Learning – 21st Century style

Posted by on March 8, 2013

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Let’s begin this post with three questions about 21st Century (C21) Learning:

  • what is C21 Learning?
  • how will it work?
  • what are the key skills needed for C21?

I will deal with each question in turn, bearing in mind that we are already some way into C21 (and so, hopefully, some of what follows is already happening in your workplace).

What is C21 Learning?
Whether it happens in schools, universities, workplaces, or wherever, C21 Learning must take account of things such as:

  • ongoing advances in technology
  • research into how our brains work
  • globalisation and multicultural workplaces
  • the multi-generational workforce
  • the economic climate

Technology has enabled ‘virtual’ classrooms where e-learning and webcasts can be accessed online.  Many students now attend ’MOOCs’ (massive open online courses) via the web, rather than physically attend lectures.  And, coming soon, we have low cost, interactive video conferencing (see iSee links below).

Brain research has unlocked knowledge about how memory works and about how we learn.  This has led to the rethinking of some learning theories and practices that have been in place since the mid-20th Century.

Globalisation and multicultural workplaces bring opportunities and challenges.  People from many countries now have the chance to obtain an education, join the workforce, and lead productive lives.  Some also travel abroad for work opportunities; however, in a multicultural workplace, sound inter-communication skills are essential.

Multi-generational workforces of today will have as many as five generations (depending on which version of generational theory you follow).  The learning needs of each generation have been shaped (as they grew up) by influences from things such as technology and entertainment they experienced.

Economic climate effects will vary across companies/organisations, industries, and countries/states.  Since the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), two trends have become apparent in many workplaces:

    • training budgets, which were quickly pruned during the GFC, have remained low, and
    • some companies/organisations have moved away from training employees, preferring to seek (already) skilled recruits.
Influences on 21st Century Learning

Influences on 21st Century Learning

How will C21 Learning work?
C21 Learning will place more onus on the learner to take charge of their learning, i.e. to choose what to learn, and when to learn (self-directed learning).  In the workplace, we can expect formal learning events (whether in a physical or a virtual classroom) to be focused on essential (mission critical) needs.  Other important job-related learning is likely to be provided via coaching by supervisors or ‘subject matter experts’, or to be covered by ‘point-of-need’ performance support tools.

Features of C21 Learning include:

  • ‘live’ learning sessions (webcasts, MOOCs) can be accessed from anywhere on the web;
  • e-learning content is available ‘on demand’ at any time to suit the learner;
  • content will become multi-lingual (subtitles as a minimum);
  • content will be ‘chunked’ into short-duration packets.

The benefits of advancing technology and brain research should result in learning that is more realistic, relevant, and engaging (maybe even stimulating!).  Learning content design should cover only ‘must-know’ material, and not be bloated with non-essential ‘nice-to-know’ information.

Globalisation, multicultural workplaces, and multi-generational workforces each bring particular challenges for the design and development of learning content.  A “one size fits all” approach will not work effectively with so many variables in the audience.  Content must be designed to be suitable for the culture and generation of the learner.

The economic climate, while it remains uncertain, is perhaps the biggest challenge, especially for anyone where the training budget is under constraint.  While some companies/organisations may be reluctant to invest in the development of their staff, there is a wealth of low-cost or free ‘self-help’ content available on the web (that said, some of it is also of dubious quality!).

What are the key skills needed for C21?
There is a lot of discussion, debate, and even contention on the web about “21st Century Skills”.  According to many commentators, the following are the four C21 key skills:

  • creativity and innovation (imagination, execution)
  • critical thinking and problem solving (reasoning, decision making)
  • communication (read, write, present, comprehend)
  • collaboration (team work, cultural awareness)
21st Century Key Skills

21st Century Key Skills

Other sources also add:

  • information literacy (ability to find useful and reliable information)
  • global citizenship (personal and social responsibility)

While none of these topics should be a surprise, it is worth noting that many are not included as separate topics in the schooling curricula in most countries.  And even where they are included, it is possible (in most countries) to complete school without acquiring a particularly high level of competence in any given topic.

If these skills are considered to be ‘key’ for C21, the bottom line is that each of us needs to develop competence in each of these in order to remain employable as C21 goes on.  While employing companies/organizations might look for these skills as part of their recruitment selection processes, it is unlikely that they will provide formal events to develop such skills.  This is where offerings of low-cost or free ‘self-help’ content on the web can help (once the quality issues have been sorted).

This is exactly what Free Zap Nuggets is about.  When I do find something about any of these topics that ‘ticks’ the right boxes, I will bring it to you through Free Zap Nuggets.

Free Nuggets
Here is our first free nugget for this post – What is 21st century education?  A short (2min:10sec) video from EF Smithsonian Travel that looks at C21 Skills and education [March 2012]:

The second free nugget is – The Workforce is Changing rapidly – How Will You Manage?  A short (3min:45sec) video from Kronos Inc, a multi-national workforce management company, this looks at changing workforce demographics and technologies [August 2010]:

Finally, I started this post with three questions – let me finish it with one more:

  • are You C21 ready?

Coming next:  Teamwork – it’s about excellence (in the meantime, enjoy the free nuggets!).

Links to iSee Video Collaboration material:

iSee Conferencing System
or  http://www.smartservicescrc.com.au/demo/isee-video-collaboration  [1min:52sec]
Demonstration of iSee
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69iVRZnDyVc  [2min:12sec]
iSee Article  http://anthillonline.com/isee-blurs-the-virtual-and-the-real-and-it-could-soon-be-real/)


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