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Scenario A: Find Your Own Path

Open sources learning & rapid change

Quadrant A (Open sourced learning and rapid change)

Change is the only constant, and the only way to keep up is letting technology anticipate what you need.

Open sourced learning and rapid changeJovie wakes up before dawn to a news briefing. Ten suspected terrorists have been captured in Barcelona before they were able to execute their plans. A calendar update flashes across her bathroom mirror. A nutritionally balanced and flavor-preference-matched cereal mix prints while she showers. The refrigerator requests confirmation of its order. Quick video chats from a fully clothed Jovie avatar start the work day. By the time she is ready to commute to work, her work queue has been prioritized and segmented based on a model of Jovie’s daily mental rhythms.

Find Your Own PathAnalytics, algorithms and machine learning have triumphed. Apps now know how to make sense of the world well enough that most people don’t care if a recommendation comes from a person or a program. The program often proves it knows people at their most intimate level of want, need and desire, better than any human.

Information is everywhere, published by people and by programs. As much as computers have learned to interpret, refine, discover, correlate and recommend, people remain complex and at the core of content. Authority remains determined by the information receiver. Too often, though people shrug off that responsibility and accept what they are given. Things must get done. Time is precious and there just isn’t enough of it to question everything. And isn’t that why we created these intelligent applications in the first place?

The world seems to seethe with change, and it is fast-paced – many people feel that the pace creates constant disruptions, if not on the grand scale, at least on the personal scale. There seems to always be something new to learn, something new to adapt to, something – from devices to skills – that has become obsolete. In higher education, institutional prestige has been devalued. Value now resides in the ability to meet the needs of the individual, fueled by the collective “wisdom” of the crowd.

WILL CREDENTIALS BE DIFFERENT IN 2030?

Belle Wheelan

The power of a degree is diminished as workplaces shift to micro-degrees and endorsements that signal the ability to perform specific tasks, or the mastery of a specific, narrow knowledge set. Education with the big “E” is being replaced by the adequacy of education with a small “e.”

DID YOU HAVE ENOUGH RULES IN THIS SCENARIO?

Belle Wheelan

In some ways, everyone is an expert on areas where they have experience, but no one is a gatekeeper for how it all fits together, except the applications that constantly troll for correlations. The sense-making usually makes enough sense to just go with it. The cost of “learning” plummets.

ARE ‘MICRO-SKILLS’ THE ANSWER?

Martha Kanter

The costs of learning are spread out more evenly over a career, with higher value skills, such as those needed by someone more advanced in their professions, coming at higher costs. Entry skills are low, and this encourages even more career experimentation and mixing.

IS THERE A REVOLUTION COMING?

Martha Kanter

Intelligent applications keep track of successes, experiments, personal learning, reading, courses, conferences, concerts and a wide variety of other activities in which people are involved. Learning profiles are derived from all of these activities and integrated with existing profiles from elementary and secondary education. After fourteen years of profiling for most people, the learning apps pretty much know what you know and what you don’t. They also know what lies ahead, and how long it likely for you to master something new. When a future activity appears to be challenging to a person’s current profile, the app pieces together a curriculum and suggests to the person when they should start the learning experience. The app also nudges people to keep them on course, unless the person mutes that channel.

HOW WILL FACULTY FIT IN WITH THIS SCENARIO?

Christine Ziegler

Although much of education is delivered virtually, either through constructed curriculum with built-in assessments, or through human mentors who interact with learners virtually, physical learning experiences have emerged as a differentiator in the space.

This does not mean traditional lecture halls attract learners, but that physical, hands-on experiences conducted in a space with other people are highly sought after. Not only does this create a real human experience, but it creates some learning that is beyond the reach of the learning apps, giving people comfort that they still possess some highly personal experiences that aren’t widely shared or transformed into data by the learning apps.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SELF-DIRECTED STUDENTS?

Belle Wheelan

Some people think of this as chaotic, as the learning app may suggest topics far afield from existing knowledge, forcing people to embrace new ideas, concepts and skills while still using their existing ones to provide value to employers or partners. For those in highly skilled roles, more traditional looking education and credentialing still exists, but it is highly integrated with just-in-time learning and just-in-time publishing.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN OUR CURRENT MODELS?

Susan Albertine

This means that in science and engineering in particular, the results of experiments and research no longer take years of vetting and peer review before they are published. It is up to the reader to understand that state of results (i.e., they haven’t been reviewed) and to ask their own questions for clarification in a participatory, open and transparent way. Although this approach exists, one of the roles of higher education is to recognize outstanding personal learning and community leadership by conferring degrees on those who have a proven track-record of learning and contribution regardless of how that learning was achieved. In some ways these “bestowed” degrees are more highly respected than traditional degrees because they represent personal initiative along with learning.

