How does future learning might look like?

The 21st century world is not compatible with the educational systems established in the previous century. Education must adapt to the 21st century by changing the approaches to teaching and learning, credentials and establishing a culture of lifelong learning.

The modern world is networked, multidisciplinary, and global. It requires dramatic changes in program design, content development, and delivery style. Future learning should embrace these requirements to prepare a new generation for the successful professional life.

In this post, we explore possible directions how learning should change to meet the challenges of our century. Some of these changes look achievable and practical, but some suggestions might sound very questionable at the moment, and it will require more time to understand, accept, and implement them.

“Flipped classrooms” – effective, achievable, and practical.

In my opinion, the “lecturing” culture should be diminished as soon as possible. I can see it during my classes, and I know that other teachers and lecturers are frustrated as well because we are not getting the response from the audience as expected. I have a feeling that after 15 minutes of a class time, students don’t hear us, their focus is on different things not related to the topics of studies. And it does not mean that students are careless and inattentive. It means that they can’t cope with the methods of teaching and learning we offer them.

Reports show that after attending the lecture, students can recall 5% of the information on average. Listening to the lectures has the lowest efficiency among other passive learning methods listed below:

  • Reading – the important and popular method of learning; learners can retain 10% of knowledge;
  • Watching video recording – this method is gaining popularity, and it helps to retain 20% of the knowledge;
  • Practical demos serve as illustrations how to perform certain activities, learners can remember significantly more– up to 30% of the information.

It looks like it is time to stop with the traditional lectures and move to a new learning approach called “flipped classrooms”. It means that initial learning should happen in “out-of-classroom” environment – online delivery using of the content supplemented by prerecorded lectures, demos, and short assessments.

Classes must be scheduled for individual mentoring, coaching, and feedback. During class time students can be involved in active learning: collaborative activities, team-based projects, practical sessions, and discussions. Active learning methods are more effective:

  • Group discussions help learners can retain up to 50% of the information;
  • Real life experience in the form of practical exercises and work placement is an effective learning method, and learners retain up to 75% of knowledge;
  • Teaching others based on personal real-life experiences is the most effective learning method which helps to retain up to 90% of knowledge.

Obviously, that passive learning alone does not produce great results. It is important to implement active learning methods during the scheduled classroom time. Active learning enhances knowledge about the subject of studies, and it also supports the development of communication, collaboration, and negotiation skills.

Giving students a chance to manage personal learning online is an important step which leads to a better time management skills and accountability for the learning success. The set of skills developed by applying flipped classroom method belong to the most important employability skills.

Moving from Academic Degrees to Microcredentials

The wonderful time when one degree served for the entire professional life is over. Dynamic and rapidly changing economic environment will require employees to study multiple skills from different professional areas. Skills and knowledge across multiple disciplines are already in high demand. Reports suggest that during professional life, employees will be learning 4-5 new skills from different areas.

The current trends are indicating that employers are not looking for the specific Academic degrees; they need people who have learned different skills by attending education and training courses and these courses can be considered as “microdegrees”. All these “microdegrees” can add up to a specific Academic Degree. It also indicates the importance of meaningful degrees with actual and modern skills and knowledge. Academic Degrees earned 30-40 years ago without evidence of regular upgrades have no value in the modern job market.

Employers value the students’ experience

Based on my observations, the majority of year 2 Bachelor’s degree students are having jobs. Employers are trying to get new employees with a very basic knowledge and help them to develop real-life practical skills required in the business environment. It seems that this is a popular approach taken by companies in developing the new workforce.

It also indicates that universities and colleges are not taking seriously enough the development of practical skills aligned with the industry needs and future trends. It is an absolute necessity for universities to expand learning opportunities beyond university lecturing halls and labs. Building a strong relationship with respective industries, involving industry professionals in conducting lectures and practical classes, allocation substantial time slots for work placement activities can prepare students for real work. Universities need to review and widen internship opportunities and consider them as a part of the learning process.

Do we really need grades?

It is a challenging question. We are so used to evaluate learners’ performance using certain grading systems. Does this way of evaluation serve as an encouragement? Not anymore. In most of the cases, it is not the indication of real achievements.

The countries with advanced education systems, the grading of student performance is done in the later stages of education. I am sure that these educational systems are taking care of developing real knowledge by providing opportunities for learning from the trials and errors without adding a pressure and stress on the learning process.

In the multidisciplinary world of education, the only proof of students’ hard work, dedication, and abilities are e-portfolios, which represent the collection of work accomplished by each student. These e-portfolios serve as an indication of student achievements and can be evaluated by faculty and industry panel on an annual basis.

What’s next?

In the next decade, the shape of educational institutions must change dramatically to accommodate requirements of the future learning. An important aspect of the quality of future education will depend on cooperation between industry and academic institution. Modern workforce needs to be focused on lifetime learning and skill upgrades to adapt to the rapid changes in professional areas.


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4 thoughts on “How does future learning might look like?”

  1. I agree that learning will take on a new direction in the future. Old methods are too outdates and ineffective. I can see how students only retain 5% of the content from a lecture v 30% from a practical demo. I do think that there is merit to move from a 3-4-5 year university degree to mico-mincredentials that are industry recognised and will help people update their skills and also be eligible for new jobs. I was just wondering if all learning will be online in the future or if we will still need the physical environment that a university offers?

    1. Thank you for the interesting comment. I do think that we will need universities but university will function on different principles. We will always have people who prefer face-to-face education. I expect it will be the minority. I hope that the best universities will stay to work on the course development, course enhancement, and course delivery. The huge responsibility is conducting a quality research. 

      Thank you again.

  2. Hi Nadja! I think you bring up a lot of excellent points. I taught high school science for a few years before becoming a stay at home dad. There definitely needs to be some sort of drastic change to the system in order for students to flourish. Unfortunately teachers get overwhelmed by having to teach to standards and state testing.

    The school I was teaching at made a transition to a project based learning (PBL) model. PBL puts the focus on collaboration and student accountability versus your typical grading. I agree completely that grading, in essence, is useless. Students become so attached to the idea of grades that they lose sight of what the whole purpose of instruction. The most common questions I got from students were all grade-related, “What do I need to do to pass?”, “Why did I get this grade instead of that?”. Very rarely did someone actually concern themselves with learning the consent for the sake of actually retaining that information.

    I wish changes you suggest were simple to carry out! Hopefully as time goes by and more schools transition to updated styles things will start to look up. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thank you for the valuable input. I agree, the existing grading does not have positive impact on students’ learning and attitude. Sometimes, I got the feeling that students are hunting for higher marks. I hope things will change – actually, it is an urgent necessity.

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