professionals are the fastest growing takers of online higher education.

A quick map of the factors leading this shift in teaching and learning.

New Economy of Learning

The following are key demand and supply trends driving change in the content of learning and mechanisms of delivery.

A. Change in demand

Limitations of current education system and rapid technological advances are powering the demand for new learning methods. A roundabout.

  • “Is college worth the cost?” is being asked not only by worried parents and debt-laden students but also by many white-collar companies. Research by Kauffman Foundation (2019) reveals internships, work experience, and technical certifications are gaining currency in hiring decisions over a college degree. Though still regarded, the significance of conventional full-fledged degree courses is waning.

  • Around 50% of people employed by Apple in the US in 2018 didn’t have a four-year degree…Many colleges fall short on imparting skills most desired by the business leaders. – Tim Cook, Apple CEO

  • Pandemic has further accelerated a retreat to flexible learning and EdTech options. Colleges are facing a potential drop in enrolment with many students opting to sit out or pursue online degrees instead of paying full-tuition. As a result, educational institutions are gravitating toward e-learning.

  • For many, debt is the name of the game in higher education. Only a few are able to complete advanced education in their desired fields due to heavy cost burdens. According to the US Department of Education, merely 42% of sophomores complete four-year degrees. Flexible learning promises cheaper and much larger bouquet of options.

  • Continuing education is pertinent to combat the decreasing shelf-life of skills and nature of jobs. Traditional degree system falls short in answering the need for continuous skills rebooting. Modular learning forms are allowing learners to reskill, and upskill multiple times in one career span and stay relevant to the times.

  • Self-paced learning is also finding merits among disengaged learners and those with anxiety and other mental conditions. WEF reports that the uptake of online learning has risen among vulnerable learners with the growing evidences that it increases information retention.

B. Change in supply

Brick-and-mortar universities will need to change their education perspective as tenured faculty and the current model of campuses don’t work fully well for flexible learning methods. Responding effectively to the calls of personalized learning requires proper infrastructure, the supply of which was thriving even earlier, but the onset of COVID-19 has multiplied the pace.

Investment in education technology reached USD 18.86 billion in 2019 globally, and the overall market of online education is expected to reach USD 319 billion by 2025, suggest several latest reports.

Smart technology, wearables, digital assistants, AI, the cloud, electronic newspaper, video magazines, MP3 players, video games, and a gamut of other technology solutions are capturing the surging demand for modular learning.

Neo Learning Choices

Among the emerging alternative learning forms and credentialing systems, a few that stand out in enabling participant-driven learning and a switch across multiple careers:

1. Experiential Learning
Learning by doing is the idea behind experiential learning. Many subject-matters are best learned through hands-on experiences. It advocates co-ops, internships, community engagement, learning camps, project-based learning and other such activities. The aim is not only to transfer knowledge but create it by fostering critical thinking. It is an efficient way to impart soft-skills and simulate on-the-job training.

2. Lego Learning
Take slivers of online content and cook your own curricula just like fitting the bits of lego. This is the concept of lego learning or stackable credentials. Combine project management with business writing and photoshop, or journalism with data analytics. It provides an opportunity for learners to pick what they value most for their career advancement and professional development. Some educational institutions have also begun to fragment their course offerings, such as unbundling MBA into digestible finer pieces, resulting in nanodegrees.

Stackable credentials remind me of the music industry. The emergence of Spotify, iTunes, and the likes made it imperative to offer single songs earlier bundled into albums. – Scott DeRue, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

3. Digital Badging
A lack of proof of skills and competence discredited learners from undertaking self-learning as it was either ignored or entirely missed by the employers. Digital badging changed that for good. It legitimized self-paced learning by lending it much needed validation. It is a way to authenticate the skills and knowledge acquired by a learner through a testing system. The idea was first proposed by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation in a groundbreaking research paper on digital badging. CredForce was among the firsts to systemically support flexible learning and accord validation through digital badges that have earned a valued place among global employers.

4. Robo Learning
Thomas Frey, a top futurist, is positive that within a decade students will be taught by robo teachers who will be 10 times faster than today’s instructors. The lessons will be tailored to every student’s needs, and the bot will be smart enough to personalize teaching so one can absorb faster. Fathom completing under graduation in less than a year. This form of learning will likely be the pinnacle of flexible learning revolution.

Robo-teachers will learn from your proclivities and interests to customize teaching in the way you learn. – Thomas Frey, A Futurist

Building Better Education

Educationists step gingerly on the new learning concept as accepting it would require abandoning many age-old practices and a paradigm shift in how we teach and learn. DeRue suggests learning from the music industry. When faced with disruption from internet platforms, music industry rehashed its focus to the premium experience offered through live concerts. Blended learning can be the salvation for education. The cyber and physical worlds aren’t separate for learners anymore. Coalescing offline and online mediums can make education participant-driven and relevant.

In a complex technology-driven information age, changes to the traditional education system are inevitable. The idea is to give the power back to the learners to decide what they want to learn, when they want to learn and how they want to learn. It’s time for educational institutions to go back to school!