What’s Next in Learning? Four Future Trends

Courtesy of LRNG

Imagine a platform that enabled you to access local and national opportunities from your smartphone or computer, a place where you can pursue your interests with mentors and peers, building new skills and habits wherever you are, whenever you want.

LRNG, now part of Southern New Hampshire University, extends access to learning experiences to underserved youth. The learning is responsive, often in community, part of a lean social economy—an example of the four trends that will emerge in the coming decade.

These ‘next trends’ build on mega trends, emerging trends and adjacent trends in global learning.

Category Mega Trends Emerging Trends Adjacent Trends Next Trends
Aims New goals Contribution Inclusion/equity Responsive
Strategies Active learning Immersive learning Lifelong learning Lean
Measures Competency Success skills Quantified life Social economy
Supports Integrated services Guidance Mindfulness Growth communities

1. Responsive. “
Education systems must also become much more responsive, providing seamless educational opportunities grounded in the mastery of academic fundamentals and by experiences relevant to an ever-evolving, increasingly connected world.” That’s a recommendation from The Age of Agility, a report from America Succeeds.

Being “nimble and agile,” as America Succeeds recommends, requires education institutions to be in ongoing conversation with key stakeholders and facilitating a set of temporary agreements about updated learning goals (the number one mega trend) and renewing a commitment to equity as demographics change (the number one adjacent trend).

High schools and career education institutions have to be highly responsive to local and global trends in high wage high demand employment. Many career centers and community colleges have active business advisory councils that help fulfill this need.

2. Lean. In most states, there is no new money coming to public education—K-12 or higher ed—and in many areas enrollments are flat or declining because of lower birth rates and more competition–not a pleasant combination for system heads. It’s time to get lean to deal with declining budgets (or in preparation of likely declines).

Lean software development is a customer-centric methodology that seeks to eliminate waste and add value. There are at least a dozen service delivery opportunities and artificial intelligence powered tools for staffing, scheduling and transportation will become helpful in lean efforts in the near future.

In the next decade, we’ll see a few school districts sell off their facilities to a group like WeWork to gain flexibility. Ride share services and autonomous vehicles will help school districts develop lean transportation systems.

3. Social economy. The gig economy is driven by platforms that enable value exchanges. First it was stuff (eBay and Amazon), then underutilized assets (Airbnb and Uber), and now hours (Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, and Upwork). Next will be measured efficacy—data will tell the value creation story of how well one person supports the growth of another.

The social economy will be built on the traits that make us uniquely human: care, consideration, creativity, and critical thinking. Like the shift from seat time to competency in learning, the shift from selling hours to measured efficacy will unlock latent energy in the social economy. Initially, platforms will include a dashboard of proxy measures. Over time, systems that accurately gauge contributions to growth and well-being will improve.

4. Growth communities. For hundreds of years, formal education has been organized as knowledge transmission to age cohorts. Artful teachers and advisors can convert cohorts to learning communities with a sense of belonging and mutuality.

Growth communities add learner agency to that idea—the ability to dynamically organize around common goals.

“Imagine an educational system that privileges local value creation, that empowers communities to identify learning priorities and local champions, and then assembles learners to work on goals that matter to them,” says ASU’s Sasha Barab (in an upcoming book). “Such a framework begins with understanding what communities and individual learners want to achieve, and what local strengths can be tapped into and amplified.”

It’s powerful when learners can be the “architects of their own ecosystem, owning which goals and outcomes they want to achieve,” added Barab.

This principle of high agency, high mutuality is also expressed in the youth badging platform LRNG and Seth Godin’s altMBA.

As competency systems (mega trend number three) unlock anywhere, anytime learning, we’ll see more growth communities formed around powerful experiences with the ability to capture and communicate new capabilities through badges or microcredentials.

The future of learning will include leaner, more responsive systems supporting the formation of growth communities with the expanded ability to reward contributors in a social economy.

The last post in this five-part series on learning trends will explore the two most powerful change forces on earth: climate change and artificial intelligence.

For more, see:

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This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

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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