The Future of Workplace Learning is Modular

Article6 min read

February 17, 2020

Digitization and automation continue to rapidly transform the needs of today’s workforce. Your employees feel pressure to keep up, but continuously updating, diversifying, and building new skill sets is daunting and counters the traditional mental model of education.

The pace of change is faster than ever while the skill sets that set companies and workers apart increasingly cannot be obtained through a traditional degree or career path. Instead, today’s fastest-growing, most automation-resistant, and in-demand roles feature combinations of skills that never used to be found in the same job; they’re hybrid.

According to the Hybrid Job Economy Report from Burning Glass Technologies, fully one-quarter of all occupations in the U.S. economy show strong signs of hybridization.

“The most profound—and under-appreciated—trend in today’s labor market is how technology is mutating jobs into new, unexpected hybrid jobs… roles are being transformed by skills from unrelated functions workers aren’t likely to have picked up on the job. The marketing manager who now needs to build a customer database will need to be purposeful about learning SQL,” the report reads.

Since these future-ready hybrid skills are not gained through traditional degree programs or learning paths, a new model is required to meet the needs of today’s worker. Companies across industries are turning to modular learning approaches as a solution in delivering this purposeful, nonlinear education.

What is Modular Learning?

Modular learning breaks apart traditional degrees and rebuilds them as non-linear, modular career and education pathways. Without the constraints of a full degree, professionals are able to gain tangible skills and credentials much faster and can easily combine courses and programs across disciplines that provide the skills most impactful for their path and organization.

Partnering with organizations like edX, higher education institutions are using massive open online courses (MOOCs) as one a vehicle through which to deliver modular credentials and degrees. Employees can work through completely online Lego-like building blocks of learning, each with their own credentials and skills outcomes, that are designed to develop skills in a way that’s retainable, transferable, and ultimately transformational for the organization.

“The latest teaching and learning research shows that learning online often results in similar or better outcomes than the traditional classroom setting because of its flexibility, personalized pacing and instant feedback, all based on the latest in cognitive science learning,” said edX founder and CEO Anant Agarwal in an article for Forbes.

The Value of Modular Learning

Built for the Modern Worker and Workplace

This style of learning is built to fit into the modern worker’s day, and edX For Business data demonstrates that there is a statistically significant positive relationship between workday learning and course completion rates.

But learning doesn’t have to consume a lot of time and eat away at worker productivity. In fact, allowing and encouraging your employees to take just a few minutes to engage, apply, and discuss goes a long way in cementing learning. It also provides an immediate application and learning in context.

Learn more about how you can support workday learning opportunities.

Immediate and Incremental Value

Modular education reduces the cycle time of learning, making it easier to gain tangible skills and value faster than through a full traditional degree. Working professionals are able to learn new skills in shorter amounts of time, while they work, and those seeking a degree are able to do so in a much more attainable way.

For example, edX’s MicroBachelors® programs are the only path to a bachelor’s degree that makes learners job-ready today and credentialed along the way. Each program comes with real, transferable college credit from one of edX’s university credit partners. Learners can combine previous credit they may have already collected or plan to get in the future with the MicroBachelors credential and put themselves on a path to earning a full bachelor’s degree.

Customized, Hybrid Skill Sets

The fastest-growing fields often lie at the intersection of two seemingly unrelated professions— for example, while data science skills are increasingly valuable, a data scientist often also needs a strong working background in the industry in which they are embedded. This requires a unique hybrid skill set that can be a challenge to teach in a traditional education setting.

Modular learning content allows employees to tailor education to the skills your organization needs to grow and compete. Augment education with a specialized credential or portion of a degree in data science, or more easily combine humanities skills with tech skills, communication skills with coding skills, analytical skills with design skills, and so on.

Driving a Culture of Learning

Modular learning enables workers to keep up with the specific skills they need without disrupting their work or lives. Approaching learning in smaller chunks fits and fuels the mindset that learning doesn’t end after traditional schooling; it’s integral to supporting a modern workforce. More and more, employers are offering holistic, continuous routes for employees to learn in technical skill areas as well as power skill areas like writing, public speaking, and teamwork.

“Lifelong learning [goes] beyond traditional degree structures in order to offer more targeted non-degreed certificates that enable tens of millions of workers the ability to acquire on the fly the skills that are hybridizing their jobs,” the Hybrid Jobs Report reads.

“The theme of “lifelong learning” is perhaps the biggest finding of the study. If you aren’t spending a few hours a week “sharpening the saw” in your career toolbox, you are likely falling behind. I just completed a study with LinkedIn, and we found the No. 1 thing that would make a professional look for a new job is “inability to learn and grow.” We as employers and as employees must make sure continuous learning is part of the work environment.”

Build a Culture of Modular Learning

Modular learning is the foundation of all the programs available on edX. Learn more about how you can leverage edX’s modular learning programs to skill your workforce in today’s most future ready, fastest-growing subject areas.

“Modular and stackable education is foundational to achieving our mission of increasing access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere,” Agarwal said. “We envision a world where universities and corporations work together with us to reimagine education in a way that transforms the lives of global citizens and positively impacts the generations to come.”

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

Related Resources

Related Topics: