(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)

While none of us know what the distant future really holds, we are able to detect trends that point to likely possibilities. I’m generally wary of prognostications that seem to be shaped predominantly by financial interests (Web3), but I tend to take note of potential future developments that gain support over time from many diverse sectors and viewpoints.

Such is the case with the UN’s latest report on climate change (spoiler alert: it’s rather bleak), and this paper from the International Labour Organization about shaping skills and lifelong learning for the future of work. The latter item is a reminder that we are reaching the end of the road for education models that do not provide demonstrable evidence of providing learners with specific skills that are requested by employers.

And, while I might have been sympathetic with an article questioning current discussions of ROI related to degrees twenty-five years ago, the world changed. The cost of tuition and fees (college) have continued to soar, outpacing every consumer good and service except hospital services. Employers, increasingly using job posting services like Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter, and LinkedIn, parse and rank job applicants based on skills. In other words, a degree for most people has simply become a ticket to access a large section of the “Employment Exhibit Hall.” Skills, however, are what qualify applicants to actually be considered for specific job opportunities.

Here’s the bottom line. Students will struggle to compete in the employment marketplace, even if they have a degree from a decent university unless they can show evidence that they already have the skills needed to succeed in the workplace.*

In other words, we need to reframe our fashionable concerns about the value of a college degree to questions about the value of college degrees unaccompanied by clear evidence of both foundational and job-specific skills.

Yes, yes. we all want college students to flourish and find happiness. It’s just really hard to do that if you are saddled with debt and/or have no legitimate prospects for a productive career.


The possible exception is for students that (1) are pursuing degree programs with specific career pathways and that focus on profession-specific skills (Computer Science, Engineering, Accounting, Finance, etc.), (2) participate in one or more internship opportunities that align them with likely employers, (3) take part in significant project and volunteer opportunities that provide demonstrable evidence of specific competencies, and/or (4) have access to a strong professional network (including family connections. 

Further Reading

Higher Education

Community Colleges Must Put the ‘Education’ Back in Workforce Education

Down With ROI

The Future of Tenure

Common App: Applications to highly selective colleges up by 25% in 2 years

Quality-assurance group aims to judge colleges on workforce outcomes

How U.S. higher ed is reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Endowments From 1990 to 2050

The Upside of the Downward Trend in College Enrollment

New report finds questionable returns for M.B.A. programs

Mizzou defends president’s right to cut faculty pay by 25%

Do Regional Universities Improve Local Economic Resilience?

Colleges’ new solution to enrollment declines: Stopping drop outs

Tuition-free college movement gains momentum, despite Biden’s stalled plan

K-12 Education

Why competency-based education is challenging centuries of tradition

Texas Now Requires New Charter Schools to Ensure They Won’t Teach Critical Race Theory

Rees Responds to Hess on Charter Strategy

PROOF POINTS: Researchers blast data analysis for teachers to help students

The Upside of the Downward Trend in College Enrollment

The great uncoupling: How digital learning will change education 

Education Design and Technology

Robo-Writers, Translators, Chatbots: Developments in NLP and What it Means for Education

Stephen’s Web ~ Web3 in Education Isn’t Very Interesting

Reimagining the future of education with web3

Stephen’s Web ~ Reimagining the future of education with web3


A review of Stephen Downes’ latest contribution to the theory of connectivism

How Does Learning Take Place

The Cognitive Level

Domain Driven Design | Deep dive into context mapping

Busting The Myth of Learning Styles 


Businesses can’t Find Workers but Not Because of Different Interest

Linking hybrid learning to the business

The $8.5 trillion dollar skills gap: How learning leaders must address it through talent and technology

Community Colleges Must Put the ‘Education’ Back in Workforce Education

Target Seeks Edge With New Compensation Strategies

DoorDash acquires restaurant ordering platform Bbot

Shaping skills and lifelong learning for the future of work

Technology and Retail Trends

Energy company plans to dig 6 to 12 miles to make geothermal energy accessible to all

Take a look inside a robot fast-food kitchen with fully autonomous ovens, freezers, and cleaning systems that don’t require any staff

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2022: The end of passwords

Amazon Opens a Whole Foods With the Next Step in Automation

Domain-Driven Design | Deep dive into context mapping

By 2026, 1 in 4 People Will Spend at Least 1 Hour Per Day in the Metaverse

Online Grocery Industry Report: Market Stats in 2021

Flippy the burger-flipping robot just got hired in 100 burger joints in California