EDUCATION and learning have started to undergo its own digital disruption with the advent of MOOCs (massive open online course), almost eight years ago. Digital Learning 1.0 (the age of the MOOCs) has really started to democratize learning through digital access to content that was traditionally limited to face-to-face. Coursera, Udemy, and Udacity have really been among the early pioneers to digitize content and make it accessible to millions around the world.
So, what’s next? What is Digital Learning 2.0?
There are three major trends that I believe should define Digital Learning 2.0.
- The first is the rapid growth of the mobile workforce. According to IDC, there were over 1.3 billion mobile workers globally in 2015 and PWC are forecasting over 1 billion mobile workers in Asia alone by 2020. As more workers are mobile and work remotely, the demand for mobile solutions will only continue to increase to deliver quality content anytime, anywhere.
- Smartphone penetration rates have now surpassed 30 percent globally and the Philippines is reported to be the third largest and fastest growing smartphone market in Southeast Asia with over 30 million smartphone users. This, coupled with 4G access means that >50 percent of the world is now connected to the Internet via a mobile phone. The convergence of smartphone, broadband speeds and rise in a mobile workforce is leading to the emergence of mobile, micro-learning as a key driver for Digital Learning 2.0. In the past couple of years, we have seen a rapid rise in mobile, micro-learning platforms globally at EdTech, HRTech and mobile tech conferences. As the industry is still fairly new, no winner has emerged yet to take market leadership, especially in the adult learning space.
- There is a broader trend within learning overall which is the shift towards more experiential, hands-on learning. This trend is based heavily on andragogy, the science of adult learning, and transformative learning theory which says that adults learn through reflection, peer dialogue and application. Project-based work and hands-on experiences are all ways of bringing these principles to life. When adults practice what they have learned, retention and ownership of the content increase significantly. In a corporate environment, this is the holy grail of learning – encouraging people to own, retain and apply what they have learned.
So, if Digital Learning 1.0 was focused on digitization of content, I believe Digital Learning 2.0 is about the delivery and application of content. Digital Learning 2.0 is about mobile, micro-learning in participatory ways. It’s about engaging the learner anytime, anywhere. Learners who experience Digital Learning 2.0 will need to rethink how they learn from a passive experience of primarily reading, watching or listening to experts to a more active, participatory role in asking questions, reflecting on the answers and sharing points of view with other learners.
Why does this matter? Why do we need Digital Learning 2.0?
We have entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are living in a world where it’s predicted that 20 to 50 percent of tasks will be replaced by machines and AI. I was speaking at the Nigerian Economic Summit recently and learned that the unemployment rate is 14 percent and they need to create 15 million new jobs by 2020. If we do nothing, unemployment rates will only continue to skyrocket as our jobs are replaced by machines.
In this world, what does it mean to be human? How do we avoid the seemingly inevitable rise in already high unemployment rates as more jobs are replaced by machines?
According to the World Economic Forum, the top skills required are around soft skills which I will refer to as the 4C’s of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills. These skills will need to be developed on scale and at speed to upskill sufficient people globally.
Digital Learning 2.0 solutions will need to be designed to not just deliver content but to catalyze people to think critically and collaborate. It will need to embrace the ‘many to many’ philosophy of learning where there is not one single expert but a community of people who can learn from one another’s experiences and knowledge. It will need to foster creative expressions of learning from visualization to role-playing to sharing new ideas. And most importantly, it will have to embrace a strong mobile strategy (preferably mobile-first, not mobile-responsive) to meet the growing needs of over 1 billion mobile workers.
This is a new emerging space so it’s time to redefine how we learn and reteach how we teach to embrace the participatory, mobile, micro-learning era to enable us to reach billions.