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Lifelong learning, the constant acquisition of knowledge and skills, is seeing explosive interest today. As the internet becomes more ubiquitous and digital solutions extend learning beyond physical classrooms, the potential for lifelong learning has grown dramatically.
Below are five things you might not know about lifelong learning today.
- The explosion in lifelong learning initiatives has transformed the relationship between “just in time” and “just in case” learning.
As introduced in the book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, “just in time” learning refers to learning necessary for a specific goal — vocational, technical, and professional education, often associated with self-teaching and informal learning (last minute googling or reading of an instruction manual or popular blog). “Just in case” learning refers to learning for learning’s sake, e.g., a liberal arts education which is generally associated with deep, structural knowledge and analytical activity facilitated by an authority figure. As I argue in my piece, “The Myth of Education’s Golden Past,” these two types of learning were previously seen as disparate (think of the way students are often “tracked” in high school), but we are now seeing the two types of education fuse and transform one another.
More and more institutions that previously offered only liberal arts education are broadening their curricula and putting increased emphasis on technical skill. At my alma mater, Dartmouth, for instance, classes that train students in Excel, HTML, and web development have become important offerings, alongside courses in classics and literature. What used to be relegated to “learning on the job” is now worthy of formalized study. Tool manipulation and an instinct for software and information architecture is now a highly desirable trait in employees across all types of work.
At the same time, “just in case” learning that we usually associate with musty libraries, heavy textbooks, and 3-hour lectures, have increasingly taken on the texture of “just in time” learning. Computerized adaptive learning and mobile and tablet technology have allowed students to learn on-the-go or at a specific point of need (when they are stuck on a homework question, for instance, and look up a concept on YouTube). Internet browsing and social media tools, which we generally associate with frivolous activity, can now also be used to discover new cultural works, explore one’s tastes, showcase them and connect to others who share similar interests. From Artsy to Goodreads, startup after startup has provided recommendation engines and curation mechanisms for cultural works such as literature, film, and visual art. In this way, tech has fueled a momentum for intellectual activity outside of school.
- SPOCS, as well as MOOCS, are having a transformative effect on education.
It is easy to see why people have been so excited about MOOCs in the past few years. Education has always had an access problem, and MOOCs represent an opportunity for students to access educational experiences from top-tier universities for the first time. What people don’t realize about MOOCs is that their main value-add may lie in serving as a lead-generation mechanism for for-credit, for-fee courses provided by institutions, sometimes referred to as “small private online courses” (SPOCS). (Read more in this free e-book).
Though MOOCs are getting a large portion of the edtech spotlight, high production value, for-credit online courses will play a central role in the ongoing educational revolution as well.
- New companies can help students use their learning in the real world.
With Degreed, for example, users get tools to help them “track, organize, share, and validate” everything learned, including formal, informal, and experiential education.
Flinja matches supply and demand in the project-based freelance market. Through freelance work, “students and recent alumni can get the real-life experience they need to succeed in their job search” while companies can fulfill real-time need for talent.
ModernGuild is a network of industry professionals that provides 1-on-1 online tutoring programs to help students maximize their college experience and find a satisfying career.
- Lifelong learning isn’t just about increasing income. It is also about strengthening our communities.
Educating just a single person can have a ripple effect on an entire community. People often transfer their learning to those around them — their families, the organizations in which they work, and their communities at large. Did you know, for instance, that forty-three percent of people age 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree volunteered in their community in 2012?
- Given the proliferation of educational apps, edtech infrastructure has become increasingly important.
Those who aren’t familiar with the industry tend to conflate instructional design, content development, learning management systems, and infrastructure together, but each of these areas is actually quite different. As edtech evolves as an industry, each of these areas has become more specialized, with greater capabilities and more intricacies. Content, for instance, spans everything from basic rich media to augmented reality. Solid infrastructure helps lay the groundwork for innovation by allowing each area to focus and specialize.
Within the adaptive learning industry, a shared infrastructure can benefit all existing educational apps by providing them with unlimited back-end content, granular and highly accurate student proficiency data, robust analytics, and more. As our COO David Liu explains in his post, How A Shared Infrastructure Benefits Learners, Knewton’s infrastructure helps support all the innovation in the edtech space by “allowing others to focus on their core competencies (content development, user experience, pedagogy, distribution) while providing proficiency-data-driven personalization to students.” In other words, Knewton is an infrastructure platform that consolidates data science, statistics, psychometrics, content graphing, and tagging in one place and allows for the consolidation and pooling of student proficiency data. The result is that every product built using the Knewton platform gets stronger over time as more features and more data are added to the system.
How does this ultimately benefit learners? Knewton powered apps can allow students to start courses “warm” by connecting their learning history to every app, so that it provides the exact learning experience at the exact time at which it is needed. This way, learning experiences have a deeper sense of continuity and are more seamless than ever before.