Learner Revolution in, Ed Tech Revolution out

New report suggests investors should focus on companies servicing the “Learner Revolution,” which creates pathways of success that guide individual students

report learner revolution

The Ed Tech Revolution is on its way out, and something new is set to take its place: The Learner Revolution.

According to a new Education Design Lab report released during the recent National Education Week conference in Washington
D.C., investment in education has been mostly relegated to surface-level areas where returns are quick, but which are unfocused on the personal experiences of students.

As a result, the report suggests that investors should shift their focus to companies leading the charge towards utilizing mobile, software, and analytical platforms in order to offer services that create pathways of success and assistance for the individual learner.

Going beyond the “first and second waves” of investment in higher education, which first established online colleges and learning management systems, and then focused on creating courseware tools and data analytics, this new learner-focused “third wave” is described by the report as being “more complex–a revolution that will be more transformative.”

Thus, the “learner revolution” will be “characterized by accessible, affordable, customizable, transparent services from post-secondary providers, be they old school or new school.”

Perhaps the main reason for the arrival of the learner revolution, though, lies in its attempt to solve the issue of how to best prepare students for a higher standard of living. The report explains that the learner revolution could do this by sorting out for students which pathway might be best, based on today’s disaggregated higher education system where there are numerous models that make it possible to earn degrees.

Investors agree that higher education is currently in a position to go through great change in the coming years, leaving the door open to the refinement of higher education through the learner revolution.

(Next Page: 8 characteristics of the “learner revolution”)

The learner revolution focuses on ensuring that students are truly learning, which for many requires actual experience along with mere conceptual learning, such as problem solving, discussion, critical thinking, and even role playing.

Similarly, the learner revolution will aim to transform the existing credit-hour structure by focusing more on actual mastery than “seat time.” By moving away from rigid accreditation requirements and towards competency-based education, micro-credentialing, and academic badges, as well as making it easier for students to keep credits when they transfer, the learner revolution will seek to create “a world where credits are not institution bound, but earned and carried by individual students throughout life.”

With the learner revolution, greater emphasis will also be placed on communicating with employers to provide input on curricula as well as creating more school-to-work training programs.

Breaking the tenants of the learner revolution down, the report has identified eight major areas for growth in higher education. Although many companies are already working on improving these areas, the report notes that “further innovation and investment is needed in all of them.”

1. Credit portability: A focus on ensuring seamless and standardized agreement that credits will be equivalent among all institutions.

2. 21st century skill assessment: Resumes and portfolios will not only include academic achievements, but also “credentials demonstrating other skills and attributes that a person possesses and intentionally develops.” This calls for the creation of a service that can better tangibly measure areas such as critical thinking, teamwork, and even creativity.

3. Competency-based credit: This area focuses on universities giving students credit for what they have already learned, but there is a need for a clear and consistent method of doing so.

4. Personal learner coaching: This sort of support would use data analytics and mobile platforms to help adults take the necessary steps towards acquiring new skills in order to get a promotion or new job.

5. Facilitated peer learning: Since it is often difficult to fully master a subject online or alone, this area would focus on the development of platforms that could best bring students together in easily formed peer groups so that they can learn from each other.

6. Real-world learning labs: The focus of real-world learning labs would involve companies and institutions creating “living/learning experiences” that are even more in depth than internships or studying abroad.

7. Skills-specific academies: Essentially, this would involve the creation of training programs for tasks that extend beyond blue-collar work, such as computer coding programs and other new fields that do not always necessitate traditional higher education.

8. Adaptive learning & feedback: Although the report states that this area is only in its infancy, it is based upon a potentially endlessly customizable approach to catering towards different learning styles. New systems would use data to provide instant feedback to professors and students, but how instructors could best implement this needs to continue to be tested.

Although many of the ideas above are nice in theory, almost all of them require further research and development, which in turn can only be achieved through further investment, notes the report. However, in order for investors to truly back ventures that seek to fix those problems, clearer revenue models are needed.

Specifically, the report notes that companies will need to show their ability to scale, proof of efficiency, and promise of returns-on-investment within five years.

Should those requirements be met, though, higher ed could be seeing a true revolution in the coming years: a Learner Revolution.

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