What Happens When the Universities' “Learn-Then-Work” Model Fails

“Learning should be thought as a lifelong pursuit. With a continual demand for professional development –and the personal fulfillment that goes with additional education– there are many reasons to keep on learning”, wrote Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX and Professor at MIT, in an article on LinkedIn.

More opportunities than ever before

“There are now more opportunities for lifelong learning than ever before. With the advent of online learning, open education resources, and MOOCs, we have amazing opportunities to engage in high-quality courses from the best schools around the world, for a very low cost, or for free. Anyone with Internet access can participate in these courses and, ultimately, more minds can be opened than ever before.”

Filling gaps left by under-resourced schools

“Online educational opportunities can help complement students’ in-classroom learning, filling gaps left by under-resourced schools”. An example of this gap can be found in computer science classwork. “A study showed that 90% of parents feel that computer science instruction would be great for their children, and over 60% believed that CS classes should be even mandatory. Yet 75% of the school principals polled said that their schools offer no CS programming classes whatsoever. The same is true of advanced courses.”

Growing mismatch between qualifications and demanded skills

“The working world is changing faster than any time in history. Keeping up is the challenge. Much of our modern world is driven by this microchip technology and it requires society to continually keep up the pace – and not just in engineering and computer science. The skills gap results as there is a growing mismatch between the qualifications of workers in the economy and the skills demanded by employers.”

Middle-skills gap

“There is also a ‘middle-skills’ gap in technology that involves the use of more everyday digital tools like spreadsheets or word processors. As these programs have become ubiquitous in modern workplaces, additional training is needed for people to keep up and/or get employment where they couldn’t before.”

A must-have for anyone working in a career that encourages innovation

“Similar innovation occurs daily in all fields – medical sciences, chemistry, space exploration, business, finance and far too many others to name here. We must continue to educate ourselves on all the latest findings, techniques, and opportunities. Lifelong learning isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have for anyone working in a career that encourages innovation.”

University’s “learn-then-work” model has become antiquated

“Traditionally, university systems have been designed around a “learn-then-work” model – a concept that came about in a centuries-old world where change was slower. It has now become antiquated. Universities must retool for this continuous learning world; approaching an unbundled model.”

Starting higher education largely online

“In an unbundled model, students might begin their higher education largely online, perhaps even their entire first year. Then they might have two years of on-campus schooling, followed by in-the-field instruction. For years after that, they would continue learning new skills, potentially again online, throughout their careers. This more flexible, continuous model is better suited for modern times.”

“Unbundling may also enable learners to obtain the education they need in a pay-as-you-go model, unlike today where you are betting all your effort and dollars on a major at age 18 – much like a roll of the dice.”