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By DAVID MYTON

Major global institutions – including academia, industry and governments – are not doing enough to help citizens learn about and adjust to Artificial Intelligence, and neither are they providing sufficient opportunity for lifelong learning. Further, the education provided by traditional universities “is failing to deliver the mix of in-demand skills employers need to prepare for widespread AI adoption”.

The findings are contained in a new study – Facing the future: US, UK and Canadian citizens call for a unified skills strategy for the AI age – produced by Northeastern University, Boston, and the US analytics and advisory company, Gallup.

“Solid majorities in all three countries favour turning to employers over colleges and universities to pay for and provide access to lifelong learning opportunities,” says the report, compiled following an online survey of 4,394 Americans 3,049 Canadians and 3,208 UK adults.

Several industry leaders in Canada, the UK and US also “confirmed the general public’s belief that the education provided by traditional, four-year universities is failing to deliver the mix of in-demand skills employers need to prepare for widespread AI adoption”.

A technology-driven sea change

The industry leaders also “signalled a technology-driven sea change in the way global enterprises recruit, evaluate and develop human talent, emphasising so-called soft skills and experience while deemphasising undergraduate degrees”.

The report says there is “little doubt that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transcend borders and fundamentally alter the global social and economic landscape”.

It adds: “Colleges and universities with the audacity to change represent humanity’s best chance to rise to the challenge of AI and win the jobs of the future.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, a majority of those surveyed in all three countries said they would not look to higher education for the additional skills and training they would require to deal with AI adoption.

When asked about the impact of AI on the overall economy of the US, UK and Canada respondents voiced “a general pessimism”. Clear majorities in all three countries said AI adoption would cost more jobs than it creates.

Types of skills that will be required to adapt to AI

When it comes to general ideas of what types of skills will be required to adapt to AI – softer skills such as teamwork, communication, creativity and critical thinking, or harder skills like math, science, coding and the ability to work with data – adults in all three countries are split.

In both Canada and the UK, majorities say softer skills are more important for workers to insulate themselves against disruptions to employment caused by AI adoption. In the US, the public is evenly split on the importance of both types of skills.

Respondents in all three countries were asked to select from six reasons why traditional universities are not the best-equipped institutions for providing career-long education and retraining – in each country cost was identified as the main barrier.

“Beyond cost, academic programs failing to keep up with changing workplace needs, learning that isn’t hands-on enough and inflexible course schedules were cited as the top barriers to university-provided lifelong learning,” the report says.

“When asked about potential alternative financing models to address the cost of lifelong learning programs, majorities in each country favoured the development of employer-matched and government-matched Lifelong Learning Accounts.”

The report notes: “Partnering with governments and businesses to provide affordable, relevant, bite-sized, lifelong education to workers in all three countries could restore confidence, not just for higher education, but for the other institutions as well.”

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By DAVID MYTON

It is imperative that governments, academic institutions, businesses and individuals consider how to proactively shape a new, positive future of work rather than give way to inertia and passivity.

So says a recent White Paper from the World Economic Forum report Eight Futures of Work – Scenarios and their Implication examining what the future of work might look like by the year 2030.

The WEF has selected “three core variables” – the rate of technological change and its impact on business models; the evolution of learning among the current and future workforce;
and the magnitude of talent mobility across regions – to devise potential scenarios as a basis for discussions, adding “they are not predictions”.

The report notes that developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics 
and big data analytics “have displaced whole occupations, shifted the tasks and needed skills within some occupations, and created wholly new tasks and occupations”.

Accelerated technological change and diffusion

The repercussions “of many of these technological developments thus far are already being felt today”, it says.

Accelerated technological change and diffusion means
 machines in the workplace “have become capable of performing routine and non-routine tasks, and can perform a range of manual tasks as well as those requiring non-cognitive skills,” it says.

However, the lack of appropriate talent for emerging new roles “has led to increasing pressure to automate even further, and robotics, algorithms and machine learning, managed by a few, have begun to do most of the world’s production and distribution.

“Widening talent gaps continue
 to dampen economic growth as businesses have lost faith in human talent.

“This ‘hollowing out’ of the labour market has led to deep and growing inequalities, polarised values and divided views about technology.”

Large swathes of the workforce “have become increasingly unemployable”.

Polarised values and divided views about technology

The report observes that “polarised values and divided views about technology dominate society …

“High-skilled people from lower-income communities have migrated to high-income, high-skill enclaves, as a cluster of globally-dispersed urban ‘super-economies’ have formed and trade ideas, goods
and services with each other.”

