Celebrating our 20th anniversary led many of us at Skillsoft to contemplate all that we have learned during that time. We’ve seen technologies, toolsets and learning models evolve and redefine themselves. We learned that eLearning could not only become a viable medium for acquiring new skills but also become simply a better way to learn anything. We learned that when paired with other digital content assets, such as books and audiobooks, eLearning can provide unmatched richness and depth. We also learned that high-impact and human elements, such as online mentoring and virtual bootcamps, can retain the impact and interaction that was previously confined to the classroom. We’ve carried all of the items through to the products that we deliver to nearly 40 million learners around the world today.
All of this got me to thinking, what might we expect to learn, or better yet, what do we need to learn in the next 20 years?
Here are five ideas:
1. Learning will be threaded in every digital experience
Learning will become so intertwined and frictionless with our daily digital lives, that we won’t be able to distinguish the process of learning from any other digital experience. Technology will only improve and become more intelligent. When reduced to its most elemental processes, learning is something that human beings are naturally wired to do. The only reason that episodic learning exists is that it is the most practical vehicle for instruction today. As technology becomes more sophisticated and intelligent, digital platforms will learn from us, as much as we learn from them. They will instantaneously predict where we need support and morph their UX and features real-time to support the user more effectively.
2. AI, machine learning and deep learning will transform our lives
We will need to fully learn how to implement these technologies at scale to solve society’s most challenging problems. I firmly believe that the greatest breakthrough for humanity with these technologies lies in their application in life sciences. Our ability to completely virtualize medical research, clinical trials and other areas that currently rely on the physical world, will allow us to advance our research at a geometric rate. Given the application of these technologies with the human genome, I am convinced that we will find a way to cure a wide range of genetic diseases in the next 20 years. The key is that we need to democratize the skills and knowledge required to harness these capabilities.
3. The traditional education paradigm will give way to marketable credentials
The current post-secondary education system is woefully equipped to prepare people for the modern workforce. Additionally, the escalating costs of college tuition continue to rise at an astonishing rate. That said, the system is not sustainable. Ultimately, that paradigm will give way to a system or network of marketable credentials that validate the actual skills that someone has. The colleges of the future will be virtual and will issue validated and verifiable skills in a matter of weeks, not years. Students will acquire enough skills to become employable and then continue to build on their portfolio of credentials throughout their professional careers.
4. Learning will align with aspirations
Learner preferences will continue to evolve from two perspectives, what modalities people want to learn from, and how they learn. We believe that some like to watch, others like to listen, others like to read, and everyone needs to practice/apply. The unifying thread is that everyone aspires to learn and grow in some way. Having a clear, well-structured learning journey that takes them through a progression of tasks and functions, applied usage will be increasingly important to all learners who aspire to greater heights. We see this as part of the new norm for all learners of the future.
5. Opportunity will be universally democratized
Finally, as the global talent pool becomes more constrained and the barriers to acquiring new skills eliminated, the opportunity for one to pursue the profession of their choice will become increasingly democratized. The “gig economy” will only increase as the technology and platforms continue to improve to support this. People will seek to develop “hard skills” that will qualify them for their next gig.
At Skillsoft, we take pride in the fact that we have helped over 400 million people become better at what they do in the first 20 years of our company’s history. We’re looking forward to bringing that number to over one billion learners in the next 20 years! We’re always learning.
Mark Onisk is the Chief Content Officer for Skillsoft.