Udacity Education Innovation In The Digital Age

In a recent article from The HR Director entitled The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Heico Sandee of Smart Robotics writes the following:

Emerging technology in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing are all combining to drive a change across a range of industries, and this Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking the digital age to the next level.

We have been in a “digital age” for some time now, and that isn’t changing, but as technology’s ever-accelerating pace continues to power innovations both transformative and disruptive, the pressure on us all to adapt gets more intense.

We must now embrace growth-mindsets, and become lifelong learners. Our learning institutions must restructure to support this. Employers must become active partners and participants in this process. Our governments and elected leaders must facilitate and incentivize this process.

Our Biggest Challenge In The Digital Age

I discovered this article because Udacity is mentioned: John Kasich opens up on Trump’s first 100 days, major divides in American politics, and his political future. But that’s neither why I read it, nor why I was happy I had done so. I read the article because in it, John Kasich asks this question:

Our biggest challenge in this digital age that we are entering is how do we effectively begin to train people for the jobs that are going to exist and not have them be stuck on jobs that are going to go away?

This is such a critical question, and I was happy to see it being raised. I was especially happy to see it being raised by a politician. John Kasich was being interviewed by Allan Smith for Business Insider, and at one point in the interview, Smith asks Kasich the following:

What do you make of the certain sectors that President Trump has sort of focused his job-related capital on? He’s definitely made a beeline on focusing on the manufacturing sector, and, additionally, he’s really taken an interest in the coal industry, which, being from the Midwest, we both know is not what it once was. And there are other industries like natural gas that are coming along and replacing a lot of it. What do you make of all that?

Kasich’s response? You saw the first part of it above. Here’s the complete quote:

Our biggest challenge in this digital age that we are entering is how do we effectively begin to train people for the jobs that are going to exist and not have them be stuck on jobs that are going to go away? And this is a big deal. And it requires the businesses of this country to, in my opinion, first of all, demand changes in the education system and also develop innovative, creative ways to have industries train people for the skills that are necessary for the jobs that are coming. So I’m a big believer in companies like Udacity, you know, but Udacity is one company like that, but we need competency-based education.

Kasich doesn’t stop there. He goes on to provide a use case that effectively demonstrates how this kind of transformation can take place in virtually any industry:

Look, I just called a couple of guys in the insurance industry. I want them to put curriculum online that people can take at their own speed and their own time, in their own home or the library, and take the curriculum, pass it, and be guaranteed a job interview in areas like basic insurance business. Because there’s going to be a lot of change. Now, I hope I can get the insurance industry to develop a curriculum and do that. That’s where this has to go in my opinion.

The Roles of Learners, Learning Institutions, and Employers

When exploring the ecosystem within which learning and working co-exist, we can see three key players in the space:

  1. Learners
  2. Learning institutions
  3. Employers

Successful and dynamic symbiosis within this space requires that all three players recognize and fulfill certain obligations:

  • Learners must actively engage in productive, effective, meaningful learning that is ongoing; in short, they must become lifelong learners.
  • Learning institutions must deliver relevant, engaging, accessible content that equips aspiring learners with the skills that matter to employers, and they must be structured to do this on an ongoing basis, so they can effectively support lifelong learners.
  • Employers must work directly with learning institutions to ensure that curriculum is consistently aligned with their needs, and support the development of this curriculum as necessary. Employers must in turn provide meaningful opportunities for those learners that do successfully master the skills that employers have established as being valued, and valuable.

When learners learn from learning institutions that teach what employers need taught, learners get hired, and employers succeed. In this construct, learning institutions function as the connective tissue. We are a partner to learners, and a partner to industry.

Adaption In The Digital Age

The fourth player in this ecosystem is technology. Technology is sort of like the ecosystem’s climate. When the weather changes, the ecosystem must adapt. Right now, we are experiencing significant changes in the technological climate of our ecosystem. This is why Kasich’s question is such an important one:

Our biggest challenge in this digital age that we are entering is how do we effectively begin to train people for the jobs that are going to exist and not have them be stuck on jobs that are going to go away?

In short, how do we adapt?

Mr. Kasich states that he is a big believer in companies like Udacity, I too am a big believer in Udacity. I believe we can help. I believe we are helping. That’s why I’m here. Because I believe innovation in education is how we’ll successfully adapt in the digital age.

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