The Future Student – Exploring future trends in training and development

The trouble with the future is that it is not what it used to be. Sensei was recently asked to help a leading UK University consider its vision and strategic options for the next ten years and as part of this work we considered some great work done by Future Index and The Student Room who together created a picture of ‘The Future Student’. Check out their great video that shows the highlights from this research work.

This work, whilst focused primarily on tertiary education, highlighted emerging trends that will be of interest to anyone who has responsibility for developing people in their organisation. Each trend has the capacity to have a profound impact on the process of people development and will radically change both the nature and shape of future development programmes. In this short article we explore some of these future trends and how they may affect every organisation looking to develop their people.

Google glassesDigital Natives – This trend exists now and can be observed in all moderately well off 8 year old children who live in the developed world. They are from Generation Z, a class of people who are in the vanguard of the digital revolution. They have never known life before the internet. They learn in a way that we have never seen before as the technology to enable this learning is relatively new. They look at learning as entertainment they can zoom in and out accessing information that is both local and global at a click of a button. For them information and knowledge is pretty much a commodity, so in itself it is of little intrinsic value.

The learning process they value most involves personal interaction, group discussions and personal experiences that lock in new skills. Watch any 8 year old playing on Minecraft or learning how to Loom Bandsmake the latest craze of Loom-Bands. A quick look at a YouTube vidMinecrafteo; a discussion with their friends and hey presto they have a new multi-coloured bracelet to wear or a new virtual world to play in. Quite remarkable!

The desire to record current experience and share is also a key feature of this generation. The students of the future will be keen to share their experiences with their social community, seek feedback and take comments in real time. This will enable them to both learn new knowledge and develop new ideas quickly and forget and kill any idea that does not resonate with their current social world.

This trend has a profound impact on those of us who seek to develop and train people, a trend that transcends the simple application of technology. Future trainers will be more akin to experienced facilitators than professors or guru’s in their field of expertise. The skill of asking the right question and helping students co-create an answer will be the real value adding benefit.

Sugata MitraProfessor Sugatra Mitra’s ground-breaking work in this field is leading the way here – check out his great Ted talk.

Build Your Own – It is a natural consequence of the sheer volume of choice that is on offer that future students will want to build their own personal development programme. Massive Open On Line Courses (MOOC’s) already exist, along with SPOC’s – small personal on-line courses and they are beginning to become mainstream as they dramatically reduce the costs of getting a good education. Which,MOOC given the escalating costs of university education in the developed world, is no bad thing.

Future students will be adept at curating their own knowledge from a wide variety of sources. Just look at the popularity of TED talks, a feature we have been building into our training sessions for over 4 years now. The ability to ‘search-educate’ will be a feature of all development programmes in the future.

Future students will want time to think, to question and to share and this will change the way personal development sessions are designed and conducted. The days of transmission heavy sessions are coming to an end – not before time! Who wants to sit through a Power Point heavy lecture, read out by a droning trainer who fails to bring their topic to life?

Preparing for Future Jobs – The 8 year old of today will be entering a world of work in 10 -15 years’ time that will have a range of jobs that simply do not exist yet. We’ve recently seen the emergence of Vertical Farmers in big cities, Cyber Detectives and even Genetic Designers. Check out this great Future Jobs site to find out how to become a ‘Nostalgist’ or a ‘Rewilder’.

Knowledge Expereince and CreativityThese future jobs will all assume that students have the capacity to learn, and to learn quickly and the fusion of science and art will be needed to help create a learning environment to enable this to occur. Blended learning solutions on offer through Sensei for several years now, will no longer be a novelty they will become a basic requirement for all future training sessions.

Earn, Learn and Have Fun – This credo will permeate the messages organisations will want to send to all future employees. Employers will always want to attract the very best talent and by offering the chance to learn and develop in the crucible of current reality they will transform education from an abstract environment into the here and now.

As students want to spend their development money wisely those organisations offering the chance to earn whilst they learn will win the race for the best talent. If they offer Learn and Earnthe chance to really make a difference this will add to their appeal, as the youngsters of today will have the challenge of looking after our increasingly fragile planet. Their mission driven mind-set will make future employees take seriously their corporate social responsibilities and local and global community commitments.

Open Loop Learning – The idea that students will want to concentrate all of their adult learning money in three short years after they have left school is simply not sustainable. It is far more likely people will want to spread their learning investment over their lifetime, dipping in and out of education to suit their changing lifestyle. The Open University and online MBA courses are already tapping into this well established trend.

Flipped ClassroomFlipped Classroom – where the student is set a research task and becomes the teacher is already a feature of the leadership development training we do at Sensei and this style of training will become even more popular in the future.

Technology –One predication that we know will be true is that future students will be wired into technology. Augmented Reality (AR) training is already being used in Medical Schools to enable practice surgery, and also in labs to watch explosive experiments.  This will trickle down into everyday training sessions pretty quickly as there are so few technical boundaries to overcome. Fancy studying the Brazilian rainforest from the UK? Simply put the headset on and see yourself there. Welcome to the future classroom.

Superstar Professors – You only have to look at the popularity of Professor Brian Cox in the UK (1.4m Twitter followers) to understand the influence an engaging teacher can have. If he really is one of the best people toBrian Cox teach Particle Physics then understandably students will seek him out. If he’s on TV, on YouTube, or one day as a hologram on a desk, then students will tune in. Perhaps this is the dawn of the Superstar Professor. Perhaps we are going to see a whirlwind of rockstar-style, personal-brand building and global tours. Interestingly, Professor Cox really was a rock star reaching the heights of the UK charts before protons propelled him back into Academia!

The TEDx stage has educated millions of people around the world. Some of the most interesting and engaging speakers have taken their eighteen minutes to captivate knowledge seekers everywhere. Our 2024 students will be used to this idea. They will expect to see the future thought-leaders and change-makers on their screens. Perhaps educators may start awarding credits and badges for those who take the time to watch?

What is clear is that people are getting ever shorter attention spans so bite-sized knowledge is here to stay. If you would like to find out more about how Sensei can help you develop a blended learning programme for your organisation then please contact us.

Malcolm Follos