The next big thing in learning

Reda SadkiWriting

Will it be virtual reality (VR)? The promise of immersive, experiential learning is tantalizing. What about artificial intelligence (AI), if only to relieve humans of the drudgery of the more trivial part of assessment and feedback? Will neuroscience lay bare cognitive process? What if the blockchain stored distributed learning records? How about building a successor to creaky Moodle?

Predicting the future tends to be a losing bet. In the past, for example, some learning gurus bet on gamification. That went nowhere fast – although the humanitarian sector is still figuring this out.

Some learning leaders see innovation where others see obsolescence or transition. In 2018, one learning leader specializing in innovative educational technology still included MOOCs as a “brand-new” innovation…

Such predictions all miss the point. Here is why.

They overwhelmingly focus on a specific technology and its transformative potential, in the eyes of its proponents, for education.

The biggest change to come in learning is not about scale, medium, or technology.

It is about the relevance of learning interventions to accelerate the progress of individuals, organizations, and networks (not necessarily in that order) to impact. Change. Results. Value. (What it is called depends on where you work and learn.)

This is about more than the classic training dilemma of applicability or knowledge transfer. Nor is it about lifelong learning, that makes it sound as if we are stuck in school forever.

Let us build the learning system that does not end when the bell rings, nor after the exam, the term, or the (micro)degree.

Alumni communities are not new. What is new (and changing rapidly) is the opportunity created by the economy of effort of the Digital Transformation. It is about tapping the potential of learners-as-leaders, connected to one another, so that they progress toward impact faster than ever before.

This is the only future of learning that matters.

Process trumps product.

Photo: Inside the Globe of Science and Innovation, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. Personal collection.