Will anyone remember a classroom in 10 years?

NATO ANNIVERSARYFirst, ask yourself, “What is the purpose of an education system?” If your answer is, “To provide the structure for training people in subjects that align with their skills needs”, you’d be thinking in the pre-disruption way. You’d be thinking of people as products, fed information in a proscribed manner, in a structured setting and then tested to see what stuck. You’d see an assembly line of knowledge that weeds out defective parts. Who decides who’s in the classroom?

Consider reversing the paradigm and thinking of people as self-motivated seekers who are sponges for information. You’d suddenly see education as something fundamentally different and just as quickly, you’d go about the process of teaching and learning in a completely different way. You’d realize the best students aren’t consumers of structured learning, but are instead those who have the motivation to find and assimilate the right information at the right time.

You’d redefine what a good student really is. You’d redefine a classroom, courses and testing. Heck, you might redefine how the world operates and who ends up on top. Are you ready for that?

We’re arriving

E-learning, online learning, CBT’s, whatever you choose to call it, are rapidly disrupting education in a highly connected world. In today’s TechCrunch article Online Education is Replacing Physical Colleges At A Crazy Pace, Gregory Ferenstein gives examples that show just how quickly things are changing. Ferenstein mentions Khan Academy founder Sal Khan’s ‘futuristic’ predictions just two years ago that are coming true today, faster than anyone expected.

Khan has been called the Ben Franklin of our time for his views on education that discard the old model and think of learning in new ways. What remains to be seen is how well the rest of the world adapts to something that revolutionizes things many hold dear (including jobs).

Are you ready for that? The answer may depend on whether you personally had access to the best classrooms that gave you access to the best jobs. If that’s not you, you’re likely to embrace this change wholeheartedly. As California’s university system and others change the definition of where and when people can leaern, opportunities for a much larger swath of the world’s population, regardless of location and influence, rise considerably. This ushers in a whole new meritocracy that won’t be welcomed by everyone.

On the job, too

And it changes the workplace, too. Seth Godin wrote recently about skeuomorphs, “…a design element from an old thing, added to a new one.” Why should training at our work follow the paradigms of college education with structured, in-person classes and proscribed and tested material? The same type of changes that are happening in education need to happen to workplace training. Rather than choosing people for training based on role, what if everyone in the company could learn about its products and how they’re sold and serviced based on their own motivation? What if anyone showing the ‘gumption’ can become as knowledgeable as any other, regardless of what they’re assigned to now? Suddenly, we control our own value and destiny. Soon, who would want to work for a company that doesn’t offer and value this?

Are we ready for these changes? I hope so.


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Categories: Disruption, Training and Education

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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5 Comments on “Will anyone remember a classroom in 10 years?”

  1. April 22, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Chris: I’m glad you posted this. My short answer is YES. There will always be a place for a classroom. However, the classroom looks, feels, and performs differently than it did on the past, and it will continue to evolve. The idea of a lecturer controlling the learning is obsolete. There are no more walls in a classroom. My firm has been in the education and e-learning space for almost 20 years serving 15 federal agencies and the private sector. Your question is not new. Cisco CEO John Chambers first raised this question when he declared almost 15 years ago that “e-learning will be the killer application of the internet.” Almost overnight, in response to his statement, the pendulum swung all the way to the right where everyone became a CBT expert. Then, as human nature would have it, behavior self-corrected and we adopted a blended learning model. With the explosion of social media and MOCC’s, elearning once again is in the spotlight. I have a Master’s Degree in Adult Learning Theory and Instructional Design. All of the technology will not change the fact that educators must accommodate multiple learning styles. The traditional classroom was never successful in this accommodation. The integration of technology has enabled educators to achieve this. The most important advance with elearning is social media. It isn’t even mLearning – which basically just allows you to switch the platform for your content. Here is an article explaining this: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/media/social_learning.html . Here are the most important points:
    So what gives these new social media tools the capability to allow people to learn and transform? Mason and Renniet (2008) wrote that there were four major benefits of learner generated content that these tools provide:
    o The learners have the tools to actively participate in the construction of their experience, rather than passively absorbing content.
    o The content can be continually refreshed by the learners rather than requiring expert input.
    o Many of the tools are collaborative in nature, thus the learners develop team skills.
    o Shared community space and inter-group communications are a large part of what excites young people [and many people of other ages]; therefore it should help to motivate them to learn.
    So as an Instructional Designer you can use social media tools to:
    o Provide a means of social learning when the learners are spaced apart. This learning is important for:
    o Solving small everyday problem before they get big (distributed problem solving).
    o Creating an environment that supports creativity.
    o Forming ad hoc workgroups as needed to address business challenges.
    o Building a work environment that is flexible.
    o Guide them to create their own collaborative knowledge bases, rather than relying on others to do it for them.
    o Increase the feeling of being a team when the learners are separated by distance by:
    o increasing participation
    o helping to represent the corporate brand
    o developing community
    o Help motivate them as this is a primary requirement for learning.

    BTW the MOCC business model may not be sustainable. I for one will absolutely send our kids to a traditional university for the social experience, and the networks they will build. Again something that can’t be replicated through technology. Here is an article that describes the instability of this model.


    I know this was a SUPER long answer (I am so passionate about this topic!!). Thanks for posting!

  2. April 23, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Hi Chris, I can see where you’re coming from here, but felt the urge to point out that the classroom is (and will continue to be) the perfect place for a lot of so-called ‘vocational’ learning. Not only do classrooms provide the necessary equipment for hands-on training (tools and materials); they provide a safe working environment where students can practice (and get things wrong) without endangering themselves, co-workers or the public.

  3. April 24, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    human factor will always play a crucial part in a child’s development and it will always be a focus of a class room even after 10 years ,yes the class room will face a lot of change but will survive in structure i believe.

  4. April 28, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    As an English Trainer based in Malaysia, I would agree with you if e-learning is adopted wholly in each and every country in the world. In Malaysia, even though IT has become a necessity in learning and teaching, classroom or face to face teaching/training still takes precedence over other types of teaching/training.

    Malaysians still prefer the classroom environment as this helps them relate and thrash things out with the teacher/trainer. In the Malaysian context, the reasons are very obvious. The Malaysian education system mostly thrives on the rote learning method. Students are passive learners who absorb and receive information without questioning and challenging the teacher. The students tend to memorise their lessons rather than understand what is being taught. They have trained themselves to be automatons. This learning culture, which is spoon-feeding literally, is currently killing the economic competitiveness of Malaysia at the global level.

    When I conduct English training, much of my time is spent in helping the participants de-learn what they have been taught in schools and colleges. It can be very taxing indeed. They need guidance all the time. In a classroom environment, most Malaysians feel ‘safe’ to interact with the teacher or trainer without being ridiculed.

    As such, the notion of e-learning has not really taken hold in the Malaysian context. Even though e-learning is a big thing in developed countries, it is a novelty in Malaysia.

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