Applying New Technology to Established Adult Learning Models, for the New Economy

The following was a piece of reflection I wrote, after I attended the Adult Learning Symposium, for my management, back in 2014.

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The title may be a mouthful, but this was the essence of Adult Learning Symposium held at Raffles City Convention Centre on 10 – 12 July 2014.

The New Economy

The world is indeed moving towards an environment we have not experienced, and this is not restrticted to the advanced economies, and this is partly due to technological advances. An example that can be used to align the perspectives is through the correction of the belief that manufacturing jobs has flowed from the advanced economies to the developing economies. The fact is manufacturing jobs are lost across the board to factory automation. And the increased mobility into affluent cities also compounded the situations as factories face shortage in skilled manpower.

Technology advancement is also not restricted to relegating rote duties to robots. White-collar routine jobs like data entry is also gradually overtaken by artificial intelligence. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are poised to substitute traditional learning, especially in the context of adults, who find that the opportunity cost of attending courses full-time is too high.

Technology has also cultivated what we’ve grown to acknowledge the M-Generation; M stands for Millenial, and also stands for Mobile. No matter what we’ve grown up being accustomed to, technology in the form of mobile devices pervasiveness and social media platforms have reduced our attention spans and increased our expectations as a learner.

In simple terms, the new economy has, as a result of advances in technology, these issues to resolve:

  • Rising costs and shrinking funds
  • Short attention spans of learners
  • Learner’s need for collaboration

Fortunately, what problems the technology has created, technology can also solve. The symposium showcased some of the present or promising resources a learning specialist can tap on.

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Massively Open Online Courses

The most talked about, and the most apparent these days, is Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Platforms like Coursera allows a working adult to obtain qualifications for free, as it circumvents the obstacles of lack of available training funds (in terms of actual funding and opportnuity costs of training), lack of time and lack of attention. The platforms eschews current pursuit to provide bite-size learning (training that lasts for 25 min) and flexibility in keeping up with coursework.

Augmented Reality

The symposium also kicked off with Dr Matt Bower’s demonstration of augmented reality and its potential for adult learning. While appealing to learners whose learning style is at odds with classroom learning, augmented reality provides just-in-time (JIT) training for workers to pick up skills as he implements (for eg repairing any kind of air con units); JIT learning, as it is, already shortens training hours by only providing training as needed. Augmented reality shortens training hours even more by combining training with work, which is like melding OJT with mentorship.

“When Learning is Social, Why Make It Reclusive?”

Mr Raja Chowdury presents his own interpretation of JIT learning in the form of teamie, which draws on the current trend embraced by M Generation: Social Media Engagement. Imagine Facebook in the form of a learning platform, where a trainer posts learning reaources like notes, videos and papers for reading for his learners. He could also post assessments for his learners, who could post their answers in the form of wall posts and subjected to peer review and grading. Trainers could also highlight correct or worthy answers, thereby satisfying the needs of learners to learn collaboratively. This platform, or the idea of collaborative education takes the concept of JIT and bite size learning further, by adding the element of crowdsourcing, and combining coaching and peer learning.

Social Capital

The power of the masses, or social capital, was then reinforced by Prof John Field. All these new ways of learning also allows diverse ideas to converge, thereby stimulating innovation. And as Prof Shahid Yusof highlighted, there is less incentive for firms to divert training resources to older workers, their value is still prominent in the social capital perspective, and it is up to individual firms to tap on their expertise. An example raised was the comparison of a young and an old learner, who were on extreme ends of IT savvy-ness: While the young learner is already adept in manipulating new media platforms, such manipulation could easily be picked up with practice by the old learner, whom had deep understanding in data analytic that could only be accrued through years of working experience.

CLAF

However, all these new technology would achieve their full potential without application to sound learning theories. The cycle of Coaching, Learning, Application and Feedback reinforces learning and provides relevance, which would then increase the Return on Investment for training. Although Prof Lee recommends her concept for leadership development, when internalised, an organisation can embrace a learning culture that is capable of renewing the organisation with new knowledge and hence sustainability for the long term growth of a company.

As mentioned in the opening, the topics discussed involves looking at how adult educators can adapt to the new economy. While advances in technology is the focus here, there involves the inter-play of technology, globalisation, changing demographics and maturity of learning models. By harnessing the power of technology, and adapting to the effects of globalisation and changing demopgraphics (through embracing diversity and eliminating stereotypes), continuing education can push the limits of established adult learning models to achieve national goals like increasing productivity or relieving shortages in manpower.

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