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How can learning providers and employers collaborate to ensure that people have the skills they need to thrive in a new era of work? What do global leaders in innovation perceive as being most important when it comes to learning? Why do schools need to be careful when exploring options for online and technology-based learning?
Welcome to this week's post. Inside, we explore how skills shortages are inspiring new forms of collaboration between community colleges and employers, and why traditional academic pathways and credentialing may no longer be relevant. We also share what one global leader thinks learning should look like, and why the educational technology industry faces challenges in the marketplace and what this means for teachers.
The future of learning and work will likely involve increasingly technical tasks with rapidly evolving and changing skillsets. The level of education required is post-high school diploma but not quite four year degree material, and developing this skill level has traditionally fallen to community colleges.
This article shares how employers have often been reluctant to work with community colleges, but this appears to be changing out of necessity. Apple and Facebook are forming relationships with community institutions, and companies are expanding their internal training divisions in collaboration with external partners such as community colleges.
Such is the need for qualified people in future, the idea is that companies jointly develop a talent pipeline to grow entire industries, rather than simply competing with each other for the best people. Google's IT Support Certificate Programme is a good example of how this might work in practice. Google has put together a consortium of 20 major companies that have agreed to recognise this qualification and hire graduates (if needed), and Google runs the programme with no profit to keep costs down for students.
The result is close collaboration between learning providers and employers and between employers - something we're going to need to see a lot more of to meet an ever-growing skills shortage that is likely to accelerate. The implications for learning are that education must not exist in a bubble - it has to be connected to the real world, and not just on a superficial level. This relationship must start early, with schools involving their learning communities - not just families and caregivers, but authentically involving organisations and businesses so that students have the opportunity to find out what they do and understand how they work.
Elon Musk has an interesting take on what learning should look like. He has quietly developed a school of about 50 students as a result of wanting more for his own children's learning. So far, so normal, but this school breaks a few barriers aside from its emphasis on inquiry and project-based learning:
1. There are no sports, music or languages.
2. There is a heavy emphasis on science, math, engineering and ethics.
3. The students write about half of the curriculum themselves, and can opt out of whatever they're not interested in.
4. More traditional-style lessons include creative writing and computer science.
5. There is no testing or grading at all - only authentic feedback during the learning process and of whatever product or solution is produced.
It's an interesting concept: learning is relevant and practical with a high degree of collaboration, the students are engaged and motivated, and engaging with and trying to solve actual challenges that the world faces.
But without the likes of sports, languages and music is it a balanced programme? Does that even matter? Is this the type of learning we need to see? If so, why? Leave your thoughts in the comments - let's start a discussion.
A key emerging aspect of personalised learning is the provision of online learning programmes that provide instruction based on need, with differentiation and extension for students. Surprisingly, one of the major players in this market, TenMarks by Amazon, has announced that it's winding down it's operations effective June 30th, 2019.
Amazon acquired TenMarks for an undisclosed amount in 2013, and was at that time in use by 25,000 schools in 7000 districts. It was part of Amazon's strategy to become a major player in the education market, and the decision to close is unexpected as many were expecting further acquisitions following the expansion of the TenMarks service to include writing in 2017.
Amazon is likely to continue exploring opportunities within the education market with app building and cloud storage offerings, but its decision to wind down TenMarks following a review hints at challenges at making it financially self-sustaining.
So what are the implications for learning? We can think of a couple to start:
a. Schools may need to start paying more for online learning services if the free or low-cost model is not viable, especially if they do not want their students targeted by advertising.
b. Decisions to shut down lower-performing business units are routine within the tech. industry, but can cause major disruption for teachers and students.
c. How essential are these programmes in realising learning that is focused on the particular needs of individual students? Are they absolutely necessary, or a 'nice to have'?
As we've seen in previous posts, the ed. tech. industry has faced many challenges in entering the education market, and it will be interesting to see which service the current users of TenMarks migrate to. It is apparent that educational technology and AI-driven learning will continue to grow in scale and complexity, but the question of who pays and how will remain.
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