From the battle to ensure girls in Afghanistan have a right to education, to the launch of Harvard’s and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Edx platform back in 2012 , initiatives to broaden access to education have been motivated by a belief that education is an enabler of social mobility and a catalyst for positive societal change. Today education is increasingly considered to be a basic human right .
The impact of learning on individuals can be seen in example after example of transformed opportunity and prospects. The return on investment for business is also clear, with an increasing number of employers recognising that a failure to develop the skills of their workforce is a failure to future proof their business.
Employers continue to complain of skill shortages and productivity challenges in the workforce are a very real inhibitor to economic growth and business success. Even the AI revolution is likely to just further accelerate the need for new skills, delivered even faster. Yet the lack of access to good education for the majority of the global population is still a present reality .
Education maybe accepted as an essential human need, but the opportunity remains to improve the quality of educational experience and to increase access to genuinely impactful learning.
Tech driven change – but we’re still human
Technology driven and AI based platforms offer a tantalising opportunity to democratise access to learning further, but the big danger is that they fail to deliver learning impact. Many major education initiatives over the last decade have delivered minimal impact, despite significant sponsorship , because the technology became the focus rather than the learner.
In the UK many education providers either lack technology capabilities or have an innate fear of change from teaching methods that have worked in the past. Universities struggle to agree their policies for Generative AI and continue to struggle to connect with the rapidly changing needs of industry . Global online content providers battle to improve their very low course completion rates but make little progress.
The way in which people access learning is clearly changing, but keeping people at the centre of the learning experience is key to future success.
Learner data and independent surveys indicate that the vast majority of people prefer to learn with others rather than alone. The world will continue to change but tomorrows education providers will need the capability and expertise to curate programmes that merge tech with human connection and carefully balance the economic benefits of digital with the effectiveness of in person interaction.
Impact – essential measures
The expectations of education providers are rising in our consumer driven world. Both employers and learners want education providers to deliver an impactful learning experience that develops useful new skills and capabilities. A tick box approach to learning is not enough. Education needs to deliver on its promise of improved employability, productivity and social mobility.
We all know that we generally improve what we measure. Therefore, building impact measures into future programmes is critical. This a good example of how technology can be harnessed to enhance learning outcomes. Using individualised tools to support initial assessment, building in ongoing assessment into programmes and where possible independently assessing outcomes are key ways in which impact can be consistently measured.
Integrating meaningful social, business and economic impact measures into learning programmes will be key to convincing stakeholders that education is a positive investment and to ensure learning models can continuing been enhanced and improved.
Education has a proven impact on the lives of individuals, the performance of companies and the growth of economies . And technology should only make that impact bigger. Yet there are still too many stories of poor provision and too much educational practice stuck in the past.
This provides a backdrop of significant opportunity for a range of stakeholders to build progressive education platforms, programmes and companies that deliver an even better future for learning and in a way that is more impactful and efficient.
Many people who work in the sector see it as a vocation and are passionate to see the sector thrive and deliver more for students. Harnessing this committed workforce and supporting them to embrace and effectively utilise new tech/AI will unlock the potential of the education sector to have a growing impact.
Education is undoubtedly a wonderful sector in which to work, invest and contribute. For those seeking to build learning and education businesses, the future will require us to find more ways to bring together best in sector capabilities, encouraging collaboration, not just competition.
Future success will involve building scale to support proper investment in technology and methodology. It will require the development of human-centric learning solutions that give people the skills they need to perform in a fast-changing world.
Finally, the lesson from the last decade is that we must be relentless in focusing on delivering and measuring the impact of our education solutions and ensure learners remain at the very centre of our exciting future world.
A call for immediate return to school for all girls and women in Afghanistan! – Global Campaign for Education
edX – Wikipedia
Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations Article 26
Skills and labour shortages – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)
How will reforms to England’s skill system affect productivity? – The Productivity Institute
Right to Education : Situation around the world – Humanium
Why Most Ed Tech Fails (insidehighered.com)
GPT-4 is here. But most faculty lack AI policies. (insidehighered.com)
We must solve the HE-industry disconnect| THE Campus Learn, Share, Connect (timeshighereducation.com)
Why the completion rate for online courses are so low | LinkedIn
How Education and Training Affect the Economy (investopedia.com)