Deep concerns “about the disruptive potential of even more rapid technological change” have led to long-overdue reforms in education, and local companies have invested heavily in training systems and re-skilling.

“This has led to a demand for human workers to complement machines, manage the shifts underway and specialise in new kinds of roles.”

A “new ethos for pursuing lifelong learning”, especially among younger generations, has contributed to an increased dynamism in the workforce, and technology is applied broadly, alongside human creativity 
and productivity, to a range of industries and sectors.

“Many economies that have invested heavily in high-skilled talent are now reluctant to lose it, and have made efforts to resist high levels of migration.”

However, talent shortages continue to impact business growth as companies encounter skills gaps that cannot be met either locally or online.

Rethinking how education is delivered offline and online

It observes that “basic education reform” – from early-childhood, primary and secondary education to vocational training and higher education – “will determine how the next generation of workers will find its place in the future workplace across different scenarios”.

“This will require refreshing curricula to include skills required in the future workforce – both digital as well as ‘human’ skills such as communication, problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

“It will also require rethinking how education is delivered by combining of offline and online methods, professionalizing and enhancing the role of teachers, recognising and accrediting skills and developing better and more inclusive systems for lifelong learning.”

Identifying and supporting growing sectors and occupations will require new thinking and proactive policies and incentives today, it says.

“For example, ‘soft infrastructure’ such as the care economy, education sector and healthcare, are all likely to grow rapidly in advanced and developing economies alike, and require a large influx of talent, building on the comparative advantage of humans and creating an opportunity for good jobs that leverage those skills that have low susceptibility to automation in most scenarios.”

Supporting entrepreneurs, including through better access to markets, finance and skills, “can have significant
 benefits for economic resilience, innovation and new 
job creation”.

 

Tough times ahead – but no Doomsday – for many employees as the world of work continues to change

Despite the many opportunities, much anxiety surrounds the future of work says the OECD in its Employment Outlook 2019 adding that “Doomsday scenarios are unlikely to materialise, but there are some real risks” and the future of work will largely depend on the policy decisions countries make.

Many people are worried the world of work “is heading for a dystopian future of massive technological unemployment, precarious work, workers with little or no bargaining power, and important skills gaps as populations age rapidly”.

While it is true labour markets are already changing, “with the right policies and institutions in place, the opportunities that digitalisation, globalisation and longer lives will bring can be seized, and the risks mitigated.”

However, unless urgent action is taken, the low skilled, workers in jobs at high risk of automation, older adults and displaced workers – workers who have lost their jobs for economic reasons and/or in mass layoffs – are likely to be left behind, it says.

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By DAVID MYTON

Preparing for a more data-centered approach to teaching, learning, and advising will require a strategy to upskill key institutional roles and develop a clear understanding of what is being measured across multiple platforms, according to a new report.

The expanse of data now available offers institutions new opportunities to assess, measure, and document learning – a trend that itself will drive technology adoption, says the EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2019 Higher Education Edition.

Digital fluency, it notes, is “the ability to leverage digital tools and platforms to communicate critically, design creatively, make informed decisions, and solve wicked problems while anticipating new ones.”

However, merely maintaining the basic literacies by which students and instructors access and evaluate information “is no longer sufficient to support the complex needs of a digitally mediated society”.

Increasingly sophisticated technology

Learning solutions today are designed and deployed using increasingly sophisticated technology, the report says, creating a need for learners to gain new skills to meaningfully engage with
those tools.

“Digital fluency requires a rich understanding of the digital environment, enabling co-creation of content and the ability to adapt to new contexts.

“Institutions must not only support the uses of digital tools and resources by all members of the organisation, but also leverage their strategic technologies in ways that support critical thinking and complex problem solving.”

The authors agree that digital fluency is different from digital literacy “and that this distinction should be emphasised”.

The shift to active learning in highered and the measurement of course quality through rubrics like Quality Matters “have resulted in a major shift in focus away from training faculty in the use of technology and toward a new emphasis on course development with teams of specialised learning designers”.

“Knowledge of learning design includes design-thinking approaches to course content and engaging activities, as well as applying principles of universal design to develop content 
in multiple modalities to ensure access for all students.”

Demand for instructional design expertise

The report notes a growing demand for instructional design expertise “to assist faculty and other subject-matter experts in the development and implementation of adaptive learning platforms, competency-based learning pathways,
the gamification of learning experiences, the integration of virtual or augmented reality, and other digital learning innovations”.

Demand for “digitally rich learning environments and pedagogically sound learning experiences” will continue to increase, it says, adding that “those institutions investing in learning designers and instructional designers will be better positioned to create rigorous, high-quality programming that serves the needs of all learners”.

At institutions of any type or size, “involving faculty in the selection and implementation of educational technologies can be difficult”.

“Whether an institution is implementing a new courseware platform for the purpose of personalising learning or building a completely new program by applying a pedagogical approach such as competency-based learning, such efforts face a range of challenges.

“Identifying learning outcomes and engagement strategies before identifying educational technology solutions creates an advantage by establishing faculty buy-in at the earliest stages of a strategic initiative.”

Key stakeholders in adoption and scaling of digital solutions

The role of full-time faculty and adjuncts alike “includes being key stakeholders in the adoption and scaling of digital solutions; as such, faculty need to be included in the evaluation, planning, and implementation of any teaching and learning initiative”.

However, it adds, institutions that address the needs of all faculty through flexible strategic planning and multimodal faculty support “are better situated to overcome the barriers to adoption that can impede scale”.

The report adds that “the shifting nature of the instructor” – from transmitter of knowledge to facilitator and curator—“has accelerated the need for strategically planned faculty support and a reevaluation of the role of teaching and instruction”.

“The redesign of courses and programs to take advantage of digital tools enables instructors to evaluate their teaching practices and use student-centred approaches to facilitate learning.”

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By DAVID MYTON

There seems to be general agreement that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will challenge existing institutions to adapt or, if not die, then quietly fade away. But there will also be new opportunities for the nimble and the shrewd to step up and make their mark.

In higher education, as one academic paper has noted, the coming changes “will reduce the subject distance between humanities and social science as well as science and technology [requiring] much more interdisciplinary teaching, research and innovation”.

Time will tell, but one answer to this could be a new kind of university the like of which looks set to take shape in London.

It comes in the form of the proposed London Interdisciplinary School (LIS) championed by its founder, Ed Fidoe, which will open its doors in September 2020 contingent on approval from the Office for Students.

Fidoe and his team are proposing what amounts to a polymath model of student education – “a radical new learning model organised entirely around complex problems that matter to society”.

Tackle the most pressing problems

“Not much is certain for the future of work. But the organisations that will be most successful will be those that tackle the most pressing problems. They’ll need the brightest minds to do this,” says the LIS on its website.

“The problems we face are complex. They don’t respect disciplinary boundaries. We need leaders who can think beyond the limits of traditional subjects, make new connections and find new solutions.”

The LIS team is said to be “a unique combination” of leading academics, entrepreneurs, and educationalists “who have deep expertise in the science of learning, and experience of establishing new institutions … LIS and its interdisciplinary programme is a product of these powerful collaborations”.

Future students will be able to study for a proposed Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree, and will learn “through real-world challenges”.

They will “acquire methods, build networks, and gain the practical experience that ensures you stand out”.

“The framework for the course is simple – start with a problem, break it down to identify and learn the different types of knowledge you’ll need and then learn the methods which mean you can take action.”

Provide students with a political education

However, according to one commentator the proposed university doesn’t go far enough.

In a column in The Guardian, academic philosopher and writer Tom Whyman says a true “polymath education” would not simply be about fostering the skills employers demand – “it would aim to provide students with a political education”.

“The production of knowledge is not just about considering the world as a detached, theoretical object of study: inevitably, it is about judging it morally,” he says.

“An education that combines expertise in the arts and humanities with literacy in science and technology certainly, therefore, seems promising – but if this education is detached from a consideration of the real interests that shape both our world and our knowledge of it, it risks producing mere generalists, who think in ways that are not broad and interconnected but glib and superficial.”

Is he right?

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By DAVID MYTON

The UK’s new higher education watchdog, the Office for Students, has been keeping an eye on vice-chancellors’ salaries and says that there are signs of pay restraint at some universities “with some vice-chancellors refusing a salary increase”.

The OfS, which became operational last April with a mandate to regulate universities and other higher education providers, found that six universities paid their vice-chancellors £500,000 or more in salary, bonuses and benefits last year ($A701,550 – on current rates one Australian dollar equals 0.55 sterling) and nearly half of all VCs received more than £300,000.

As reported in The Guardian, average pay for senior staff (not including benefits, such as accommodation and pension), rose by 3.5% in a year, from £245,000 to £253,000.

“Below the most senior level, more than 60% of universities increased the number of staff paid £100,000 and above in 2017-18. Overall, there was a 15% rise in staff in the £100,000-plus pay band.”

The OfS said there was evidence “that at least some providers are showing pay restraint”.

It said publishing information about remuneration and compensation for loss of office ensured it was in the public domain, adding – “transparency will help providers’ remuneration committees and governing bodies to benchmark more effectively”.

“It will also help staff and students push for changes in a provider’s approach to remuneration where it is out of step with stakeholders’ expectations.”

VC pay a hot topic

VC pay has been a hot topic in the UK (See CMM UK vice-chancellors salaries spark controversy).

In 2017, for example, The Sunday Times reported that England’s university leaders had accepted “inflation-busting pay rises of up to 10% this year in defiance of government demands to rein in their six-figure salaries”.

Meanwhile The Daily Mail reported on an academic study which found that remuneration of vice-chancellors “rose by a staggering 54 per cent between 1997 and 2015 – nearly four times that of an average lecturer”, adding that annual increases in VC pay “are not readily explainable by performance or other indicators”.

According to the OfS, their new analysis shows that 1.5 per cent of staff in the sector received a basic salary of more than £100,000 a year in 2017-18 (up from 1.3 per cent in 2016-17) while “the proportion of staff receiving a basic salary of greater than £100,000 fell at 48 providers”.

The OfS Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge said it was not for the OfS to set a vice-chancellor’s pay.

“We understand that running a university is a significant and complex task, and it is right that those who excel in their roles should be well rewarded,” she said.

“Despite this, where pay is out of kilter, or salary increases at the top outstrip pay awards to other staff, vice-chancellors should be prepared to answer tough questions from their staff, student bodies and the public.”

Some VCs refuse salary increase

She added that it was good “to see signs of pay restraint at some universities, with some vice-chancellors refusing a salary increase.”

“A number of governing bodies have reduced the basic pay of their vice-chancellor, though we acknowledge that it can be difficult to revisit contractual obligations while a vice-chancellor is in post. We expect to see further progress next year.

“Universities receive significant funding, both in the form of direct grant drawn from public taxation as well as funding from student loans.”

As reported in The Guardian, the University and College Union said the continued rise in pay for university chiefs showed that the OfS was a “paper tiger” that had failed to halt the increase in wealth being transferred to senior management.

“The OfS fails to ask why some vice-chancellors are still picking up double-digit pay rises and doesn’t even look at their expenses or other benefits in kind. This report sends a message that those who accept such largesse have nothing to fear from the new regulator,” Matt Waddup, the University and College Union’s head of policy.

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By DAVID MYTON

Reduced return on investment for students, cuts in government spending, and “significant skills mismatches between graduates’ abilities and the jobs available” are driving six new trends in higher education, according to a new report from The Brookings Institution.

Authors Emal Dusst and Rebecca Winthrop argue that in addition to reduced funding, rising costs, and decreasing wage premiums in places like the US and UK, “there is also the worry that what students learn at university will not necessarily give them the skills needed for the jobs available”.

“This skills mis-match is particularly acute in fields like computer science where real-world practice easily outpaces academic curricula,” they add.

By 2020, they say, one million computer science-related jobs will go unfilled while many computer science programs at universities “are outdated”.

They cite one student with a degree from an elite public university that included an innovative tech program as saying – “my university courses taught me all about the theory of computer science, but I couldn’t actually code”.

Such comments come in the context of the six developing “notable” trends, which they say are:

Online education has become an increasingly accepted option, especially when “stackable” into degrees.

Enrolment in online courses has more than quadrupled in the last 15 years in the US, they say, and “while not as explosive in other countries”, online options are gaining traction around the world. Given the increased cost of higher education, “online programs are offering not just increased flexibility, but also a major reduction in cost”.

They cite a Coursera fully online master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in computer and information technology available “for one-third the cost of the on-campus version”. Several programs are also allowing students to “test” degrees by taking courses that can eventually be “stacked” into a degree, thus lowering their risk.

Competency-based education (CBE) lowers costs and reduces completion time for students.

There is an increase in CBE, they say, which allows students “to apply their work and life experience to their education. These degree programs tend to be less expensive, self-paced, and more career-oriented”. If students – either through workplace training, outside reading, or purely life experience – happen to have the competence and knowledge required for a particular subject, “they can take the test and get credit without having to take a class”.

Income Share Agreements (ISAs) help students reduce the risk associated with student loans.

In the US, they say, the private sector is improving the student loan dilemma for students with ISAs. “Countries like Australia have government-run agreements – where students don’t pay back their loans until they get a job and meet certain income thresholds – but currently, private companies provide ISA options in the US”.  One newly accredited applied computer science degree designed to take two to three years requires students to pay back 20 percent of their income for the first five years of employment “and if they don’t find a job, they aren’t responsible for payments”.

Online Program Manager (OPM) organisations benefit both universities and nontraditional, working-adult students.

OPMs help traditional universities build and maintain their online degree or program offerings, while opening new and flexible options to nontraditional students, they explain. “Generally, through a revenue share model, the university provides the content, while the OPM primarily puts it online and leads the marketing efforts.”

Enterprise training companies are filling the skills gap by working directly with employers.

“Given the massive mismatch in employer needs and worker skills, there are many companies working with corporations to ensure employees are rightfully skilled”, they write. As an example they cite Trilogy Education which “not only partners with universities … but also leverages its network of partners and its platform to help companies bridge their own tech-talent gaps in both hiring and training”.

Pathway programs facilitate increasing transnational education, which serves as an additional revenue stream for universities.

The “brightest students around the world that can afford to study abroad” are increasingly embarking on journeys overseas, primarily to the US, UK, and Australia. According to Studyportals, they say, the number of internationally mobile students is expected to increase from 4.5 million in 2015 to nearly seven million in 2030. “International students are increasingly attractive to universities, as they allow expanded reach and programs offered at different price points. Students from China, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea account for more than 50 percent of students who go abroad to earn their degree, with China as the largest source.

“Pathway programs, which are a small but fast-growing segment of the transnational education market, help foreign students get admission into US institutions through bridging academic entry standards. Companies such as the UK-based Study Group and US-based Shorelight partner with universities to set up these programs and use revenue share models, providing an additional revenue source for universities. Most of these programs are in countries that have been traditional draws for higher education like the U.S., but some are now also in countries like China that traditionally send many students overseas.”

They add that “there will undoubtedly be ongoing opportunities for new approaches and actors to innovate in higher education as the sector continues to face high costs, decreasing returns on investment, and skills mis-matches”.

Read the report in full here

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By DAVID MYTON

Research: in the words of Stephen Hawking it is “the joy of discovering something no one knew before”. It’s what most academics live for, even if they love teaching. Indeed, research informs good teaching, ensuring that what’s been taught in the classroom is at the forefront of new knowledge.

For some academics, though, conducting research is the easy bit.

Easy, that is, in comparison with the mind-boggling bureaucracy often involved in getting to the start line.

This is particularly so in Australia’s Health and Medical Research field.

“Our HMR is world class – but it’s very difficult to make it happen,” says Dr Uma Srinivasan, Senior Health Scientist with the Digital Health CRC.

The problems begin when researchers attempt to find the correct data sets – it can take ages, she says, but they need this information before applying for time-restricted grants from different funders.

“They must then negotiate with data custodians and data linkage units, who can be extremely cautious in providing researchers with access to health data.”

And there’s more: researchers must also navigate numerous Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) while also “remaining mindful of Australia’s similarly complex privacy and data-use legislation”.

Srinivasan says navigating these processes “can take years” and represent an inefficient use of taxpayer-funded grant money resulting in delays to “derive value from research outcomes that are important for the nation’s health and wellbeing”.

She believes it is possible to change this situation – but only if politicians and bureaucrats exercise the necessary “vision, drive and motivation”.

A wealth of health data resources

Srinivasan, an adjunct professor at Western Sydney University – and formerly Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO and a project director at Prince of Wales Hospital Group – has research interests in areas including network analytics and predictive modelling for the healthcare sector.

She made an extensive contribution to the latest DHCRC report Flying Blind, Australian Researchers and Digital Health Australian Health Data Series: Volume 2, which puts the spotlight on how researchers access and use data for health and medical research.

Australia has a wealth of health data resources, she says, many originally collected for administration or compliance reasons. But these resources are fragmented, held in different places by different bodies.

What is needed is “appropriate access” to these datasets to authorised researchers within a properly managed and coordinated framework ensuring data security and privacy.

This would help health researchers to “generate new insights, uncover new trends and deepen our understanding of health and disease”.

However, Srinivasan says the fragmentation of the Australian system “is not going to easily change” because of the entrenched funding models and the split of state and federal government jurisdictions.

Nevertheless, change is possible: she points out that countries such as the UK and the US have more integrated systems, developed thanks to personal leadership initiatives by then President Barak Obama in the US and former Prime Minister David Cameron in the UK.

The development of integrated health record systems and linked health data have been hampered in Australia, she says, by “mistrust and fear” from a public anxious about possible privacy violations.

“I think consumer education around linked health data is something that has not happened effectively in Australia, and the privacy worry has led to mistrust and fear. We need far better public education and national leadership on the issue,” she says.

“Their worry is, ‘if my data goes into the wrong hands what will happen? This genuine fear needs to be addressed and quelled with a balanced information campaign and education outlining the benefits, and the pros and cons of linked health data.”

She points out that people took to Facebook, for example, because they could see the point of it – “they wanted the social community and belonging offered by that kind of a platform”. They need to see the benefits that linked health data can contribute to their quality of life and well-being.

“We need to shift the health paradigm from a reactive treatment approach to a more proactive, prevention-focused system that can improve quality of life and well being of the individual and the population at large. And this can only be achieved through effective consumer education, which needs to happen in Australia.”

Complex and valuable questions to solve

Flying Blind 2 points out that the more datasets researchers are able to link together, “the more complex and valuable are the questions they can hope to solve”.

“Supporting data-informed research using routinely de-identified, pre-linked or linkage-ready HMR datasets and unstructured data is an important part of improving Australia’s health,” it says.

“Potential benefits can also be realised through linkage of survey and clinical trial data with non-HMR datasets such as those relating to education or labour status.

“Linking numerous different sources of data can help identify the complex interplay of factors that lead to different diseases.”

Ethics approvals are another core part

The report points out that university Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) review research proposals that involve human participants to ensure they are ethically acceptable and accord with guidelines such as the National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research issued by the NHMRC.

HRECs, established by a range of public and private organisations but most commonly found in universities and hospitals, “present researchers with some difficulties”, the report says.

“Where research involves multiple datasets, researchers often need to apply individually to each HREC involved and obtain clearance from each one.

“Each HREC usually has its own request form, and these are notoriously long; they can be even longer if specific populations (such as Indigenous Australians) are involved.

“Not only that, but the vast majority of the information sought in each is duplicated: most ethics committees do not recognise approvals granted from other HRECs.”

Attempts have been made to alleviate these issues, it says, but “progress has been slow”.

Read the Flying Blind 2 report in full here

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By DAVID MYTON

Whatever the future holds, investment in human capital is “a no-regrets policy” that prepares people for the challenges ahead, says the World Bank in its latest examination of the changing nature of work.

Three types of skills, it says, are increasingly important in today’s labour markets:

  • Advanced cognitive skills such as complex problem-solving
  • Socio-behavioural skills such as teamwork, and
  • Skill combinations “that are predictive of adaptability” such as reasoning and self-efficacy.

“Building these skills requires strong human capital foundations and lifelong learning,” it adds.

The best way to “seize the benefits of technological change” is the creation of formal jobs.

“In many developing countries, most workers remain in low-productivity employment, often in the informal sector with little access to technology.

“Lack of quality private sector jobs leaves talented young people with few pathways to wage employment,” the report says.

Investments in infrastructure are also needed, including in helping to provide affordable access to the Internet for people in developing countries who remain unconnected.

“Equally important are more investments in the road, port, and municipal infrastructure on which firms, governments, and individuals rely to exploit technologies to their full potential,” it adds

The need for social protection

Adjusting to the next wave of jobs also requires social protection, it says, “with eight in 10 people in developing countries receiving no social assistance, and six in 10 working informally without insurance”.

“Even in advanced economies, the payroll-based insurance model is increasingly challenged by working arrangements outside standard employment contracts.”

For societies to benefit from new technology they would need “a new social contract centered on larger investments in human capital and progressively provided universal social protection”.

The report notes that technology is “blurring the boundaries of the firm, as evident in the rise of platform marketplaces”.

“Using digital technologies, entrepreneurs are creating global platform–based businesses that differ from the traditional production process in which inputs are provided at one end and output delivered at the other.

“Platform companies often generate value by creating a network effect that connects customers, producers, and providers, while facilitating interactions in a multisided model.”

Technology reshaping skills needed for work

Technology is reshaping the skills needed for work, with a decline in the need for “less advanced skills”.

“At the same time, the demand for advanced cognitive skills, socio-behavioral skills, and skill combinations associated with greater adaptability is rising.

“Already evident in developed countries, this pattern is starting to emerge in some developing countries as well.”

