Can corporate learning reshape the future of education?
Even from the moment I started thinking of starting a family, I never could have imagined the amount of energy I would spend thinking about my children’s education.
What school should we send them to? Are extracurricular activities important? What is most important thing for them to learn at this point in life? The list goes on and on.
Whether you work for a company or run one yourself, then you know that like moms and dads around the world, companies and organizations sit around the planning table and labor over similar questions. How should we train our employees? What are the proper tools to give them? How can we prepare them for the next challenge?
I’ve spent many years working with companies’ Learning and Development organizations. Obviously, I’ve been investing in my own kids’ education at the same time. As a result, I’ve realized that corporate learning is using a lot of the progressive education methods and approaches. Unfortunately, they’re using these approaches much more than I see in my kids’ schooling system.
Training, knowledge-sharing, on-boarding, certifications, or other types of employee learning is critical to the growth and success of the individual. Thus, they’re critical to the organization. When is the last time that a training manager sat 25 software engineers in a room in front of a lecturer, and let her walk them through how to code in Angular? It is simply doesn’t yield the best results, and therefore we don’t invest the time to do it that way!
Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that began in the late 19th century. Over the past century it has evolved, branched out and spread throughout the US and around the world. In recent decades, as technology makes some serious strides, progressive education has become more and more prevalent. That being said, it is still not the default schooling method in the public education system. It’s still a subject to a lot of debate.
Progressive education is a broad term with a diverse range of practices. But for the purpose of this article, let’s define it as anything that breaks the traditional format that has been practiced for centuries around the world. In the traditional approach, instructors teach similar-age children specific learning subjects in a classroom. In that definition, a school will be a collection of such classes.
There are many examples of progressive education schools and movements today: Montessori, Acton, Sudbury, Waldorf Education, and the list goes on. Not everyone is identical; some are not even remotely similar. However, there are few basic elements that most methodologies and practices follow.
The first element is Personalization. This places the learner in the center of focus and not the learning content nor the learning process. This element follows the assumption that learning is most effective when the students are deeply involved with their own education. That includes choosing what and how to learn, as well as setting the pace of progress by self-learning.
The second is Learning by Doing, which basically assumes that the more learners are engaged with the content, the better they remember it. Therefore, incorporating many activities and experiences in the learning process is highly important.
The third and last element is a Multidisciplinary Curriculum. This element embodies diversity and calls to bring together different topics into a single learning cycle. It emphasizes that since our experiences in the real world combine many disciplines, so should the learning process and its supporting materials. This best prepares the learner to face reality.
These elements are actually not a foreign concept to any corporate learning specialist. Corporate learning teams need to build a skillful workforce in the shortest amount of time and for a reasonable price. At the same time, they don’t want to neglect important values such as company culture and team-spirit. They definitely want to choose methods and tools that will incorporate employee-focused training with real-life simulations and lots of hands-on practice. We are doing it already today in our workplace!
In recent years, we’ve actually started to see some of these elements manifest in the curriculum of higher education institutions and even the public K-12 system. However, as a mainstream methodology it has yet to be adopted for widespread use.
The main challenges for schools to widely adopt these approaches is due to existing regulations, which are mostly intended to protect the quality of kids’ education. These regulations, necessary and justified in most cases, unfortunately also make it harder for schools to adopt and implement any sort of change.
For some schools, the fierce competition with other schools is also a driving force for uniformity, and the fear of any novel ideas poses a barrier for a new educational approach.
If we look at the modern workplace, on the other hand, it is actually easier to adapt dramatic changes in education. Companies aren’t bound to regulations and compliance like schools are. Big and definitely small organizations can decide to train their workforce any way they choose to and usually in a way that serves their goals the best.
We now expect to see social and technological changes transfer from our personal lives directly into our professional lives. For example, mobile phones became more and more prominent in our daily lives. So the workplace also adopted it and set a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach.
In the case of education, I believe we will see this trend taking a turn in the opposite direction. Ideas will trickle from corporations down to employee’s families. From there, the ideas will make their way into their respective communities.
The workplace and its educators are and can be pioneers in adopting progressive education methodologies. They are setting an example to other learning organizations, such as the public education system. It’s the way to a better and more effective education.
As an online video specialist I noticed that many of the corporations I work with choose video as the main medium that adopts this progressive education approach. The L&D experts are calling upon platforms and creators to democratize video as much as possible and enable their users to be self-educated, both as viewers and content creators.
Video tools, and actually any technological education tool these days, must embody the three elements of progressive education in its core. Simultaneously they need to be extremely flexible and allow users to follow their own paths. At the same time, they must be interactive and engaging. Lastly, they should cater to multiple use-cases.
I personally believe we need a change in the education system. Progressive education’s principles, along with the platforms that the 21st century brings us, can drive that change. It will become the future schooling system of the Alpha generation*.
*kids born from mid 2010's, basically the children of Millennials.