Post

Workplace learning in Asia: The next ten years

EdTechXAsia 2016 is one the largest ed tech conferences in the world, attracting the biggest names in education technology for two days of innovation and insight.

It makes sense to host an edtech conference in Asia, and Singapore specifically. Schools from the continent are consistently placed as the best in the world, and a passion for educational excellence filters through to the workplace, making it a continuously evolving landscape for learning.

Technology forms part of this story, but so does organisational learning techniques, personalised learning and an increasingly globalised workforce. We’re interested in the next 12 months, of course. But what about the future? The next 10 years are going to be crucial for learning in schools and business, and the seeds of change have already been sown.

Let’s analyse some of the key trends, tech and challenges for the learning industry in Asia in the next decade.

DISRUPTIVE LEARNING IN SCHOOLS

South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong: these four make up the best education systems in the world. And they have done for the past three years. The key to their success is never staying still; constantly striving for effective educational improvement.

In 2011, for instance, South Korea set a target to digitise its whole curriculum, allowing students to access educational content anywhere, any time. Singapore has recently followed suit, investing around $70 million to digitise its content and going a step further, announcing a push to make all the classrooms ‘flipped’.

Flipped classrooms put teaching into the hands of the learner (student), proposing that the student learns in their own time, and the classroom is the space for discussion, debate and learning. Content can be accessed and learnt from anywhere.

Japan puts a premium on collaboration, personalisation and peer-to-peer learning in its school system. And the biggest economy in the region, China, has recently announced a refocused approach to learning, slowly moving away from the teacher dominated learning style into something more flexible.

As tech improves, the classroom will become a more collaborative space, not just in school, but globally. Google has already launched ‘Expeditions’—a VR field trip experience for school kids—and this tech will be refined and improved over the next decade.

Coupled with social VR, these virtual field trips mean that classrooms from all over the world will be able to mingle, debate and experience events together making the globalised world more local than ever before.

This democratisation of content looks set to continue. The results are paying dividends to both educational performance and innovation within the region (all four top ranking countries are also ranked in the top 20 global innovators, too). Successful businesses will give more power to employees than ever before, allowing them to learn in their own time, and maintain control over their own learning journey.

Where schools set the benchmarks, so businesses must follow. Expectations from students—both in terms of technology and learning styles—flow from schools through to their careers, and the most successful businesses will have to work to meet these expectations.

PERSONALISED LEARNING

Key to the performance of these top educational systems is the understanding that every learner is different, and each reacts in different way to the subject matter. ‘Mass production’ learning is quickly going out of fashion. Schools like Singapore Polytechnic are already making their schools ‘smarter’, allowing the school to identify those who are falling behind, and tailor learning plans specifically for them

Apply this sensibility to business, and you can understand where learning is likely heading in the next 10 years. No two experiences will be the same for each learner, depending on their needs, personalities and reactions.

This doesn’t come without challenges, of course. The question businesses have to ask is: ‘how personalised does the training need to be?’ The more flexible, the higher the cost, and the challenge to businesses will be in balancing the personalisation with the need.

With future learning platforms, particularly tech-centred ones, everything can be measured: every movement, response and interaction. The question and challenge over the next 10 years is how to use and interpret this data for optimum performance. And the smart businesses will be the ones who know what to measure and what to ignore for the most cost effective increase in employee knowledge and skill.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

The flipped classroom concept puts a premium on collaboration and communication to improve results. VR will offer both an immersive learning experience, and a social learning experience, particularly for global corporations.

Social VR will be commonplace in ten years, giving life to global meetings, but also allowing multi-person training sessions from all over the globe.

THE CONTENT

While e-learning is key for building knowledge, for many industries nothing comes close to experience. We’re likely to see experiential training and learning content becoming much more commonplace in ten years’ time.

This year, the world’s first VR operation streamed live in April; allowing thousands of students to watch surgery in real-time. This kind of large scale insight and access has never been possible before, but it makes sense both in terms of cost and experience.

This works for students; for on the job training, AR will come into its own. Imagine now the same student who watched a VR surgery taking on their first surgical procedure. AR glasses will allow material to be transposed onto their work, guiding and advising as they go.

And the aforementioned machine learning will be able to tailor each training experience to the feedback of the learner as content becomes more bespoke, more accurate and more re

TECHNOLOGY

Collaboration, personalisation and bespoke content all lead us to technology. As learning plans require more flexibility, so technology becomes more essential. Educational technology is more powerful than ever before, and it is driving change in school and businesses. The conversation looks certain to dominate over the next decade.

We are very much at the beginning of the virtual reality revolution, but certainly in the next five years, more and more people will be engaging with the tech. We’ll certainly see a lot of experimentation, and within a decade the social stigma currently attached to VR will likely be dissolved. Headsets will be more flexible and less intrusive, and the experiences will be normal for the younger generation, and less alien to older generations, too.

Image and video processing is exponentially improving, certainly, and with the next wave of VR—haptic feedback, bodysuits etc—already in production, and the hardware is getting better all the time. The future is more realism, more immersion and better results.

AR, meanwhile, will be the go-to application for field workers, allowing manuals of information and installation instructions to be accessed immediately and naturally on-the-move.

THE JOBS OF TOMORROW

Job roles are constantly evolving, and the requirements for businesses is changing so rapidly that both governments and businesses need to address the issue. Transformative learning for workers looking for a mid-career switch, or from struggling industries is more

For example, in Singapore, manufacturing output dropped 7.7% between 2014/2015 as a lot of jobs were shipped overseas: many were made unemployed. These were skilled workers, but the skills they had were not transferable from their own industry to the new demands of the labour force.

As technology moves forward exponentially, so does the demand for tech-centric jobs, and the need for flexible, expedient learning platforms becomes more essential than ever.

5-10 years ago we couldn’t have imagined the need to produce so many cyber security professionals in Asia. When the need comes, planning out a whole educational curriculum can take too long: content needs to be bespoke and time sensitive. And there are numerous jobs now which will be obsolete in 10 years time.

The delivery of ongoing education, learning and training in all industries will need to be adaptable to employee, and industry, need. Employers who can provide this flexibility will immediately have a competitive edge over competitors.

So there we have it; we believe the next decade will see one of the greatest upheavals to the learning in modern memory.

With increasing technological advancements, though one thing is clear. People will get blinded by the tech, and not ask the bigger question: what problem is this training trying to solve? Is this the best medium for solving that problem? How are we measuring the results?

As we’ve noted before, VR, and any future learning innovation, has to start with the problem. Only when we know what problem the training is trying to solve will we know the most effective solution. This is as true now as it was ten years ago, and it will still be relevant in ten years’ time.

Come and visit Immerse at EdTech Asia. We’ll be at stand D06 showcasing groundbreaking VR learning environments.