Learning has Changed: Re-inventing the Post-Secondary
I think of myself as a lifelong learner and I have noticed over the years how I learn and what I learn have changed very rapidly. All of a sudden I am considered an adult learner and have realized that I need to adapt how I learn. In working in post-secondary the institutions are starting to realize that they need to adapt and offer a more blended learning approach as everybody does learn differently. I am a strong self-starter and tend to learn well self-learning out of modules and books and can apply what I learn. I do not do as well when somebody stands up and tries to teach via lecture. I also noticed in my first degree many of my professors taught very traditionally (13 years ago) believe it or not I had to go to the library to photocopy handwritten slides for many of my economics courses. I’m pretty sure there would be a revolt if a professor was to do that currently. Teachers and instructors now need to be technology savvy and understand how individual learners digest information. Me, on a personal level, I have started to evaluate how I learned best and have tailored my learning to this. I just had lunch with somebody that I know is incredibly smart he is a self-learner and less concerned about certifications but he is incredibly bright and learns very rapidly. I have found that I have a lot of formal education but I have started questioning the return on investment if I was just going into post-secondary right now. We have been socialized to finish high school go to university or college and then a job and then get married. The question now many Millenials are asking is whether this is the best route. Many of the largest companies currently including Google, Amazon, and Apple do not require a degree for employers, and individuals that have taught themselves and are more than competent with a mix of learning, experience, and appropriate skillset are becoming more common.
The reaction from many progressive PSIs has been positive as learning is available now through different means including from some of the leading PSI including MIT-Open courseware, many elite colleges, and universities are on Coursera and you can even acquire master’s degrees from recognized colleges online. Udemy has also expanded as offering support for certifications and essential skills at a fraction of the cost of any college or university. Education is changing; the internet has already revolutionized how we learn as competition has increased but most PSIs are too rigid and their management and organizational structures too bureaucratic to move with the market so the rise of entrants into training continues. If I want training right now on a topic I usually can go to Google and self-learn some and when I feel I need more formal my options usually are an education provider online or a post-secondary that I need to get admitted to and then often wait until the course start date. In reality, this lack of agility often takes these education providers out of the market for time-sensitive customers. Still, many PSIs and other organizations are now leveraging technology even for hands-on learning with the rise of augmented and virtual reality who knows where this will end up? Most of the money PSIs see is also from governments so really tax dollars are used for diminishing returns now for students. With the changes of being a society of accessibility and convenience, it is shocking that many PSIs have been so slow to adapt to the growing market. The question is now what can PSIs do? In reality, many PSIs can keep up with the market, they teach change management and are fully capable of analyzing the market and trends but often senior leadership are risk-averse and most often academics that are in charge have never had real-world experience in implementing enterprise change. I was lucky enough to report to an executive when at a PSI who understood change had come from the private world with a lot of experience in mergers and acquisitions (much like my background) but was not empowered often to make the necessary changes across the institution hence the speed of change was slow. You can read further on the need to empower staff for speed here. Budget cuts to PSI’s are seen negatively that education is being cut but often these cuts are needed to push changes and continuous improvement initiatives. The PSI I was at is evaluating and starting to implement blended learning but in reality, they are behind and tend to over-evaluate and over plan before they move on anything.
Saying all of this now when evaluating my learning I look at ROI and am starting to see the value of formal education at a University degrading. Not just from all of what is discussed above on how technology and the internet have changed learning and made it more accessible. I have paused my MBA studies to focus on other training after evaluation of ROI. Part of it is also the cost and the practicality of raising education cost now has to be evaluated more than ever as debt is getting even more common. Student loans are a crisis check out more here and another reason is now the opportunities for self-learning new skills and practical certifications have changed the value of my time. PSI’s are at a crossroads with hyper-competition as well as different mediums for training and they can choose to change their culture and move with greater speed and adapt to learner trends or have their admissions plummet.
Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.
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