As professor emeritus and senior fellow at the University of Illinois Springfield and senior fellow at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), Ray Schroeder is a leading expert in higher education and online learning. With decades of experience teaching, leading, curating, and writing, Ray brings unmatched knowledge and passion to the conversation around emerging technologies and the future of education.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, Jeff talks with return guest Ray about COVID’s indelible impact on teaching and learning, the metaverse, blockchain, non-fungible tokens, artificial intelligence, teaching ahead, and how Google’s wildly popular certificates make the case for relevant, efficient, economical learning going forward.
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[00:28] – Introduction of Ray.
Lifelong Learning in the COVID Era
[01:35] – What has the COVID era changed about how we should think about lifelong learning as individuals and as organizations that support lifelong learning?
COVID was an inflection point for learning. Rather than bringing learners to us it, COVID had us bring the learning to the learners. Training has changed in delivery mode, and we’re going to see future changes. COVID changed the whole landscape. We were face-to-face-centric, and we now have become distant-centric, reaching out directly to those who receive the learning from us.
[03:39] – Do you think COVID changed people’s expectations of online learning significantly?
Absolutely, and the changes are not only in the technological delivery mode but also in the convenience and facility for learners. For example, some of it is asynchronous, and it can be repeated, or learners can go at double speed. It gives you flexibility over the delivery and reception of content. As we move toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have access—instant access to video, audio, and data. That’s a substantive change, and most learners appreciate the opportunity to learn anyplace, anytime.
[05:36] – What’s your perception of how well teachers have risen to the occasion, and what are they still struggling with in this world where online is now a permanent, majority feature?
It’s changed from the beginning when so many had to adapt. Generally, the evaluation of quality and responsiveness early on was not very high. We called it “remote teaching” rather than “online learning” because it wasn’t intentional, and it wasn’t developed with instructional design. Early on in the pandemic, the online learning experience wasn’t very good, but it’s gotten better.
Subject matter experts and faculty adapted rapidly. This is to the credit of the instructional designers, developers, and video experts who helped bring along people who weren’t used to this kind of delivery.
[08:11] – What do you think the biggest hurdle is for an average faculty member or subject matter expert when they have to go online instead of standing in front of the classroom?
There’s a piece of vanity if you’re going to use video, and we have to help the subject matter experts get past that and understand that learners want authenticity. You’re not a model—they want you to be authentic.
Also, many experts are concerned about their lack of technological expertise; they feel they’ve got to do it all. Generally, that’s not the case; they have support. Often, people are anxious; they think something won’t work. But if you you help them through it, it works well for everybody.
New Professional Development Offerings from Us
[10:13] – If you’re looking for ways to support those you work with and serve, we have two offerings that can help.
To help learning businesses, Leading Learning offers a range of complimentary educational resources, including this podcast. Leading Learning’s parent company, Tagoras, provides in-depth, customized consulting services to help learning businesses assess their markets, formulate strategy, and select appropriate technologies. We’ve provided relatively little between these two options historically. In 2022, we aim to change that with the launch of two new offerings.
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If you’re interested in either or both of these professional development offerings, you can read more about the “Presenting for Impact” course and the Maturity Accelerator Program. Or you can always drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technological Changes Impacting Online Education
[11:38] – What’s your perspective on the technological changes that are impacting—and that will continue to impact—professional continuing online education?
The technology marches forward, and, in some cases, it hearkens back. For example, our children are using metaverse environments to interact, play games, and to build things. These toys and products for kids continued to advance while adults tended to pause on the metaverse, waiting for improved, lower-latency transmission through 5G or 10G on cable.
Latency occurs when you issue a command, and the time it takes to get to the core computer and then come back to you is noticeable. If you have high latency (such as with old 4G technology) and use goggles, for example, you might trip or feel nauseated because things may lag behind you.
We now have delivery technologies for the mobile and office learner that allow us to offer true low-latency engagements. That technology makes a huge difference.
For those in higher ed, it means you can use a chemistry lab. You can physically pick up a beaker and titrate a solution. And for those of us in industry, we can do tactile, hands-on kinds of trainings that we couldn’t really do in the past. Students and employees can have their hands in gloves. They can feel what it feels like. They can go through an operation and do it again and again and again… [S]urgical residents go through a simulated surgery in this kind of an environment once or twice, and then they step into the surgery suite and do it on you. I welcome that kind of experience.Ray Schroeder
[16:09] – In terms of the ability to deliver those experiences and participate in those experiences, we seem to be at a real tipping point because the bandwidth and the hardware needed exist. But there’s still pushback on the creation side because it feels expensive and labor-intensive. Are we at a tipping point with creation yet, or is that still coming?
We are at a tipping point in the coding and have facilitated coding into the equivalent of a word processor. You say what you want to do, and then it gives you the code for that.
As we’re educating youth and they’re growing up, they’re motivated to build because they get positive reinforcement, and they love the immersion. Minecraft and Roblox are two of the older 3D environments, and yet they are right on the cutting edge. They are ready to take a leadership role as we apply this to business.
To learn more, check out Ray’s Inside Higher Ed article “Is the Metaverse Finally Emerging?”
