The lifetime learner: A journey through the future of postsecondary education

Lifetime LearnerIn an article co-authored by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, Roy Mathew, Maggie Wooll, and Wendy Tsu, they suggest that the increasingly disparate needs and expectations of individual learners are fueling the growth of a rich ecosystem of semi-structured, unorthodox learning providers at the “edges” of the traditional higher educational system. To read the complete report, check out other resources, and learn more about Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, please click here.

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A new business landscape is emerging wherein a multitude of small entities will bring products and services to market using the infrastructure and platforms of large, concentrated players. The forces driving this are putting new and mounting pressures on organizations and individuals while also opening up new opportunities. But traditional postsecondary educational institutions are not supporting individuals in successfully navigating this not-too-distant future, nor are the educational institutions immune to these forces. Perhaps more than any other sector, postsecondary education is being affected by changing demand as the learning needs and preferences of the individual consumer rapidly evolve. Increasingly, individuals need both lifelong learning and accelerated, on-demand learning, largely as a response to the pressures of the broader evolving economic landscape.

Rarely seen amid gross national statistics on the skills gap, employability, completion rates, and tuition hikes is a serious discussion of the unmet, and increasingly disparate, needs and expectations of individual learners. The costs to the individual are increasing, and the payoff is less certain. Students of all ages are more comfortable with technology and are less tied to traditional notions of the academy as fewer American adults between the ages of 18 and 22 achieve a four-year, full-time, campus-based degree.1 At the same time, technological advances reduce the lifespan of specific skills, and an increasingly globalized and automated workforce needs to continuously learn and retrain.

As a result of a growing set of unmet needs and lower barriers to entry and commercialization, a new ecosystem of educational players is emerging, largely independent of the traditional educational landscape. This rich ecosystem of semi-structured, unorthodox learning providers is emerging at the edges of the current postsecondary world, with innovations that challenge the structure and even existence of traditional education institutions. These challengers are extending the education space beyond grades, degrees, and certificates to provide lifelong learning in a variety of formats and levels of effectiveness.

What does this mean for traditional players and the educational landscape? Similar to what is occurring more broadly, the emerging landscape will consist of a few large, concentrated players that will provide infrastructure, platforms, and services to support a wide array of fragmented niche providers of content, formats, environments, and experiences. Existing institutions—educational institutions, educational publishers, and corporate training departments—would do well to understand the diversity of the emerging landscape and the needs and preferences they reflect in order to help define sustainable roles in this new landscape. Existing institutions will likely have to choose what roles they can play sustainably and where they should be integrating emerging players and tools to support the learning needs of the future.

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Here is a direct link to the complete report.

John Hagel III (co-chairman, Deloitte Center for the Edge), of Deloitte Consulting LLP, has nearly 30 years of experience as a management consultant, author, speaker, and entrepreneur, and has helped companies improve performance by applying technology to reshape business strategies. In addition to holding significant positions at leading consulting firms and companies throughout his career, Hagel is the author of bestselling business books such as Net Gain, Net Worth, Out of the Box, The Only Sustainable Edge, and The Power of Pull.

John Seely Brown (independent co-chairman, Deloitte Center for the Edge) is a prolific writer, speaker, and educator. In addition to his work with the Center for the Edge, JSB is adviser to the provost and a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California. This position followed a lengthy tenure at Xerox Corporation, where JSB was chief scientist and director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. JSB has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals and authored or co-authored seven books, including The Social Life of Information, The Only Sustainable Edge, The Power of Pull, and A New Culture of Learning.

Roy Mathew (principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP) specializes in IT strategy, transformation, and restructuring to help higher education clients develop innovative services and reduce costs. Roy focuses on helping universities with major transformation and efficiency efforts that include significant process, organization, and governance change. Most recently, he led the shared services operational excellence program at one of the largest and most eminent public universities in California. He is actively involved in developing Deloitte’s capabilities and eminence in innovation, business process reengineering, and operational performance improvement.

Maggie Wooll (senior editor and engagement strategist, Deloitte Center for the Edge), of Deloitte Services LP, combines her experience advising large organizations on strategy and operations with her love of storytelling to share the Center’s research. At the Center, she explores the implications of rapidly changing technologies for individuals and their institutions. In particular, she is interested in learning and personal fulfillment within the shifting business environment.

Wendy Tsu (former research fellow, Deloitte Center for the Edge) is passionate about exploring the edges between learning, social impact, and innovation. As part of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Strategy & Operations practice, her focus has been in technology and education. Most recently, she has been helping higher education institutions reimagine their operating models. As part of the Center, she conducted research and analysis related to new forms and institutions of education and how they impact the educational journey for the lifelong learner.

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