(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a 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.)
It’s always fun to roll up all of the articles and posts I’ve surveyed from the previous week and to look for interesting patterns and trends.
For example, one of the biggest pieces of news from last week, whether you were aware of it or not, was the announcement that the edtech software company Instructure has announced that they are acquiring Concentric Sky, a leading educational development group behind badging (Badgr) and microcredentials.
There’s plenty to unpack with regard to the acquisition but, at a high level, this move puts a resounding exclamation mark on the trend toward skills and employment readiness in higher education. Having said that, it’s also important to point out that meaningful and ubiquitous badging in higher ed is not easy. First, it requires rethinking programs and curricula, as badges are only meaningful if they are tied to clearly defined skills and demonstrable evidence of skill mastery. In addition, while having robust badging capabilities inside of a market-leading LMS is definitely a move in the right direction, it is also easy to see a future where students earn an abundance of microcredentials that are never transferred to a professional or other appropriate life learning platform after they graduate. Finally, I would also point out that adding a significant layer of badging into the traditional higher ed curriculum will require significant training and professional development at most universities.
So, this is probably a good time to bring up a brader concern that teachers aren’t getting enough training on technology, and it’s a global problem.
Back to higher ed for a moment, Moody’s released a couple of reports warning that colleges and universities are looking at difficult expense increases related to rising costs, wage inflation, and labor shortages. The increase in costs will almost certainly lead to higher prices for attending college. Possible solutions? Well, there is a growing movement to lower student investment by moving to three-year degree programs. These programs would eliminate a whole year of college costs and help students begin their employment journey earlier (further helping with ROI). This trend, coupled with the rising popularity of dual-credit programs allowing students to earn at least a year of college credit while in high school, can absolutely have an impact on the price of attending college: that is if higher education institutions don’t continue raising the price to where the cost of a three-year degree in the future is equivalent to what students and their families pay for a four-year degree today.
Going back to microcredentials and the increasing relevance of skills and demonstrable evidence of skill mastery for today’s workforce, we should note that this is also putting abundant pressure on companies’ internal learning and training teams.
There are now two unemployed people for every three open positions in the U.S. It doesn’t matter what you call this situation: the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, the Great Reset. Companies can no longer rely on their ability to hire the talent they need. Instead, chief learning officers must collaborate across the workplace to reshape their learning ecosystems and accelerate internal skill development. However, if you want to close skill gaps by taking full advantage of your employees’ talents, you must first address a long-standing problem: Workplace learning is unfair.
Of course, I would likely be remiss if I didn’t mention the kerfuffle at Twitter last week. In some ways, the news that Elon Musk wants to take over Twitter or that Twitter is adopting a ‘poison pill’ plan to shield itself from an Elon Musk takeover is missing the point. There are other real and really big issues (technological, cultural, and societal) when it comes to the future of social media. And speaking of evolving technologies and social media, what would a weekly post be without at least some mention of Web 3.0?
Finally, a couple of fun “honorable mentions” for this week’s wrapup. First up, a strong shout-out to the participants in EDUC5103: Integration of Instructional Design and Technology, a graduate-level course at Cape Breton University, who have published Integration of Instructional Design and Technology: Volume 2. This is a good primer for those who are interested, with plenty of attention to integrating learning design within the constraints of our current global realities. Also, I will always be a sucker for a post on old or antiquated computer technology, and this post on the Epson PX8 laptop absolutely sent me down memory lane and more than a few tech history rabbit holes (does anyone remember the Honeywell Kitchen Computer, or H316 pedestal model, of 1969?).
Education, Educational Technology, and Learning Design
Technology and Culture