How technology is shaping education’s present & future
By Sam Rucker
Many have been waiting for a revolution in education for years now. Some might say it is already happening.
TOA’s founder, Niko Woischnik, said in an interview a few months ago, “As a founder in the education space, this is something I am always looking at… It is clear that a lot of innovation is needed in education. The shelf life of skills is about 5 years, and yet we go to university only once in our lifetime? That doesn’t make sense.”
A phenomenon that is trying to make sense of this conundrum is “continuous learning”. The only issue is, it doesn’t seem to be solving the big problems fast enough.
New revolutions in tech, though, might hold some more answers.
Why does education need to change
A baby boomer’s job didn’t change an awful lot throughout their career. Back then, computers were borderline SciFi material.
Now, professionals need to adjust to ever-changing landscapes in countless areas from e-commerce and social media to online ads and search engines. Looking forward, the workforce will need to contend with stuff like AI, the metaverse, DeFi and more.
We all need to keep updating our skillsets, continuously.
For professionals, this means that a truncated education model is no longer viable. Only doing a multi-year degree at the beginning of your life will simply not be enough.
This is especially true when you take into consideration the fact that you’ll probably be working longer than your parents. In the U.S., for instance, the retirement age crept up from 63 to 66 between 2002 and 2012. Now, there’s talk of millennials having to work into their 70s
So how do you square longer work-life expectancy with faster-changing skill requirements? Enter continuous learning!
The evidence around continuous learning
Put simply, continuous learning is the process of learning new skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis.
This idea really gained traction a few years ago. That means we can now dissect some revealing data, to see how it’s going.
Here are some fun facts about continuous learning:
- In the U.S. 74% of the workforce has participated in continuous learning in the last 12 months. 63% of those do it for career advancement purposes.
- The top 5 countries that consider continuous learning for their career important are:
- China (91%)
- India (88%)
- Brazil (87%)
- Japan & The Netherlands (86%)
- The U.K. (84%)
- 42% of employees say they are likely to leave their job because they are not learning fast enough. On the other hand, 94% of employees say they would stay longer if they were offered more continuous learning.
- Ergo, this is not just a priority for workers. Their employers are also waking up and smelling the continuous learning. When it comes to funding online upskilling, 66% of employers think they’ll get a return on their investment these days.
But, pre-pandemic, numbers around continuous learning were not always so rosy.
How the commoditization of content impacted education
Commoditizing content for educational purposes is no longer a new idea.
Platforms have been leveraging Web2 innovations for quite a few years now — usually deploying YouTube or Zoom-like formats. Think Coursera, Udemy, or a variety of virtual seminars.
Nevertheless, its potential was only really fulfilled during COVID days, when we all started working from home. Online work and learning became normalized, making at-home (and therefore lifelong) education an easy fit with our everyday work life.
Coursera, for example, saw its enrollment skyrocket by 640% during the pandemic.
New projects like TOA’s Klub found great success in designing online programs to upskill talent and help them future-proof their careers.
In turn, this normalization of learning from home had an impact on employers’ perceptions:
Post-pandemic, at least 83.4% of employers thought online learning was “important”, particularly when it came to teaching employees how to work independently, use technology, and “stay on task”.
That being said, most of EdTech has so far used pretty standard technology to educate learners. There are, therefore, still shortfalls:
- It is still not a complete substitute for in-class learning. Interaction is possible but stunted with formats like Zoom calls.
- Learners are often passive and their curriculum is usually dictated to them.
- It is easy to falsify or lie about attending a course. This makes them less valuable.
So where does EdTech and continuous learning go from here?
Education 3.0: The Eduverse is open for business!
Many believe education is actually following the same trajectory as the web:
Whatever way you look at it, there are a lot of bright ideas around the future of learning, making it more powerful (and more continuous!)
So, here are three of the most future-orientated ideas out there:
1. The eduverse
As you might have guessed already, this idea combines the metaverse with the classroom. It allows everyone, everywhere to learn in a virtual classroom. This should make learning a lot more interactive.
Why is that important?
Proponents of the eduverse point to studies that show that more interactive learning is at least 1.5 times more effective than learning through lecturing (which is how most people learn through Coursera videos, for instance).
2. Boosting intelligence with Artificial Intelligence
One of the most exciting uses of future technology in education is Artificial Intelligence (AI). And there are a whole host of different ways it can be integrated.
AI-based virtual helpers can be used as sophisticated chatbots or avatars. They can be deployed to answer students’ questions.
This acts as a great support to the main educator (whilst costing less than an additional wage of an educator) and has also been proven to stimulate interactive learning — encouraging students “to think critically and engage in discussions”. Unlike human educators, AI assistants are also available 24/7.
Nersa Yannier, of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, has conducted controlled studies and has found that pupils using AI assistants were “able to understand underlying concepts”. Those without AI help found the learning didn’t “translate into the real world” as effectively.
System-supporting AI includes tools that help with the unglamorous, administrative side of educating: timetabling, finances, and recruitment. It could also help with the slightly more glamorous side: E.g. with the visualization and simulation of web-based study environments.
Intelligent tutoring systems are other AI tools that can choose quizzes and activities based on a learner’s history and how they have done with previous tasks. If a learner is still not progressing with a concept, they are given further assistance. If a learner has excelled at a topic, they can be moved onto the concept’s application or a new task altogether.
This offers the kind of mass individualization that most educators can only dream of.
Overall, AI in education could make continuous learning more effective, accessible, and cheaper!
3. Proof of learning
This concept pulls Web3 ideas into the world of education.
For example, university learning could be fractionalized. Instead of doing one or two multi-year degrees (that are usually too broad and don’t cover only what you’ll 100% need in your future career), you could earn mini credentials, only when they matter most. This would be true continuous learning.
In this future, NFTs could become the new diploma. An employer could then be absolutely certain whether or not you have completed a particular course. After all, blockchains never lie!
Web3 tech would therefore allow you to own a life-long portfolio, validating that knowledge on chain, in your wallet.
Not only would all of this make education more efficient, but more affordable. You would only pay for what you absolutely needed.
Overall, tech advances are making continuous learning simultaneously more sophisticated and accessible.
This will allow continuous learning to meet the tall orders of future work: a longer career with a demand for an increasingly adaptive skillset.
This is something TOA is truly passionate about.
TOA’s educational platform is investing in lifelong learning. Specifically, it is encouraging upskilling in Web3 and future innovation to stimulate new technological advances in areas like education. Check out TOA’s courses here!