Education of the future

Quality and continuity are a hot topic within the land of education. Optimizing the educational system is what it is about. This asks for flexibility and a reorganization of educational institutions, especially considering the digital revolution that we are currently in.
How do we tackle these challenge in education on short and long term? What does the education of the future look like in 2030? We asked Dorien Verdier, educational innovator and quartermaster at U.NXT. She provides her vision on the future of education.

What are the most important developments within education of the future?

Upcoming technologies will have a big impact on the circumstances of education. The social economic disruptions that come from these technological developments and changes will have a major influence on organizations, institutions, and on our personal lives. It is important for the development of educational content and for the organization that these subjects are brought up and that these organizations are adaptive towards these changes.

What challenges do educational institutions mostly face?

Education needs to start preparing for the future. But how do you do this? How do you measure its worth in relation to the future and how do you refine this?
I think that exploring the external circumstances should be a necessary continual process for an educational institution. An example of this is taking on the discussion with all of your stakeholders to determine which disruptions are relevant for your (educational) institution in order to create value for your surroundings and stakeholders in the future. Additionally, the political influence on education needs to be decreased and the needs of the future need to be anticipated.

What is now happening is that the government is regarded as the most important stakeholder, and here also lies the biggest challenge. This is where the motivation for value creation can derail. Something that you always have to take into account with a (nonprofit) educational institution is the motivation for value creation. This is more complex for a publicly funded organization that is being funded by a third party. This third party therefore becomes the most important customer, which will work disruptive, while the receiving party (students, businesses, society) are placed at a second place. This the reason why it is important to take various aspects in consideration in order to develop the creation of value further. Are there other possibilities such as the development of new business models or finding new cooperation partners? Maybe it is important to aim for a real market function of education and structure educational organization so that they are adaptive to explorations and disruptions, but in such a way that if you do not have a rationale or value addition anymore that you will be eliminated.

Is this the same for all educational institutions or do you see differences? (If yes, what?)

There are of course differences in school organizations and the developments they went through the last couple of years, but you can also see that innovations and developments find their way much too slowly in the current system and educational organizations. In preparation of the future the organizational structure has a big influence on the acceptation of external explorations within an organization. The past years little has happened in the development of educational institutions in the area of organizing continual feedback from businesses or from the current generations. Think of business operations and thinking differently about financing and use of resources. This is why I’m working on a new form of education and organization. A new international Bachelor Creative Business Studies, U.NXT, where adaptivity and innovation are safeguarded in the education and organization and with a curriculum that can be renewed and adapted within three months, and a gamified environment where students learn via existing, international MOOCs created by the best universities in the world. Learning online requires discipline, but at the same time the social aspects remains present if the MOOC-moderator ensures enough interaction and feedback. An advantage for many students: study books will become a thing of the past. Instead, students learn through videos, online articles, and assignments in a playful and challenging way. The knowledges gained through the MOOCs will be applied during challenges set by companies. The gamified learning environment in which this takes place is a simulated environment where behavior (curiosity, self-awareness, guts, awareness, networking), competences, and cognition come together and meet. This happens under the guidance of a coach from the company and by U.NXT.

Can educational institutions handle all these changes?

The current organizational structure is not equipped to be adaptive towards innovations and employees are not addressed on their behavior or innovative abilities. An organization must have the mental maneuverability and a culture in which experiments are encouraged. Culture is the only way to prevent that organizations lose their adaptability, power, soul, and talent in order to deal with radical changes. But how you let this happen or let this disrupt the company can happen in different ways.

For example, develop a culture of entrepreneurship by copying the market rules that apply outside the funds and applying them within the company. The company Haier is one of the most extreme examples. Their middle management was scrapped, and the company was divided into 100 small micro companies all with their own profit and loss account. The result was an exceptional competitive, awkward, chaotic environment, which delivered a lot of results. The company changed into a fast flowing, competitive network where almost no hierarchy was present. Employees were encouraged to promote new ideas where they would then vote over. The winner became project leader and could hire employees for their risk project. Entrepreneurial employees feel attracted to this way of working and the company itself, which will in turn strengthen the innovation culture within the company. The most important result is that employees are used to continuous changes.
Or think about Elon Musk who created an environment with SpaceX where the ambition ‘occupy Mars’ is being realized. Or that you look for outsiders, users of a product or service who are trying to do things radically differently, and work with them and learn from them. This allows you as a company to tap into whole new markets and gain new insights.

What opportunities are there? And in what ways can an effective and efficient management contribute to this?

Management plays a crucial role in the way an organization distributes their assets and how they deal with KPI’s and results. Political standards are often used as a starting point in this. I think that it is important that we do not upgrade our institutions to the standards of the politics institutions and instruments, but that we structure them to our vision on the future and the importance of the stakeholders. We should put the value we add first (see example Haier). Then, management is the way to get educational innovation off the ground. There are various structures possible to organize innovation and there needs to be a proper distribution between the resources, focus, budget, and talent. Structure the KPI’s and results so that adding value becomes a priority. We try to make educational innovation happen from the content only, but other supporting processes and distribution of goods are perhaps a better way to get this done.

In short, what is your vision on the future of education?

An important development is that we have to think of a way to “get people used to the new world”. This is an entirely different task for education. In addition, it is important to challenge major societal and world problems , or that we are perhaps no longer alone on this earth.

The short-term development is more about the influence and consequences of new technologies on education and the organization. So, how do we get employees and organizations developed further to a fast, adaptable, creative, innovative, networked, and experimental organization? This means that cherishing creativity and spreading innovation faster through the network of stakeholders (employees, partners, students) and the possibilities to organize and facilitate this. At U.NXT we try to establish an entirely new organization with MOOC-moderators and coaches who supply group coaching in a gamified environment. They can analyze the students with the right learning analytics and give personal feedback on their behavior so that leadership and innovation is a continual process and is constantly safeguarded in the institutional standards.