Originally published on 2U's The Latest blog.
The future is unknown—there’s been no better lesson than the pandemic to teach us that. But within this inexorable truth, what we’ve learned over the past two years is that the worlds of work and education are incredibly resilient and adaptable. They’re capable of not only weathering great change but also embracing new ideas that challenge the status quo to meet the ever-changing demands of the future. These worlds are also more interconnected than ever.
The level of flexibility needed to navigate today’s unknowns is fueling a more skills-driven workforce, and those skills continue to be shaped and defined by a high-speed, technology-driven economy. At edX, we’ve seen demand rise for more modular, stackable, and affordable learning options—such as innovative boot camp credit waivers and credit-backed MicroBachelors® programs—that empower individuals with the tools they need to establish rewarding careers and pivot to whatever comes next.
We have also witnessed firsthand the powerful impact that university-industry partnerships can have on learner outcomes, as well as rigorous high-quality curricula that’s intentionally designed to align with workforce needs and continually adapt to the latest tech skills and job trends. By working more closely and collaboratively together, we’re better positioned to deliver educational solutions that drive societal impact and superior value for learners at scale, while helping universities and businesses strengthen their institutional vitality for the digital age.
As we move forward in 2022 on the path to new frontiers and possibilities, we asked three of our corporate partners from the technology, business, and finance realms—IBM, The Linux Foundation, and World Bank Group—to share with us what the future of work and education looks like to them. They drew connections further emphasizing that these worlds are not mutually exclusive, and that we’re mission-aligned in understanding what it will take to meet tomorrow’s demands.
Here are their predictions and perspectives.
From IBM Skills Network: Leon Katsnelson, CTO and Director
In his 2016 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos wrote, “If you fight powerful trends, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them, and you have a tailwind.” The trends affecting higher education today are lifelong learning and job-ready skills. These trends will redefine the role of universities, and for those who embrace them, they will no doubt offer great new opportunities.
With the current dizzying pace of technology evolution, universities can no longer be expected to equip students with the knowledge lasting a lifelong career. When training a medical doctor, universities provide in-depth knowledge of human anatomy. This knowledge will serve graduates their entire careers. AI engineers, on the other hand, may find their skills in need of an update soon after graduation.
Today, employers are not satisfied with foundational knowledge alone; they demand job-ready skills. Satisfying this demand is not something universities can attempt on their own. What holds promise is a trend of university-industry partnerships, especially partnerships focused on continuing education and skills development, backed up by certificates and micro-credentials. These types of partnerships are quickly becoming the tool of choice for many universities willing to embrace these powerful trends.
From The Linux Foundation: Clyde Seepersad, SVP and General Manager, Training and Certification
Digital transformation was driven into overdrive by the pandemic. Yet there remains huge amounts of technical debt within organizations around the world. It will take a major effort to lift and shift legacy systems into the cloud. We need more individuals with expertise in cloud technologies to make this happen, and we need them ASAP.
However, knowing how to deploy and maintain a cloud instance isn't enough. DevOps has become the standard methodology for building, deploying, and administering software, so no matter what role you fill, DevOps will be critical. We'll also see demand for skills with emerging technologies, from AI to blockchain to edge computing, continue to grow.
When it comes to the future of education, we're already seeing the rapid migration to remote methods, and that is not going to slow even as the pandemic wanes. People want the option to learn anywhere, anytime. They also want options in how remote learning works. This means not only increasing the number of courses and platforms they can be taken on, but also having options for watching videos, reading or listening to lessons (including in different languages, like Spanish), and performing hands-on tasks. Online learning will continue to displace in-person education, which will require innovation for many subjects that require students to do activities live rather than simply listening to a lesson.
From World Bank: Sheila Jagannathan, Head of Open Learning Campus
The coming together of COVID-19, the massive skilling challenges generated by the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the youth bulge have compelled the world to reimagine their education models quickly. Innovators like edX are taking edtech and the accompanying novel pedagogies to the next level to raise the quality, equity, effectiveness, and resilience of learning.
Learning is key to solving complex global development challenges such as climate change, fragility, gender equality, and building back better after COVID-19. Digital learning and teaching tools are reshaping the educational landscape to meet the new challenges of closing the skills gap and helping upskill and reskill at scale. It is no longer a question of whether digital learning is a viable option, but rather of how do we go about the transformation—and how soon can we get started?