How the Future of Work Will Influence the Future of Learning #DLNchat

Future of Work

How the Future of Work Will Influence the Future of Learning #DLNchat

By Michael Sano     Feb 21, 2019

How the Future of Work Will Influence the Future of Learning #DLNchat

There have been a lot of predictions about the future of work, particularly around the growth of an automated work presence and how people might be replaced by or work alongside artificial intelligence. But what impact will the future of work have on the future of learning?

The #DLNchat community recently explored this question of work and learning, and while there was some disagreement about how much society can predict about specific jobs in the coming decades, there was agreement about how higher ed institutions can help prepare its students for whatever careers lie ahead.

Automation looms large in many predictions about the future of work. In response, #DLNchat-ters posited that universities can strengthen the cultivation of skills like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and literacy. “Prensky says to let technology do what it does best and hone our skills, as humans, to do what we do best—responding, reacting, engaging as humans who understand nuance and beauty,” said Erin Crisp. Many argue this focus on so-called “soft skills” has long been what learners gain from a liberal-arts education. Just don’t call them “soft skills” at #DLNchat.

What to call them then? “Transferable skills,” offered Kathe Pelletier, “like thinking, communicating, working with diverse others are critical for all jobs, not just those we know about now.” Cali Morrison had a few suggestions as well. “Adaptability skills, pivot skills, human+ skills,” she tweeted, adding, “the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn throughout life.” Sean Gallagher put it this way: “Focus on foundational skills and values that cut across occupations and industries. Creativity, problem solving, communication and analysis, for example, are all in demand and more of tomorrow’s jobs will be concentrated around these types of competencies.”

However, some #DLNchat-ters countered that higher ed institutions should also provide opportunities for connecting skills to specific industries. “Build course outcomes around competencies that match to job demands and skills needed based on workforce analytics,” suggested Tracy Petrillo. Or, design programs that focus on specific job-related skills and broader learning goals at the same time. As Deidre Woods advised, “Create flexible space in curriculum; reward faculty who innovate and experiment; engage community partners as co-educators.” Morrison suggested to think about the learner cross-sectionally. “There's also the concept of the T-shaped human, that combines the technical skills for the area of study, along with the cross-cutting skills which are these human+ skills,” she shared.

Universities also need to better translate the learning achieved by students to potential employers, some #DLNchat-ters opined. As Kelly Walsh tweeted: “Employers often want to know much more than a traditional degree can tell them. Can students think creatively, work in groups, etc.? Microcredentials have potential to provide better evidence of both ‘soft’ and 'hard' skills.”

The idea that alternative credentials could better tie higher ed to the job market resonated with the #DLNchat community. Some suggested students could stitch together more traditional-type degrees. “Let's break apart our dependence on a degree—at the institution and the employer levels. And let's not hold sub-degree awards as 'less than' but rather steps to or in addition to degrees,” said Morrison. Julie Uranis stressed the importance of recognizing learning on an ongoing basis. “As professional development needs are often episodic, we should be prepared to adapt content to multiple audiences and deliveries. Rather than chunking content (part of a whole) we need to consider microlearning (self-contained specific learning),” said Uranis.

Microlearning was a persistent theme at the #DLNchat. “Which begs the question as to whether 4-year undergraduate and 2-year-graduate programs will be relevant for the future? Or will higher education be more life-long?” asked Britt Wattwood. Many #DLNchat-ters predicted that learning over a lifetime will involve ongoing relationships with learning organizations. Nina Huntemann recommended: “Build education systems and delivery models that students can always return to (or never leave).”

An evergreen student body might sound ideal to a higher-ed recruiting officer. But who will pay tuition or fees for a lifetime of learning? “The typical American employee believes it will be employers, but U.S. employers’ investments unfortunately aren’t matching that expectation,” shared Gallagher. “Very different in UK, Germany, even China,” he added. #DLNchat-ters agreed with typical Americans. Alex Kluge cited the growing need for more job-related education is due to negligence from employers. “One of the big issues is the corporate desire to offload the onboarding of new employees. There used to be a ramp-up process where someone is acclimatized to a corporation and its processes. Now, they want a drop-in component,” he tweeted.

However the needs arise, the #DLNchat community saw great potential in learning partnerships between universities and employers. “My optimistic view is that learners will drive a three-way collaboration with employers and educators,” said Huntemann. These kinds of collaborations could serve learners throughout their careers. As Matt Arnold said: “Providing students with a firm foundation of transferable skills while helping them navigate tools to instill a desire to never cease learning can prepare them for whatever careers/industries arise in the future.”

There may be no crystal ball to predict the future of work but the #DLNchat community saw a crystal clear foundation for the future of learning.

Got questions or ideas about the future of learning and work? Tweet our community with the hashtag #DLNchat! You can also RSVP for our next chat: How Can Universities Create Meaningful Community for Online Students? on Tuesday, March 12 at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET. For more topics, check out our summaries of past chats. #DLNchat is co-hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, WCET, Tyton Partners and EDUCAUSE.

#DLNchat: How Can Universities Create Meaningful Community for Online Students?
Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up