There are challenges for older people in the workforce. They don’t have the deep learning profiles built when they were young, and they have little interest in constantly learning new skills, especially when informed that they need those skills from an app. This puts the US at an economic disadvantage because younger countries are more easily able to adopt and adapt. The massive globalization of labor and the advent of micro-manufacturing, however, has lessened the impact of resistance from older Americans to the emerging approach to work as others around the world are capable, numerous and willing to pick up their slack.

WHAT WILL CHALLENGE FACULTY IN THIS SCENARIO?

Christine Ziegler

Leading-edge educators are working with learning apps to embed their own approach to learning and critical thinking within the recommendation and analysis engines. Educators who do this offer subscriptions to their “personal takes” on the world which differentiate them from more generic, open-source analytics. Those who subscribe also have access to private forums and feedback channels that help educators refine their offerings. Some educators have moved beyond personal brand to building businesses that employ people to help them increase the power, use and revenue generated by their subscription services.

WHAT WAS MISSING FROM THE SCENARIO?

Christine Ziegler

For all, there are great assumptions being made about motivational psychology, as contracting organizations expect people to figure out for themselves what they need to learn to remain relevant, while hiring organizations expect the same from candidates prior to hiring, at which time the organization exerts more influence.

HOW WILL CHALLENGED FACULTY BE VIEWED?

Christine Ziegler

There is a bottom-line assumption that people need to keep up, and those who don’t, get left behind. This has created new haves-have-now divided along the lines of those who actively and purposefully adapt to the moment regardless of long-term need, and those who have become disenfranchised, concentrating on learning that means something to them, if they are motivated to learn anything new at all.

Healthcare has been transformed by the emergence of new, data driven processes of assessing risk, determining treatments, and developing courses or care, reducing the skill-demand for much of the healthcare workforce and extending and improving care for greater numbers of individuals. Issues of privacy persist, however, as the value of patient data in research and development of new treatments grows and the ability of patients to be treated without consenting to having their data shared diminishes.

HOW IS YOUR MEDIAL FACULTY MEMBER FARING IN THIS SCENARIO?

Susan Albertine

As the algorithms make things easier for most, they frustrate others. An under current of creative individuals pushes against the pre-canned, anticipated answers aimed at making life easier for people and more profitable for advertisers. This “New Creative Class” develops high-touch, anti-technological, environmentally aware offers that seek to counterbalance the technological ubiquity and smoothing function that seems to be at work in society.

In order to account for the rapid technological innovation and constant shift in business models, the US government has essentially removed itself as a barrier to growth, streamlining regulations and reporting except those related to the most essential levels of human rights and safety. Economically, people are left on their own to invest what is necessary to find success.

Because of the ability to adapt to local needs more rapidly, and more efficiently, many US government functions have been outsourced or eliminated in favor of local programs. The success of learning profiles and personal education apps have eliminated the need for the Department of Education. This leaves the public sector’s role greatly diminished on a day-to-day basis, though it continues to invest in long-term projects it considers strategic, like environmental protection from climate change, species continuity, space exploration and human longevity.

That said, where government does still exist, in areas like national defense, global trade and agriculture, and international disease control and prevention, pragmatism rules as those who are highly trained have access and insights to more data than ever before and they do use that data to make decisions rather than falling back on ideological biases.

Qualifications come from a number of sources, all of which are tied into a credentialing standard API that posts credentials directly to various on-line resumes and reputation systems. All of these systems have been hacked, to both take away credentials and to post false ones. Validity of both skills and information is a function of its market share; core research functions not oriented toward the marketplace are largely obsolete—still churning out insight to declining and increasingly disinterested sponsors. The consumer is fickle and what is in vogue finds itself easily discarded with the next “trend.” This goes as much for governance models as it does for consumer goods. Liberal democracy finds itself in defensive mode among a sea of local models that all seem to sort of work, from beneficent autocracies to social network enabled virtual communes.

A multitude of channels exist to connect people through the Internet. Although large players like Facebook exist, even platforms have become increasingly fragmented along interest and community lines. Machine learning bridges gaps and helps keep people aware of what they need to be aware of.

The US remains a fragile economic leader as it investments in the 10s and 20s lead to energy independence. Much of the technology connection the world and managing transactions remains US-centric, and English-has taken on an even more global character following years of tumultuous economic setbacks in Europe. China is challenging the US economically, however, but is struggling with the necessity to break through the English barrier with its software. While China’s domestic markets are becoming sophisticated, the lack of Chinese language skills outside of China and its immediate environs means that it is not reaping benefits from the increasingly micro-transaction level payments that characterize e-commerce in 2030. India on the other hand has completely adopted a multi-lingual business stance and is gaining in its ability to compete with US firms for business contracts and consumer mindshare.

TODAY’S FOUR-YEAR-OLDS WILL BE ENTERING COLLEGE IN 2030 ⎯ WHAT WILL THAT BE LIKE FOR THEM?

Kevin Carey