Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Future of Education is in the Clouds

The Information Age article "Blue skies or thunderstorms - what is the future for education?" reports on a Consumer Electronic Show (CES) panel session on transforming education. Part of this I agree with: "... employers value competency based advise ... MOOCs have been over-hyped ... credentials were the way of the future...". The article departed from reality at that point, when it suggested that students were not interested in "... finishing an entire course ...". Try telling a student they should stop now as they have learned enough and not bother graduating. They likely response is "I invested tens of thousands of dollars and years of my life in this and I want my my qualification!"

The article quotes ACS CEO Andrew Johnson as saying “The US is a bellwether for Australia ...". I disagree: the USA has a very different education system to Australia (and most of the world). The USA can't be taken of as an indication of what will, or should happen in Australia, or elsewhere, with education.

Johnson is reported to have also said:
"What we are hearing from policy commentators at CES is that all new net job growth in the US comes from new businesses and start-up firms, while there is a growing trend towards self-employment. "
This is confirmed by Australian research, with job creation by start-ups, while old firms shed jobs. This has implications for education, but I suggest not as drastic as Johnson suggests:
"This will have significant implications for education models to identify the knowledge and skills needs that are aligned with career aspirations,"  continued.
"Not all education institutions will be able to focus on preparing for students for the traditional firm of an industrialised era.”
For the last few years I have been mentoring winning teams of Canberra university students learning innovation and preparing business plans for the start-up competition "Innovation ACT". Last year, students were able to do this as part of their IT degree, through the ANU Techlauncher Program. In thinking about this (and in preparing some m-learning innovation materials for the students), it struck me how many of the "start-up" skills are also applicable to jobs in large corporations, government agencies and research organizations. It is not just in start-ups that students need to learn to structuring and communicating an idea, to work in teams and to make estimates.

"Millennial" students are no different in what they want from education. Students want an education which will advance their careers. Vocational training organizations have been better at responding to these needs than universities.

Much of this learning can be done on-line and so I suggest the future of Higher Education is not blue sky, or thunderstorms, it is in "the Cloud". ;-)

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