Why a learning-integrated life is important amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

Why a learning-integrated life is important amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

e27.co·407 views·2020-04-07 11:18

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As modern technology barrels on through the 4th Industrial Revolution, the landscape of our industries, labour markets and overall lifestyles are transforming faster than ever. By 2030, up to 375 million workers across the global workforce — 14 per cent of all workers — may need to change occupations and learn new skills by 2030.

There is plenty of talk about what jobs will and won’t exist by the next decade, but one thing is certain: in order to prepare themselves for the jobs of tomorrow, the workforce of today must become lifelong learners. 

Yet, there is little consensus on what lifelong learning is; for all the buzz around the term, it is vague at best, and obfuscating at worst. For there to be practical solutions, we need to move the debate beyond questions about ‘what is’ to questions of ‘how to’.

That’s why, at D2L, we believe that the future will demand a “Learning-Integrated Life” — making the key question: ‘How do we live a learning-integrated life?’ 

What do we need to live a learning-integrated life

In a learning-integrated life, individuals are always in a learning mindset. Where traditional systems currently break life down into distinct stages of classroom learning, work, then retirement, in a learning-integrated life, learning is a continual journey that extends past compulsory education, into the individual’s working career, and beyond.

The learner is self-motivated, choosing to engage in intentional learning, upskilling, and retraining for both their professional development and personal enrichment. 

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Yet, while it is important that the learner takes the initiative in seeking out and seizing learning opportunities, the onus does not rest solely on the individual.

For that continual journey to be possible, they must be exposed to ongoing and intensive opportunities for learning and skills development throughout their lives.

And, that would require the establishment of a system that places the motivated learner at its core, supporting the learning individual throughout all stages of their life.  

This, unfortunately, is far from a common system in today’s global society. For many, learning stops when schooling ends. Meanwhile, those who actively seek learning opportunities while in the workforce, find themselves stumbling their way through a complex and fragmented system, enrolling themselves in courses that are time-consuming, expensive, and — where their credentials are not recognised — with no clear return on investment.

And, employers who do try to support their employees’ enrichment are limited by the capacity of their human resources team, and often restrict the training available to skills that are most needed by the employer or compliance training, rather than new skills or development.

Building an educational ecosystem that supports a learning-integrated life

The current COVID-19 crisis has revealed the tremendous need for reform in our educational systems. Worldwide, school and university closures have affected more than 776.7 million students worldwide.

With lessons forced out of the classroom, educators are seeing a breakdown in the traditional systems of learning — many find themselves having to quickly adapt to online, remote methods of teaching and learning.

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Yet, this digital imperative has also cast into view inequities in the education space, as not every student has access to the tools needed for online learning. Education can be a great equalizer if inclusive, but in its current state, it widens gaps instead.

For a learning-integrated life to be possible for everyone, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we — that is to say, individuals, education systems, employers and governments — view learning.

To create a system where individuals have the opportunity to access valuable learning that enables their enrichment and employability throughout their life. We have to move away from traditional classroom learning that grants credentials based on seat time. We need to establish a new norm that acknowledges and values non-traditional systems.

We must look towards more flexible, affordable and accessible pedagogical models, with entry and exit points based on skills, experience, and abilities. This can include short-term or modular programs; stackable credentials; skills validation for experience picked up on the job; and greater use of self-directed and online learning — and these only just scratch the surface. 

These are big changes, involving policies and value systems, but every big change must start somewhere small. For those looking to reform the system and create an educational ecosystem that supports a learning integrated life — from educators to edtech innovators, to governments — there are a number of practical principles that can guide their direction.

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To understand and create that path, we must seek answers to the following questions:Is this system you’ve envisioned affordable and accessible for all learners?There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to an individual’s learning pathway. Is this system high-quality, personalised and flexible?Does it incentivise learning, motivating learners and promoting a “continual learning culture”?Does it use data to help learners chart their unique pathway, by keeping them informed about which options are most appropriate to their community and have value in the job market?Does it use new and scalable digital tools to enhance learning — with educator and learner analytics, personalisation at scale, improved success rates and greater cost-effectiveness?Is it consistently assessed against learning outcomes — learner progress and skills development — rather than seat times?Is it responsive, with the ability to adapt to the evolution of learner demands, employer needs, and workforce trends?

We all have a stake in increasing the availability and access to quality opportunities for learning. If you’re looking to learn more about the future of work and learning in 2020 and beyond, download our whitepaper here.  

Register for our next webinar: Best practices for communications during the COVID-19 crisis

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Image credit: NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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