In the midst of today’s fast-moving, tech-heavy landscape, sit back and ask yourself an important question: How does your degree and formal education impact what you’re doing in your work life?
This question gets to the heart of the immediate need for a foundational shift in how academia and industry operate—and need to cooperate—for the future of education. In a world of information, the United States’ Industrial-era education system is showing its age. To meet the demands of a new era, learning needs to be a fundamental obligation of citizenship. Education isn’t about majors anymore; it’s about missions.
Success in business today comes from applying the lessons of today. In a time marked by constantly restructuring companies and instantaneous feedback, success tends to come to those with the best ideas, those who can both innovate with speed while applying insights about the customers they’re seeking to address. The need for flexibility can’t be understated.
The days of set disciplines and skills, of hermetically sealed and siloed professions, is over. Today’s workforce, from coders to workers on the new factory floor, needs to be focused on lifetime learning and reskilling, finding ways to adapt to changing professional flows of knowledge. Learning needs to be a fundamental obligation for everyone, but the educational system sadly hasn’t caught up.
Colleges and universities continue to change, but the entire mechanism of higher education today, from credits and grades to the different disciplines, was all devised between 1890 and 1930. It’s basically an outdated, industrial-era construct. From an economic point of view, education was organized to impart a stock set of knowledge, expertise, and abilities that students would deploy over the course of a relatively steady and stable career. For those looking at employment options in blue-collar industries and trades, vocational education and training were deemed sufficient. Even though every job in the digital age has radically shifted, the training system is still wedded to assembly-line thinking.
Now, workers who came out of that educational system find themselves, years and decades into their careers, in need of new skills and education. This need is increasingly filled by third-party actors, including educational organizations such as General Assembly or rapidly evolving online communities such as Khan Academy. These sources give workers, especially those without traditional degrees, means to adapt to a changing world.
Job sites have always been better than classrooms for learning the skills necessary for better teamwork and collaboration. But the latest patchwork of third-party educators, while important for pushing innovation, can help take on the true scope of this educational challenge only if it’s part of a larger, codified system of instruction.
Many educators have already called for a more flexible system based on specific skill sets, not four-year degrees and liberal arts curricula. Often referred to as “badging” or “microcredentialing,” this approach lets students and workers in transition pick up the design and manufacturing skills—such as 3D printing, human-centered design, or CNC programming—needed as technology evolves.
Allowing for a stackable, personalized approach to acquiring skills (taking the badge metaphor one step further, think of a scout accomplishing different tasks) helps students at any level prepare for specific jobs much more quickly than traditional classroom learning. Generative learning systems and intelligent learning systems can also be used to literally steer students toward the skills and classes they’ll need to evolve and succeed, creating a constantly improving curriculum and a path for lifetime learning.
Source: Redshift by Autodesk
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Inset Image: Getty Images