Insights is a SmartBrief Education Originals column that features perspectives from noted experts and leaders in education on the hot-button issues affecting schools and districts. All contributors are selected by the SmartBrief Education editorial team.
The education sector has been shaken due to the pandemic, initially forced to take classes online. Primary and secondary schools reverted back to face-to-face classes, while many colleges, universities and other educational institutions benefited from continuing the online setup for some classes, with others even adopting fully online courses.
The proliferation of online and digital classes means educators will have to adapt to fast-paced technological advancements for online teaching. Remote workers, distributed teams and even systems powered by artificial intelligence and decentralized blockchain networks are going to be more prevalent not just in various industries, but also in education.
As online classes and work are becoming mainstream and embraced more by learners, educators must keep up and learn new technologies to better equip themselves for the future with more online classes. They also need to know how to meet the demands of students who wish to upskill through short online courses to get ahead with their careers.
To guide teachers, professors, instructors, facilitators and administrators, here are some of the factors to look out for on what the future of work in education will look like and what other schools are doing to stay relevant and to keep up with changing student and industry needs.
4-year degrees vs. microcredentials
We’ve seen widespread technological advances and adoption ever since study and work-from-home happened to the world. Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens emerged, became popular and continue to maintain their status as brands, celebrities and the wealthy roll out their crypto, tokens and projects. AI and ChatGPT are becoming ubiquitous, making work supposedly easier for everyone. When it comes to technology being applied to the real world, everything is happening fast, all at once.
For the education sector, this means that a four-year college or university degree may have some competition. By current standards, four years is already a decade of change for technology. Even the time for the adoption of AI and blockchain only took months to two years. The rate of change is so fast that lessons from a four-year course may be obsolete once a student graduates.
Bradley Ackroyd from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Canada has found that offering microcredentials or certifications can help the education sector to keep up with the demands of both students and industries.
Microcredentialing is the short-term study of a specific course, skill or niche that allows students to upskill in a specific area in a matter of weeks or months. Ackroyd said big IT companies are now shifting to the idea that a student can have a collection of certifications to be qualified for work.
With microcredentialing, educators need to be agile and adapt to the needs of businesses and industries, working closely with them to identify the skills companies and industries need and to build skills-based niche courses around their requirements.
Partnering with businesses and organizations will allow educational institutions to be aware of the various opportunities out there for customized and innovative learning modules and curricula. Partnerships will also help create demand from employers, and students can start work immediately after graduating. In just a few weeks or months of study, holders of microcredentials will be able to meet the need for some skilled talents in specific growth areas.
Mat Patenaude, community liaison for the government of Alberta, thinks that the education sector will be able to incorporate tech advancements such as blockchain, Web3 and the metaverse into the nationwide school curriculum in about five years — which is around the same time the government may come up with rules and regulations for the industry. Patenaude’s estimate was based on how fast schools have adopted coding and programming into the school curriculum from the time they were introduced.
Bridging the gap in Web3 education
There is a gap in the education of AI and Web3 at present. Since the technology is new, there is still a lack of standardized and reputable educational courses and curricula for Web3 that will educate people and ease them into using the technology.
The technology itself is also evolving at such a rapid pace that schools are unable to keep curricula up to date, making the concept of microcredentialing even more attractive.
Major schools and educational institutions should take the example of SAIT and educators in improving the curricula development of curricula and meeting industry talent and skills requirements through digital programs on AI and Web3.
SAIT’s microcredentials verified via blockchain
SAIT is focused on upskilling students and has been working with various industries to use Web3 and blockchain in the design of its short-term programs and curricula, offering students digital programs that are aligned with industry needs, providing students the skills to find employment immediately.
The institute has been offering blockchain courses and issuing certifications to students through blockchain since 2019. Their graduates’ microcredentials are on the blockchain system, which helps them prove the credibility of their certifications and work history, promote transparency and security of student records, preventing fake credentials.
SAIT also aims to educate businesspeople, C-level executives and entrepreneurs on the opportunities in the blockchain space.
Financial literacy explores cryptocurrency, blockchain
ReTrain Canada Web3 educator Audrey Whitlock is teaching students financial literacy as it relates to cryptocurrency and blockchain, and the classes lead to certifications.
For adults looking to upskill, Whitlock coaches students on good, unbiased and safe business practices in the Web3 space, aside from the speculative aspect of crypto which the public tends to fixate on.
Blockchain technology is here to stay and can be used responsibly to build projects that can benefit the public. Whitlock educates people on how to harness the power of blockchain technology to help individuals, companies and organizations.
Educators can remain relevant and be on top of the field through learning, adapting and incorporating new technologies in their workflow and their schools’ curricula. When they keep up with changing times and technologies, they can help educate a new breed of competent professionals by offering specialized and niche subjects of study that can be learned quickly in this technologically advanced digital world.
Cory Hymel is the vice president of product and research at Gigster, a company democratizing access to software development. Cory focuses on blockchain and Web3 development projects and manages academic partnerships as well as furthering research into distributed teams and the future of work and ever-evolving organizational structures. Follow him on YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, and read his blog.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.