There's a reason why our university education system has remained unchanged for so long, and it isn't just because no one can agree on an updated approach. Its roots date back to the middle ages when its primary purpose was training future clergymen. But times have changed since then! Learning is no longer a point-in-time, sporadic activity, but a continuous and lifelong one. Simply updating the outdated model won’t work.
The good news is that the future of learning already exists and all we need to do is to put the pieces together. Let me walk you through where to look.
- The traditional university education system, designed for a world of information scarcity, is no longer appropriate in a world of information overload.
- Learning today requires focusing on filtering and critical thinking rather than knowledge distribution.
- The shift from a broadcast model to a networked model, where everyone is a learner and teacher, is great news for the projected teacher shortage.
- As the half-life of skills decreases, continuous learning is becoming more important than acquiring degrees or certificates.
- The average age of learners is increasing, and they are willing to spend more on learning to improve their earning potential.
- Direct-to-consumer business models for learning are emerging.
- The future of learning is networked, requiring a fundamentally different infrastructure and a more active role for consumers in their own learning.
From information poverty to information overload
Just thirty years ago, access to knowledge was scarce. At best, it meant finding the right person. At worst, weeks in a library sifting through books. The information available to us was limited by public and private sector gatekeepers with their own agendas, publishing or curating what they deemed appropriate.
Today, 4.4 million blog posts are written, 720,000 hours of video uploaded, and 5,519 podcast episodes are published online. Every. Single. Day.
Where education focused on the distribution of knowledge in the past, today’s environment requires focusing on filtering and critical thinking.
It’s no wonder that a system built for a world of information scarcity is no longer appropriate in a world of information overload.
Networks, not broadcasts
Historically, the word “lecture” means “to read or deliver formal discourse”, and in a world where people have limited access to books or a limited ability to read, a model of one teacher for many students made sense.
In today’s world, where information is everywhere, we can learn from everything and everyone around us. Every article we read, every podcast we listen to, and every video we watch, is an opportunity to question and improve our approach. As a result, our world has shifted from a broadcast model to one more accurately described as a network of people and content, all learning from each other.
Naturally, learning from anyone, anywhere, anytime, requires a different approach to learning from the same person in the same environment, all the time.
This shift to a networked model is great news for the projected 68 million teacher shortage by UNESCO. In a world where we learn from everyone around us, everyone becomes a teacher (at least partially). Solving the teacher shortage by training more teachers feels like developing horse trainers just as
people move to cars.
Degrees are losing relevance
The estimated time new skills stay relevant used to be over 10 years, today (2022) it is four, down from five in 2017.
This number is getting smaller every day, driven by increased
automation. Soon it will be smaller than the average time it takes to
get a degree.
As the half-life of skills decreases, degrees and certificates providing outdated skills lose their value while the ability to learn what is needed to perform the task in front of you becomes more important.
In essence, the utility of any skill you might acquire from a degree is outdated before you have even finished it. Continuous learning is the way forward.
Direct to consumer
As automation drives adults to continue learning, the average age of the learner goes up. As the average age of the learner increases, their
average income goes up. And as the ability to learn improves their
earning potential, they are willing to spend to boost their own
Add to this the rapidly growing 10-25%+ of the western workforce that is part of the gig economy, who don’t have the benefit of corporate learning infrastructure around them, it follows people not only are taking more ownership of their own learning but they have to.
This leads to an increase in spending on learning coming straight from consumers, on top of companies and governments. And with the additional spending, come additional business models. Most notably: direct-to-consumer.
The future of learning is networked.
In a world of information overload, a system built on knowledge
broadcasting is not simply broken but entirely unfit for purpose.
Instead of the one-to-many teacher-to-student education model, we are quickly moving to a networked economy of people, entities and content, where everyone is a learner, and everyone is a teacher. This network requires a fundamentally different infrastructure, as micro-learning experiences replace longer-term degrees and consumers play a more active& direct role in their own learning.
This networked learning economyis both wider in reach and opportunity. And after hundreds of years of incremental change, we are about to see some exponential improvements from new approaches, business models and technological developments