It also observes a shift in employment from manufacturing to services.

Technology such as social media affects the perception of rising inequality in many countries, the report notes

“People have always aspired toward a higher quality of life and participation in the economic growth they see around them.

“Increased exposure through social media and other digital communications to different, often divergent lifestyles and opportunities only heightens this feeling.”

Aspirations linked to opportunities

Where aspirations are linked to opportunities, it adds, the conditions are ripe for inclusive, sustainable economic growth.

“But if there is inequality of opportunity or a mismatch between available jobs and skills, frustration can lead to migration or societal fragmentation.”

The growing role of technology in life and business means that all types of jobs -including low-skill ones – require more advanced cognitive skills, the report says.

The most significant investments that people, firms, and governments can make are “in enhancing human capital” particularly given the rise of jobs requiring socio-behavioural and interpersonal skills.

“Human capital is important because there is now a higher premium on adaptability,” it says.

Firms with a higher share of educated workers do better at innovating, and “individuals with stronger human capital reap higher economic returns from new technologies”.

“By contrast, when technological disruptions are met with inadequate human capital, the existing social order may be undermined.”

Read the report in full

World Bank 2019 – World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work. Washington, DC.


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By DAVID MYTON

3D technologies are ready for the “prime time” of the higher education classroom and laboratory because they have evolved such that lecturers now have the capacity to leverage them creatively and effectively, according to D Christopher Brooks, the Director of Research at EDUCAUSE.

Brooks was commenting on the findings of the EDUCAUSE/HP Campus of the Future project, entitled Learning in Three Dimensions, which conducted a large-scale, educational technology evaluation of 3D technologies across 11 US universities – including Harvard, Yale, Syracuse, MIT and San Diego.

The project sought to identify “interesting and novel uses” of 3D technology and to identify types of uses of 3D technologies – including VR, AR, 3D scanning, and 3D printing – that “hold the greatest potential for learning and research outcomes”.

It describes a range of pedagogical uses of 3D tech in higher education, from “augmenting experiences in the physical world” to creating “simulations of things that are inaccessible in the physical world”, and from “designing virtual things that may be made into physical things” to “repeating experiences virtually that cannot be repeated in the physical world”.

It also discusses “hurdles” in implementing 3D technology and the possible future of 3D technology in higher education.

‘3D technologies enable active and experiential learning’

Two findings are that 3D technologies enable active and experiential learning, and promote shared experiences and collaboration. Further, 3D technologies “support a wide range of learning goals across a wide range of disciplines”.

The report notes that innovation is not confined only to technology development – “innovations in pedagogy are equally if not more important to institutions of higher education”.

Brooks reports that one key discovery was that 3D technologies “really lend themselves to experiential or active learning approaches to instruction, creating opportunities for instructors from a range of disciplines to do things that would otherwise be difficult or impossible”.

Examples of projects enabled by 3D include:

  • Re-creating historical spaces that are difficult or impossible to visit
  • Building models of contemporary environments that can be easily manipulated
  • Looking beneath the veneer of a structure to understand its construction
  • Developing anatomy simulations to understand the spatial and functional relationships of organs
  • Using overlays of existing processes to reveal or illustrate things that we simply cannot observe
  • Touring the inside of a cell to identify and understand the functions of its components

‘3D technologies give users virtual superpowers’

The key findings of the project, as outlined by the report’s author Jeffrey Pomerantz, were:

