Future of Work & Learning

Amit Goyal, Country Head, edXIt’s that time of the year when everyone is excited about their annual reviews – appraisals and bonuses. Employees often have a love-hate relationship with their boss. But can you imagine reporting to a Robot? A Robot deciding your efficiency and relevance in the organization? That’s right, numerous reports have cited that 50 percent of the jobs that exist today will be lost to AI, Automation and Robotics by 2030.

As alarming as it may sound, but hasn’t the work has always changed or rather evolved? For instance, machine input has evolved from type to touch to voice command and now artificial and emotional intelligence to predict your input? Think of that electronics repair shop in your neighbourhood at which you might have queued-up at some point of time to repair your Radio or those bulky CRT Televisions? The same electrician was nudged to work on CRT Televisions to Plasma to LEDs and soon Foldable screens. However, this time the pace of business disruption is faster than ever. There is going to be a 2000 percent increase in business & technology transformation over next five years as compared to what happened in last 20 years. The real challenge ahead for individuals & organizations is – are we geared-up to adapt the change at this pace?

At work, the retirement age is shrinking to 65-50 and very soon 30-35 years? Our college learning depletes or is deemed almost fully irrelevant within 7-8 years. Imagine the relevance of last technology that you learnt in college in today’s world. While COBOL or C or Excel may still be the elementary foundation of some technologies today, but the world has evolved to Python & R and much more. Continuous learning is the mantra for success today. The real anecdote for continues learning seems to be ‘In-demand Learning on-demand,’ i.e., acquire relevant skills at your own pace and convenience.
This sudden change in learning requirements has forced the traditional universities to change their business model. Students and working professionals are gradually moving away from the notion of bundled education. They no longer want to spend 3-5 years of their life in a classroom to acquire a bundled skill or degree of which only a small fraction will be of relevance to them at the work front. To match the in-demand and on-demand learning needs these universities are gradually shifting to popular MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platforms like edX that defines future of learning as:

a) Modular
b) Omni-channel
c) Lifelong

a) Modular Learning: In cricket world, the interest from Test Matches evolved to One Day and now T-20. Similarly, in Education, the students should have the choice to create their own degrees, i.e., bundle their own semesters. Instead of spending four years in a B.Tech and further two years for an MBA, one can just take a semester worth of course in Artificial Intelligence or Data Science from a university on a MOOC platform like edX and label this credential as a MicroMasters or a MicroBachelors degree. These credentials can be taken completely online, costs a tiny fraction of an on-campus semester worth of course, and are also credit backed, i.e., they lead to an on-campus degree pathways. Students who are still at college are now bundling taking these MicroMasters so they’re not just a B.Tech when they graduate, but a B.Tech with a MicroMasters in Machine Learning from a top university of the world.

b) Omni-Channel Learning: Just how traditional businesses have evolved from Brick & Mortar shops to online retailchannels, Education is no longer confined to on-campus classrooms. Learners can now complete a part of their degree online, gain practical knowledge at work through internship, and complete remaining semester online and university awards them a complete degree. Students now have the flexibility to learn not just in classrooms, but through their mobile or laptop at home, or at work.

c) Life-long Learning: If you spot a 40-year-old man at a university campus, you’ll most likely think of him as a professor, administrative staff or anything but not a student. Our classrooms are not designed for life-long learning. However, the real learning starts where formal education ends. A business finds it much cost-effective to upskill an existing resource then to find a new resource with the desired skill-set. They invest heavily in finding relevant content, learning platforms and content engagement tools to ensure their people at every level are intrinsically motivated to upskill themselves. MOOCs like edX are doing a fantastic job to meet the learning needs of businesses of all sizes at employee’s pace and convenience. Leading organizations around the world are using these platforms for training entry-level employees to senior most executives in the most efficient manner.
Clearly, the world is under an exciting rapid transformation phase. More automation will always lead to more jobs. Machine needs man and man needs skills to operate them. One cannot over emphasise the importance of skilling to stay relevant and stay ahead. As Jim Rohn says ‘Formal Education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune’