Anywhere Anytime Learning is Changing: Implications for Parents, HigherEd and K-12

Young freelancer man connecting to wireless via notebook and mobile phone while he keyboarding

Wikipedia and the initials “www” burst onto the scene in 1994 (the same year most states were implementing standards-based reform) making it the official beginning of the anywhere anytime learning era.

For most of two decades, anywhere anytime learning advanced outside of formal education. Five years of venture investments and the explosion of mobile resulted in two big implications: 1) formal education is rapidly blending new technology and 2) anywhere anytime learning is a viable alternative to formal education in dynamic job clusters.  

The $1.6 billion invested in EdTech in the first half of 2015 was driven, in large part, by big anywhere anytime learning deals. The year started with raising $186 million in a round led by TPG Capital. In April, was acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. In February Chinese online education platform 17zuoye raised $100 million. Online learning marketplace Udemy raised $65 million in June.

Anywhere anytime learning is featured prominently in our recent paper on 25 Impact Opportunities In U.S. K-12 Education and in our new book, Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning.

Implications. Now that it’s possible for anyone to learn anything, it’s time for parents, educators and employers to consider a new world of possibilities.

  • Students & Parents. Alternative postsecondary options are expanding rapidly particularly where tools change fast–coding, web design, and robotics. A four year degree isn’t the only option for getting started; new technical pathways allow young people to earn and learn building work experience and a sequence of credentials (see this story about RAMTEC in Ohio). There are free and fast pathways to great coding jobs. It pays to gain quality work experience and carefully consider postsecondary options.

  • HigherEd. Declining return on investment means it’s time to reevaluate the value proposition particularly for second and third tier institution. Consider incorporating blended learning into core programs and launching online and competency-based programs. WGU was an early leader in competency-based learning. College for America, a program of SNHU is an innovative new entrant. Three Big 10 schools launched competency-based health degrees. Pearson Embanet and 2U help colleges launch innovative new programs.

  • K-12. Anywhere anytime learning resources (particularly open resources) have changed the opportunity set for schools and families. EdLeaders should implement blended learning and move toward competency-based learning where learning in and out of school can be recognized (see 10 next steps for EdLeaders).

Like students, educators should benefit from anywhere anytime learning. It’s time to replace outdated degrees with competency-based preparation and development (see Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning).

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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