Eternally Learning — A New Perspective On The Future of Education and Work
“Tomorrow we will all be eternally learning.”
To remain relevant and valuable in today’s rapidly advancing world, learning needs to take place not only in the classroom but at every stage of life. That was the driving idea behind our sixth annual EdTechXEurope conference, which brought together 800+ key decision-makers to discuss the importance of lifelong learning in various learning industries across the globe. Our celebrated opening keynote, presented by EdTechXGlobal Co-founders Charles McIntyre and Benjamin Vedrenne Cloquet, addressed some of today’s most relevant topics within education, future of work, and the knowledge economy.
“Creative Destruction”, or the consolidation, globalisation, and digital reinvention of an industry, has swept across multiple sectors in a sequential manner. Coined by Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpter, this phenomenon appears as industrial mutation continually destroys one economic order to replace it with another; for us that is the digital revolution which has created the likes of Amazon, AirBnb, etc. However, unlike these past trends, the education industry has not experienced this sequential process. Instead, it will experience a “simultaneous Creative Destruction” due to its highly fragmented nature and limited history of consolidation and globalisation. To better understand this effect, consider the fact that by 2030, there will be an 11% shift to digital and digital spend within education well over 1 trillion USD.
With such a dramatic shift towards digital education spend, edtech is set to become a significant economic driver of the 21st century and our ‘success’ in this economy depends on how well we maximize human potential. This new era — defined by an exponential increase in virtual learning and the global demand for knowledge accessibility — has given rise to the “Homo Eruditus” — a being driven by the ‘hunger to learn’.
In a statistic unimaginable just a couple years ago, the number of education-related videos watched on YouTube each day is one billion and there are 30 million Coursera users (and counting). Informal education has jumped fully into the mainstream. By 2050, less than five percent of the world’s population will be without primary education compared to 80 percent in 1820, even while factoring in the 10x population growth that will have occurred over that period.
But with such transformative growth in knowledge demand, we will become subject to increasing “learning debt’ — an underinvestment in education and training that will continue to grow as we face scaling difficulties. Teacher shortages, rise in global student debt, and new entrants to education and the workforce make the unsustainability of our current scaling methods strikingly apparent. However, three emerging technologies will help alleviate these challenges while offering more long-term solutions.
First, as learning science develops and we discover more efficient ways to learn, the opportunity to deliver improved outcomes while integrating a personalised approach will become a reality. Artificial intelligence will mitigate scaling challenges with human-centered AI allowing adaptive interactions with individuals. And blockchain technology will give rise to peer-to-peer learning and a method of validating education achievement.
As the digital landscape experiences swift change, more and more corporations will start looking to hire the modern-day “renaissance worker” — someone with a multi-talented skill set of “human abilities”, rather than a narrow focus on logical and iterative processes. These latter skills, which have been the basis of human progress for most of our history, are becoming increasingly commoditized by advancing technology. In order to remain relevant in a workforce dominated by computers that will continue to master even more complexity, we as humans must rediscover our unique value. This will be realized by developing skills including social collaboration, empathy, creative development, judgment, and problem-solving.
But this transition in skill set is not the only change awaiting the workforce. The future will not only see a shift in jobs, but also a shift in what workers value. By 2028, half of the global workforce will be made up by freelancers. But contrary to the outlook of becoming deskilled and displaced, we see a positive projection. When asked if they had participated in skill-based training within the past year, 66% of freelancers said “yes” compared to only 32% of permanent workers*. This itself shows that we are experiencing a shift from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy. For many years, the workforce fully compartmentalized education and work. But we have seen that this “train and pray” tactic, if you will, does not work out all of the time. Now, we have an emerging “learn on the gig” workforce that gives rise to skill diversification, collaboration, and an “eternally learning” perspective. This new trend is not only more suited for the needs of the knowledge economy, it is also a much more suited approach to Millennials.
By 2035, Millennials will represent about 75% of the workforce. Though they sometimes get a bad rap from the corporate world of being less loyal to employers, this tendency allows for more skill diversification on the job and upskilling between jobs. They also have different pursuits than the generations that precede them — namely, it is not all about the money. For Millennials, it is also about learning, creativity, community, and diversity — pursuits that are all enablers of the knowledge economy.
Ten to fifteen years ago, we could use the same statement above but replace the word “learning” with “technology.” This quote not only represents a significant semantic shift, but shows where we are headed in the future. Soon, tech companies will start calling themselves learning companies, CTO’s will be replaced by CLOs, and the most coveted skills will not be tech ones but “learning skills.” It will be common for VCs to state that they don’t invest in tech, but that they invest in learning, or knowledge companies. Put boldly, the word “technology” is now becoming a word of the industrial age — learning is becoming the new tech.
In light of this, it is critical that we become eternal learners to remain relevant— to choose the positive outlook for the future of our workforce, to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution and to maximize our human potential — for countless years to come.
Join us at Europe’s largest summit connecting the global learning community — EdTechXEurope, June 2019