  • 3D technologies give users virtual superpowers.“In a virtual reality (VR) simulation, a user can fly like Iron Man, have superstrength like Wonder Woman, and walk through walls like Kitty Pryde. VR and augmented reality (AR) give users X-ray vision like Superman’s. VR and 3D printing give users the ability to manipulate very small objects, like Ant-Man and the Wasp; to manipulate energy, like Magneto; and to create objects from empty space, like Doctor Manhattan and Elsa of Arendelle.”
  • VR is like being there.“A well-constructed simulation is visceral: One’s intellectual and physiological reactions to objects and events in VR are similar -and sometimes identical – to one’s reactions in the physical world.”
  • VR and AR are multisensory experiences.“Much VR and AR development focuses on the visual functionality of those technologies, but they are capable of more. The auditory functionality of VR and the haptic functionality of both VR and AR are critical for creating a realistic simulation.”
  • 3D technologies enable active and experiential learning.“Virtual reality simulations enable users to interact in a space or around an object in ways beyond what is possible in the real world. Augmented reality enables users to interact with an object while possessing ‘superpowers,’ such as the ability to see through surfaces or to see data overlying objects. With 3D printing, users can quickly create physical objects that might otherwise exist only in simulations.”
  • Simulations enable individual practice and skill-building.“In the medical professions, for example, VR enables students to repeat hands-on experiences that might not otherwise be possible and to experience events that they might not otherwise be able to (eg, diagnosing a rare condition, testing specific types of emergency medicine).”
  • Simulations enable high-touch, high-cost learning experiences to be scaled up.“While developing a simulated lab may be expensive, it is far less expensive than building and maintaining a physical lab. Furthermore, a simulated lab can be made available to individuals who are not co-located. VR and 3D printing therefore make it possible to provide lab experiences to a far greater number of users, perhaps even simultaneously.”
  • 3D technologies foster and sometimes require collaboration between campus units.“The deployment of new technologies often fosters new collaborations across campus. Supporting users of 3D technology on campus requires a range of expertise, which encourages collaboration between campus IT units and instructional designers … 3D technology has also fostered collaborations involving students and faculty across academic disciplines.”
  • Training is critical.“Some early adopters on campus will teach themselves to use 3D technology, but many campus users will need support to learn to use this technology. The development of training sessions and workshops on 3D technology–related topics is critical for these technologies to gain traction on campus beyond the rarefied circles of early adopters.”
  • It takes time for the benefits of 3D technology to be realised on campus.“While 3D technology is getting easier to use, it must still be set up and configured; software must be installed and possibly updated … users need time to learn to use the technology, and instructors need time to figure out how to use the technology in their teaching …”

Read more

Jeffrey Pomerantz: Learning in Three Dimensions: Report on the EDUCAUSE/HP Campus of the Future Project

Jeffrey Pomerantz – Learning in Three Dimensions. Executive Summary

D Christopher Brooks – The Campus of the Future

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By DAVID MYTON

University students overwhelmingly prefer to join campus organisations that are issue-based rather than those that are traditional political party-based, according to new study from the United States.

“For traditional political parties, the research … shows that old-style electioneering activities and organisations are not resonating with today’s students,” says the Campus Labs Data In Action Series study, Student Engagement as a Political Catalyst.

“If our data highlights anything, it is that students show preference to join organisations based on issues of personal interest and concern as opposed to larger, national party organisations focused more on getting individuals or parties elected to office,” writes the report author Will Miller.

“By focusing on issues, students are able to join with like-minded individuals to pursue gains in an area of personal interest,” he adds.

The study aggregated student organisation data dating between Autumn 2013 and Spring 2018 semesters.

It included primarily four-year institutions ranging from small, career schools, private liberal arts colleges, and “state flagship institutions”, with enrolments ranging from a few hundred students to more than 50,000.

Some 93,920 student organisations were examined, revealing 3,184 party-based student organisations as opposed to 13,741 issues-based organisations.

Data was used from 397 institutions across the country, representing 46 states.

Seeking to influence the life of a community

The study defines civic engagement as “activities undertaken by an individual or group focused on developing knowledge about a community and political system, identifying solutions 
to problems, pursuing goals to benefit the community at large, and participating in constructive deliberation”.

“It means actively participating in and seeking to influence the life of a community, whether motivations emanate from self-interest, moral principles, altruistic concerns, political viewpoints or any combination thereof.”

The author notes that going just by name, “some student organisations may
 not seem to be civic- or issue-based yet may actually instil these values within
 their members. For example, a Surf Club at a four-year private institution sought to ‘explore the environmental protections of the world’s oceans and importance of beach conservation while still having the ability to enjoy the activity of surfing’.”

Political engagement includes “a wide range of activities, such as collecting and disseminating information; voting; working voter registration drives; designing, distributing or signing petitions; participating in civic and political associations; attending public meetings, rallies or protests; and entering into public or private discussions of community and political issues via various formats”.

Political activity on campus

The author notes, however, that much political activity on campus “can happen outside of formally recognised organisations” meaning the data “represents a minimum for student participation on campus”.

Within identified party-based groups, more than 60 per cent were affiliated with Democrats – compared with slightly less than 20 per cent mapping to Republicans.

Miller says that while it is “not surprising to find that a majority of student memberships are in Democratic-based organisations” what is striking is that there has been a steady decrease since Autumn 2015.

“It is also important to note that there is no uptick in other liberal-minded party groups on campus, suggesting as students withdrew from party-based groups they either moved to issue-based groups or did not formally participate on campus.”

Access the report in full here

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