Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

Where have all the learners gone?

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist

“We don’t need no e-ju-cai-shun…” the protesters sang. The Ministry of Webinars ignored them and droned on. Lets face it, online classes need conversations with friends and fellow learners. The lines are blurred between knowledge, entertainment and free-flowing conversations.

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Higher Education (HigherEd) costs a bomb and does not guarantee employment or employability. Skills are like high fashion silverware. They need to be constantly polished and new pieces have to be bought. With Teachers Day coming up on 5th September, let us get this straight – academics must be a rewarding first choice for the best professionals. That is the spot EdTech has missed.

Education is a luxury

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in many sectors. Education moved online as . Education is still a luxury and certainly does not come with a guarantee of jobs, nor is it an insurance against redundancy.

Education is struggling to be desirable, feasible and viable

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Design Thinking principles say that a product or service should be desirable, feasible and viable.

It should satisfy the need of the user, should be easy to implement and be commercially sustainable. In most countries of the world, higher ed would fail that test.

In US, higher ed has increased its prices by 1,400% since the late 1970s. In India, assuming a 10% inflation, Kotak Bank had estimated that the prohibitive cost of becoming a doctor. (Read this or just glance below).

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Education has changed

The nature of work ie education has changed. That needs a new talent strategy. That needs a new kind of workplace ie Higher Ed institutions.

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Prof Vijay Govindrajan suggests that some content can be recorded and made available to students to read ahead of the class. Knowledge is all about predetermined answers to predetermined questions. That is the tech part. And then there is the human bit.

The second is co-creation of knowledge where students and faculty get together and create knowledge together, which means problem-solving, or an engineering lab where you design a robot, or a physics lab, where there is co-creation of knowledge. Then there are skills and capabilities that are “artificial intelligence resistant.” These are soft skills like negotiation skills, interpersonal skills, confidence, character, ethics, connecting the dots. Read more

Higher Ed needs the right talent and more

When a sector stops being attractive to talent, the sector starts dying. That is why newspapers are dying. They no longer attract the brightest minds. Neither does higher ed. Higher ed is no longer the first choice of the top talent. We continue to call teaching and medicine as “noble professions”. So they cannot make money despite the cost of acquiring the education.

Most professors make substantially less than the median pay possible in other sectors. Higher ed needs a talent strategy – not just tech. The brightest must find it an attractive choice, not just a Plan B. Without having the right incentives (financial and non-financial), no sector can thrive. The best minds in HR need to find educational institutes a place works with cutting edge talent and talent management strategies.

When the customer changes, it is time to rethink the product-market fit. That has happened in education.

The learner has changed

The environment in which the learner is operating has changed. It is no longer compartmentalised into classroom training and online training. The context is changing.

  1. Attention is like respect – it is earned
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To drive adoption of a product, designers remove friction. they make it convenient. Learning must become a convenient option that fits into a busy professionals life.

In between the demands for cooking, caregiving and being present for parent-teacher meetings, professionals have to make time to learn. When we watch a gripping series on OTT, the stories have “cliff hangers” built in. Attention is like respect – it needs to be earned. Storytellers know it. Every author knows it.

If the content is interesting enough, people do spend time binge watching. The content must earn the attention of the learner. (Read about: Binge Learning and goal gradient)

2. Learning happens with participant cameras ON

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I have taken a screen shot from LinkedIn Learning’s course run by Daniel Pink. See how the content is delivered in under 2-3 minutes.

It is one thing to be in a room with other learners. It is a different experience when half of the people have their cameras off during an online learning experience. For the person teaching the class, it is hard enough to gauge the learner’s engagement, interest or comprehension. The facilitators/ speaker need visual cues to be effective. Without active two way participation, the classes are no different from watching a TED talk or reading a book.

While in-person classes can go on for several hours a day, online classes take WAY more time for the speaker to make the content engaging. Engagement fades dramatically after the first 6 or 7 minutes. Having variety in the methodology eg video, quiz, polls, chats etc keep the learner engaged. <read more>

3. Content must be INTERESTING first

The line between news and entertainment has blurred. The news channels compete to be offering entertainment masquerading as news. With the easy access to endless movies and serials available on tap from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and YouTube, the average learner’s has become very discerning. Every piece of learning content competes with Hollywood and Bollywood for attention.

Without acknowledging this new context of the learner, it will be impossible to undertake the large scale upskilling programs in the organisations.

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Four ideas to address the gap

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  1. Teach the leaders to write short posts on LinkedIn. LinkedIn now has almost 740 million members with over 55 million registered companies. Your clients and employees and talent are all waiting to connect with you. Being able to convey the human side of the information is what matters. It is a skill that can be very easily learned. Invest in a coach who can teach leaders how to write content that engages. A single business deal won will pay back the investment many times over. (read more)
  2. Engage the employees who are social media stars: When I work with clients to build their social media presence, I ask them to identify the social media stars in their organisation. Use these social media experts to make the course content engaging. Instructional Design experts can work with these social media stars to create awesome content.
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Don’t worry about measuring success for a while.

  1. Film appreciation workshops: As the Chief Learning Officer of Wipro, I have brought in film makers to teach business leaders the craft of film making. It teaches them to view their own content with a new lens. Nine years back, I took senior leaders of Wipro to the Jaipur Literature Festival to polish their narration skills. That made headlines! Read more
  2. Discover your niche: Content can be videoaudiovisual or newsletters. Help your employees discover their niche in content creation. Someone who feels awkward being in front of a camera can be great at writing short posts. Some leaders are persuasive writers. Some can use audio platforms to share their ideas. I like to create these #sketchnotes. If you like any of my sketchnotes, feel free to use them. Seriously – they are free for every subscriber of my newsletter.
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Netflix now goes beyond “binge-watching” and induced something called “binge-racing,” in which fans complete a new series on the very same day it’s released.

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Four years back, Netflix decided to compete with sleep. In 2021, your content is competing with Netflix for attention. Investing in your content strategy and partnering with creators is the only option if you have to take on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ … and of course sleep.

Where have all the learners gone? Gone to sleep everyone. When will we ever learn? Its time we better learn.

Republished with permission and originally published at Abhijit Bhaduri’s LinkedIn

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