Ubiquitous connectivity and the resulting consumer expectation of receiving anything, anytime and anywhere, have fueled the rise of online learning in corporations. This is a win-win, as employees are able to reskill and upskill while companies benefit from these new competencies without suffering the usual downtime associated with traditional in-person training experiences. With corporate online learning becoming the norm, edX considers what is on the horizon.
Self-Selected Employee Learning
As technology continues to evolve and people both live and work longer, corporate learning will need to accommodate the twists and turns of evolving career paths. EdX expects to see more companies giving employees the flexibility to self-determine their learning pathways as they build an array of skill sets to meet changing company and market demands. Organizations are discovering that allowing employee self determination in corporate training programs actually can drive engagement and completion. Further, employees are not “gaming the system” by taking frivolous courses on the company’s dime. Rather, edX is seeing that corporate learners overwhelmingly use the opportunity to invest in those skills that have been identified as having value to employers. A recent edX survey reports that 71% percent of online learners who hold program certificates (MicroMasters® programs and Professional Certificates programs) began the course of learning specifically to develop new skill sets that can be applied to their careers.
Soft Skills >> Power Skills
Soft skills, such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking, will remain “must haves” for employees at every level. At the same time, the definition of soft skills will evolve to include a broader set of power skills integral to any high-functioning organization, including emotional intelligence and empathy. And companies increasingly will be talking about essential-yet-indefinable qualities such as grit, determination and the ability to fail fast and bounce back quickly. As the pace of technology advances, so will the need for capabilities around big thinking, innovation and agility - qualities which will become invaluable among the workforce giving companies that invest in soft skills training for employees a distinct competitive advantage.
Gaining Real-World Experience
Foundational learning will continue to be important, but learners and their sponsoring companies will expect programs also to include opportunities to apply learning in a real-world context. For example, edX’s Cybersecurity MicroMasters program from RITx includes a capstone project where learners can access the university's supercomputers to solve an actual cyber crime. This gives the employee both theoretical understanding and hands-on, practical knowledge that immediately can be applied for the benefit of the learning experience and the company.
Seeing the Big Picture
Companies increasingly will be looking among their ranks for the next innovations, big ideas, process improvements and and other “tweaks”, great and small, to gain an advantage and move the needle forward. Employees need to be connected with a larger vision beyond what happens within the confines of the company. As such, organizations are investing more and more not just in job-related technical skills and soft skills to create more productive environments but also those that provide context and learning at a higher level and which can then be applied to the corporate strategy. This is especially valuable in workers early in their careers or in junior positions who may lack this broader perspective. Survey programs and courses in science, economics, sustainable development and social sciences help to develop well-rounded employees, able to contribute both macro- and micro-perspectives to forward the organization’s objectives.
Creating a Common Credential Currency
Lifelong learning will be the new normal as workers follow evolving career paths. As workers collect certificates, badges and other signifiers of learning, this will necessitate the development of credentials that carry across organizational boundaries and industry verticals and are recognized internationally. There is a wide chasm between just-in-time learning that anyone can get (and quickly forget) from a web search and certifications that represent a level of rigor and deep learning. Credential currency will need to be established and attached to the latter so that an organization can know with confidence that an employee has acquired the skills critical to business. This clear, common “currency” will also allow for faster and easier recruiting and level setting internally for skills and career development.