Up Skilling Through Technology

Ambarish Datta, MD & CEO, BSE Institute, on how tech solutions are aiding professionals to enhance skills at their time and pace.

Imagine a busy executive is traveling in his personal pod in the year 2025. En route to a meeting Mr Executive gets ready for a quick-byte learning on weather derivatives. A few clicks n push of buttons, he’s completed a quick session with an expert. His personal learning assistant programme scanned through his email and employed ‘Artificial Intelligence’ to schedule this learning. This may sound far-fetched, but in a few years it will be a reality.

While the education sector is moving towards technology to making learning easier, professionals too are harnessing the power of the 4th revolution to upgrade skills. Learning at own pace, optimize time, save costs etc, are some of the reasons why it’s gaining popularity. Let’s take a deeper look at what is pushing professionals to consume technology-based learning.

Bandwidth & Ease of access: With low technology costs, the bandwidth available is much cheaper now than it was earlier. This now makes learning on technology much easier. Heavier video-based learning, simulations etc can now be accessed much easily. With 5G being available soon, this will only get better.

Hand held devices: The availability of low cost, mid-size handheld devices and decent screen sizes in mobile phones is now helping us learn more easily. Learners are no longer tagged to fixed computers or heavy devices to learn. They are able to learn easily even when telecommuting, thus converting cell phones to personal learning devices.

Learning outside the classroom: Learning is no longer confined to classrooms or fixed environments. Availability of good network connectivity and own devices mean that learning is now truly – anytime, anywhere. Learners don't need to fix time during productive work time to upgrade skills. They can do it at any time of their convenience and fit it into their own personal schedule.

Credentials no longer important: Conventional universities and credential providers are no longer relevant. What learners want is quick, easy to learn, modules to upgrade a key skill. A credential provider is no longer important but the quality of learning is. Learners now want to learn and upgrade skills from an expert.

Byte-sized Learning: With busy lives now, learners want quick, byte-sized learning modules to upgrade skills. Larger modules, broken into smaller bytes for easy learning. Like a lego toy, modules built one over another- helping learners build skills over a period of time. It also helps learners develop personalized learning paths for any particular module.

Use of Artificial Intelligence: With AI coming of age, applications will range from using AI to personalized learning paths, predictive learning modules, linking to interdisciplinary subjects etc. AI will also be able to give personal feedback to learners to understand progress and gaps. Feedback would be more real-time and help learners make course corrections while learning and not post completion of learning as it is now. Recent developments in Natural language processing to help interactions between computer applications and human languages are encouraging.

Virtual Reality: VR now has successful examples of being used for professional education. VR tools use 3D based, responsive content and help learners engage with content. The learning is more enjoyable and often mimics the real environment for learning. Apt examples would include learning how to scuba dive, learn to operate an aircraft or complex machine tools.

Need to upgrade: Professionals now realize the need for mid-career skill upgradations. Technology is helping them do this quicker. They realize that unless they upgrade, progression within an organization may not happen.

Peer to peer learning: Current developments in AI helps learners benchmark themselves against the best in the field. Comparative progress with peers and learning within themselves is helping learners develop mastery over subjects quicker. It is now easier to stay on schedule to complete a learning program within a group.

Learning support: Self-paced learning in a technology-based environment needs constant motivation to stay on course. Professionals struggle on this. With technology, a scaffolding type support is available. Learning systems now, provide constant alerts to help professionals stay on course. This is also helping learners complete more courses now.

Social learning: Professionals use technology to explore what skills others in their social network are building. They are using this input to decide their own learning plans and use social media tools to develop interest in specific subjects.

Learning for self: Professional up-gradations till recently were driven by regulatory - directed mandatory needs, technology changes and sometimes by self-assessing competency gaps. With technology, professionals are upgrading skills much faster and on diverse subjects. Technology is helping them develop and learn subjects of personal interest, interdisciplinary and often outside the realm of their own domain. This is a healthy change and is helping organizations develop talent beyond core competencies.

While technology is central to upgrading knowledge, experts feel that areas like interpersonal skills may not be so easy to learn. Another factor to consider that most jobs in their current form may not exist in the coming years. Technology may not only automate mundane jobs but also replace job roles which do not need tacit knowledge. The progress of technology will also mean that an average skilled worker may have more than 4 to 5 careers in a lifetime, leading to cross-pollination of skills across domains. Also, skills to develop will need to be transnational. With migration laws being reviewed, aging in many countries, progress in medical science; a modern age professional will need the power of technology to keep pace with business and political needs.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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