Blockchain, NFTs, and DAOs
[19:00] – Would you talk about blockchain, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), which are things you’ve written about? What those are, and how do you see them having an impact?
Ray talks about the expectation that people might live a hundred years on standard. This gives rise to the concept of “the 60-year learner,” We’ll see a long period of time of continuing education taking place in our jobs and as we change careers over our increasingly long life spans.
See our related episodes “The 60-Year Curriculum with Dr. Chris Dede” and “The New Learning Landscape: Two Shifts and a Gap.”
In college, you get a transcript, but the college owns the transcript. That is absolutely wrong. The student earns those credits, so a university shouldn’t be able to block her from getting her transcript because she has parking fees due, for example.
A few years ago, MIT championed putting transcripts on blockchain. As that moved forward, we saw concurrent development of non-fungible tokens, which could represent what you have created and validate that it’s yours. This should all be under the control of the learners, for them to assemble these assets in a way that they can be used by perspective employers. It could be that HR uses DAOs to sort through portfolios and choose the ones that have the NFTs they’re seeking.
We’re really at the beginning part of this development. But the key thing is that control, validation, certification of your learning belongs to you, and you will be able to present them in proper context, validated by the blockchain. I think this is an important step as we move forward. And I really think that we’re going to find so many employers using [it], for efficiency sake and reach sake.Ray Schroeder
To learn more, check out Ray’s Inside Higher Ed article “Tech Trends in Higher Ed: Metaverse, NFT and DAO.”
[23:17] – An interesting corollary is the responsibility of the learners themselves. Learners are basically creating a track record of the learning that you’ve done and the verification of that learning, and we need to prepare people for this.
Something that surprises many people is that the average tenure of an American worker (before the Great Resignation) with an employer is just four years. Every four years, if we’re changing employers, we need to validate ourselves all over, and we may need new credentials. We may need professional education and continuing education to develop ourselves for the new position.
How do we keep that trail moving and ensure we don’t drop pieces along the way? We create our folder that we cultivate and curate with all those educational experiences. We include all the trainings, courses, internships, etc. But we also add those personalized experiences. This is something new for all of us to begin to curate.
See our related episode “The Trend That Isn’t: Learner Responsibility.”
[25:37] – It seems like this might be a strong basis for competency-based education, which has had low-level buzz for a while but hasn’t come fully to fruition yet.
We should be ready for competency-based education—we must be. The best way most of us learn is by doing, and by being successful in doing that.
From Silos to Collaboration
[26:26] – The major players in lifelong learning are going to have to think differently and more collaboratively than they have in the past. We’ve typically had a siloed environment, without a lot of conversation among the different players providing learning about how they work together to address the need for workplace learning, upskilling, reskilling, and the career paths of the people that they all want to serve. What’s your perspective on that?
Google has really cracked the nut on this. They have six career certificates that they’re offering for only $39 a month through Coursera, for an average of six months to complete six courses at 10 hours a week.
More than a million have already enrolled in Google’s various career certificate programs. Probably the most unique and the important piece is Google has assembled 150 corporations that have agreed to accept the Google certificates as the benchmark for entry-level positions—they’ve even created portals to directly apply. In the case of Google, they consider it the equivalent of a degree.
Some discussion has arisen in higher ed saying they need a little bit of context, some liberal arts, for example. But nothing precludes this from being integrated into formal education. In fact, Google has offered it free to the nearly 2,000 community colleges in the United States. Also, the American Council on Education (ACE) has recommended that academic credit be given for these certificates.
Check out our related interview with Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer for ACE.
All of this is coming together, and we do have to partner, and we do have to be relevant, efficient, and economical. Those are the three touchstones: relevant, efficient, and economical. We can’t sustain $1.7 trillion in student debt. We need to make this affordable, and we’ve got to do it efficiently. And we have to respect the learner’s time.Ray Schroeder
[30:50] – Google made an effort to understand what companies need and to deliver that in the form of certificate they’re providing.
Jeff notes that too often organizations create a certificate because it sounds like a good idea, but they haven’t done the work to determine whether it’s something an employer is going to value.
Too often those in higher ed teach through the rearview mirror. They teach what happened. We’re not teaching ahead, and that’s what we need to do. That’s what Google gets, and that’s what employers get. And that’s what employees need to receive.
Read Ray’s Inside Higher Ed article “OER and Teaching Through the Rearview Mirror.”
Advice for Learning Businesses
[32:18] – For organizations that are in that business of continuing education, professional development, and lifelong learning, what do they need to be doing now to ensure that they’re going to thrive in the coming year and beyond?
We are in a fast-moving river. The current is very fast, and there are rapids ahead in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need to understand blockchain, where we’re going. We need to understand AI, and I think AI is the biggest technology for all of us that we’re going to see so much moving forward…constantly adapting and forward-looking. I would say all of our units need to be forward-looking. Don’t teach to today. Teach to tomorrow.Ray Schroeder
[33:39] – Wrap-up
A senior fellow at both the University of Illinois Springfield and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, Ray Schroeder is a leading expert in online education. You can learn more about his work and find links to the many articles and columns he’s written (and continues to write) and the reading lists he curates at rayschroeder.com. You can also find him on LinkedIn and Twitter. Ray brings decades of experience and insight to the work he shares, and we highly recommend following him.
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