Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Half an Hour, Oct 08, 2019

 

To look at the future it's helpful to understand the present and where we've been in the past. It's 20 years since D2L started - it has been a bit of a blur.

20 years ago - was a time of optimism and stability, Compared to today, which is an age of anxiety and opportunity.

In 1999 people saw the internet as a way of creating access. But you still had to han in assignments in person, and computers were accessed only from a lab. Distance eduction was on casette tapes, with assignments mailed in through the post office. Online learning was a tough sell in those days. But I also received a letter from northern Canada back then, thanking a client for the opportunity to learn.

Today. These are anxious times. Students are spending more time on homework and in theclassroom than they did 20 years ago. There's a lot of stress and depression. What are we going to do about all of this? How do we help people make sense of their place in the world, and to thrive in it? But we're adaptive and changing - this is a time of great innovation. This inspires me. And you keep finding new ways to improve learning for the better.

World Economic Forum says the life expectancy of a skill is about five years. If skill development doesn't keep up with new tech, we stand to lost a potential of $11 of opportunity.

The most durable skills of the future - the soft skills - are the most human. Empathy, creativity, critical thinking. We use technology to support these every day. And new pedagogies.

The future: the next 20 years. This is the tricky part.

The next few decades will be an age of opportunities and discoveries. For D2L, creating a global learning community of engaged learners is our passion. Trends:

- the rise of global learning - we're not going to build brick and mortar schools fast enough to keep up with the demand for education. Example of India. It was hard to think that way 20 years ago.

- re-imaging the definition of study - where the classroom definition of 'settled knowledge' (the 'factual knowledge' we all agree to) gives way to study. The world 'study' used to mean having zeal and passion. Mental effort, attentive, careful. Something has been lost in the translation over the ages. As a paradox - they key to unlocking that new/old meaning of 'study' is technology. Let machines do the routine, and we can reimagine study.

- the future of work - the pace of transformation will be breath-taking. It's our job to prepare learners for that world and keep them learning for life. In studies of Canada, we're taking about 3.6 million jobs being impacted. We need to provide a seamless work and learning experience. And we'll need a common language between industry and universities. Learning is going to have to be nimble and agile. We need to break down the walls that separate us.

Last year: I shared a list of 9 types of work-integrated learning. Today we have a commitment from government to make sure student are exposed to at least one of these. That's what it's all about: we can't just prepare our students for the jobs of today.

I see progress. I see new initiatives, new partnerships. Example: FedEx has having 92% turnover on key frontline roles. Tuition rebate didn't help - only 3% took them up on that. They couldn't afford fees up front, they couldn't take time, and entrance exams were a challenge. But then they developed a program called LiFE (Learning Inspired by FedEx) at University of Memphis.

None of use can do this alone. We need to work together.

Mentions

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, - From Anxiety to Opportunity - The next 20 years of learning innovation, Feb 13, 2020


Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Oct 23, 2020 11:10 a.m.