From crisis to transformation - the future of learning

We are all faced with new challenges every day. Some of them come dressed up in other guises but most of them are spawned by the fear of constant disruption and change.


IT MIGHT be trite, but the world is a very different place to what it was three years ago before the advent of the Coronavirus. We are all very different too, even if we don’t think so.

COVID 19 was not an event in and of itself, but rather an inflection point ramping up the change wrought by digitization and the advent of the fourth industrial revolution to warp speed.

People very quickly discovered - as businesses were shut down and they themselves were cloistered at home – that there was no safety net or comfort blanket anymore. This led to them doing one of two things: seeking solace from cult-like leaders, political or otherwise, who promised they had the solution - or becoming determined to seek that solution themselves.

Whether these were people imprisoned in jobs by circumstance, whether personal or professional, the result was the same: going out to get educated to unlock their potential and exploit the opportunities that they knew were out there. The difference is that they didn’t just want any education, they wanted education that would deliver.

Corporate adaption & upskilling

At the same time, companies emerged from the pandemic realising that they needed to change how they did things if they were not just going to survive but thrive. These companies understood that the best way to do this was to upskill their greatest resource: the people who work for them.

The net result was the same; a move away from brands to brand promise when it comes to what institutions of higher learning are offering. The trend has emerged that it is not enough just to have the label of having studied at a particular place, even if it might look good on a CV or LinkedIn, what people need is the ability to walk the talk and to have learnt those skills at an institution with a proven track record of caring for far more than the bottom line.

MBA - embracing change & innovation

There has been increased interest in the flagship of all management programmes: the MBA, and rightfully so. A great MBA gives you the ability to think critically, to read widely, to manage others and be able to manage yourself. It’s about being a team player – and a leader. It’s about making plans when the contingency hasn’t even been thought of.

Perhaps the biggest skill of all, in the kind of toolbox that you should have built during that MBA journey, is the ability to retrain and retool yourself by developing your own personal academy to ensure your continued growth. That MBA should have taught you how to work collaboratively and not be scared to seek advice, and to regard the world as your oyster when it comes to seeking opportunities and partners.

Future fit

We are all faced with new challenges every day. Some of them come dressed up in other guises but most of them are spawned by the fear of constant disruption and change. Chief among these is Artificial Intelligence and what it might mean for companies and, more pertinently, for individuals. We are awash in news about it and the debates around the dangers of it, but in truth all we have seen to date is the blow hole of the blue whale, the individual hair on the tail of the elephant. Being able to understand the magnitude of what lies beyond and to come to terms with that, to be able to surf the wave rather than being drowned by it through fear, will be critical as we venture deeper and deeper into this brand-new world of the internet of things and machine learning.

Education helps us do that. In fact, it is the only thing that will do that, just as education was the only way we were able to navigate the uncharted waters of the pandemic and unprecedented global disruptions that occurred.

Education's future

The trend then is for education but not as we have known it; it is a combination of short courses that provide the immediate skills that we need right now as the need emerges all the way through to the longer more profound courses of study that prepare us for a life of continual learning, unlearning and re-learning in a world where questioning of everything is the norm, accountability is non-negotiable, and transparency is paramount.

Prospective students want this, companies demand it but not all educational institutions are able – or willing - to provide all of this. The reality though is that they no longer have that latitude. Like the dinosaurs of yore, those schools which refuse to adapt and move with the times will look up soon from their grazing and find to their horror that their sky has gone grey and cold. Thankfully there are plenty of institutions in this country who are going in the other direction, working proactively to devise and deliver the programmes that are needed right now and re-engineering themselves in the process to ensure they are as future fit - for their clients, for their students, and for the country.

This article was originally published in Business Brief.


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