The Future Of Education: Disrupting and Rethinking Education

Education for impact ® by Honoris Staff Writer

The relentless pace of technological advancement in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is leaving almost every aspect of life transformed. How we learn and teach is being disrupted. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this change, with educational institutions around the world opening up to new possibilities and modes of instruction and adopting cutting-edge technologies to ensure students reach their full potential.

In a world of rapid change, educational institutions will need to further adapt in order to prepare students for the future of work. Particularly in Africa, with its huge youth bulge offering the opportunity to address the continent’s challenges, students will rely on innovative learning experiences to support them in thriving in the 21st century.

The future of education is likely to include the following trends.

Personalised learning

Learning will be at least partly, if not entirely, remote and online, and will be on-demand and self-paced, with flexible timing. Education will offer different pathways to the same destination, with syllabi able to be adapted to students’ learning capacity. Students may even be included in the process of designing courses in conjunction with educators.

“Learners will have to continuously educate themselves to keep pace with the new skills requirements of the digital age, and in order for Africa to leverage the benefits of the digital economy it will have to leapfrog traditional education and provide more flexible e-learning solutions and customised on-demand education,” said Professor Dhiru Soni, Director for Research & Innovation at REGENT Business School in South Africa.

“Given that students learn differently, educational institutions will have to provide more personalised teaching practices and learning experiences. Such self-paced, online learning ecosystems will maximise on convenience, and allow students to customise their education so that is it relevant to their specific needs in the 4IR.”

Modular structure of curricula

Eschewing the formal rigidity of tertiary education as we know it, such as traditional multi-year undergraduate and post-graduate degree courses, education in the future will become modular in structure. This will give students more choice to build their education to match their specific career needs.

Affordable shorter courses will bring education to more Africans, while universities may offer lifelong subscriptions so that students and professionals can remain up-to-date in a constantly changing workplace.

“Curricula will be more utilitarian in nature, that is, tailored to be practical and usable, with short learning programmes (SLPs) or modular approaches, and accumulating fit-for-purpose skills via badging and credentialling relatively quickly,” said Martha Moyo, Director of MANCOSA, South Africa. “In Africa, affordability of education has been the biggest barrier to access and SLPs and modular education will allow students to develop multiple skills in bite-sized, affordable chunks.”

Classrooms redefined

The classroom will no longer be a specific, or even physical, space but an immersive world that can be accessed anytime via augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). What used to be taught within a classroom – theoretical study – will now take place wherever the student may be, while practical sessions will be taught face-to-face or via AR/ VR.

“Infusing AR\ VR into existing programmes helps students understand theoretical concepts more easily, keeps them engaged in learning, and prepares them for careers through simulated experiences that allow them to fine-tune their skills (leadership, technical, and professional) and increase their confidence in a safe space before applying this learning to real life,” said Meriem Somai, Chief Digital and Information Officer at Honoris United Universities, Tunisia.

“As part of its digital transformation, Honoris’s vision is to provide students with practical experience in various educational fields, leveraging AR and VR technologies to simulate such learning environments. In our Medical Simulation Centre, for example, all medical and nursing students have the opportunity to pursue their education using medical simulation.”

Learning emulates the real world

Education will shift to focus on in-the-field, experiential training to develop usable skills, both soft and digital. Project-based learning will help prepare students for the gig economy labour market and Africa’s need for entrepreneurs. Traditional exams will, at least in part, be replaced by assessment of skills and competencies shown while doing, rather than theory.

“To thrive in the 21st century will require acquiring practicable career skills. Learning for examinations is not going to help a student face everyday life and work situations; the 3L skills – Learning, Life and Literacy – are key. The world is evolving, the 4IR is here, and only the technocrat in the ever-changing technocracy survives,” said Professor Benedict N. Akanegbu, Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences at Nile University of Nigeria.

“The role of teachers and lecturers in a 21st century classroom will also shift, from being an ‘expert’ to being a ‘facilitator’. The focus for instruction shifts from ‘knowing’ to being able to use and apply information in relevant ways.”

Educators as mentors

To balance the highly independent nature of learning in the future, mentors will become more important than ever. Teachers and institutions will be essential not only to steering students through the learning process but also to navigating a world of information overload. Mentors will guide students on where to access reliable, high-quality resources, and teach them skills such as critical thinking so that they can navigate in an overabundance of both incorrect and deliberately fake information.

“The new model of self-learning, in which learners will be able to study at their own pace online, paired with mentoring to provide personal guidance and critical feedback in order to ensure learning outcomes are achieved can be powerful,” said Firdaous Marzouk. “Innovative modes of educational delivery are already being embraced in order to keep up with the changing labour market; mentoring will be of key importance within such 21st century learning environments.”