In order to respond to global challenges, workplaces need continually to change work practices and processes and, at the same time, employees need persistently to upskill and learn. This employability online forum will explore these issues, examining problems related to the preparation of people for the workplace. The forum will consider the changing nature of work, for example, what it means to be ‘employable’ to work in ways that tackle global challenges. Participants will discuss how education and training systems need to do adapt to enable people continually to learn skills and knowledge to maintain their employability. From this perspective, there is no end point to learning and people have to be equipped to learn across their whole lives to be able to adapt to changing workplaces. Participants will consider the mindset and skills educators themselves need to develop to support the development of this form of continual lifelong learning to enable people to remain employable. Ideas from the forum will be assimilated into a ‘green paper’ on the future of education to support employability in ways that address global challenges.
Equity and inclusion
At the heart of open and distance learning practice is the different interactions between teachers and students of various types that are significantly mediated through the design and implementation of the educational resources that students must engage with. However, each of these three factors has an inward and outward focus that makes up the whole educational experience. Thus, educational resources can be readily available and accessible (‘open’) or not (‘closed’). Students have their experiences of studying influenced by their personal circumstances. Teachers’ practices are influenced by the support staff and structures within their institutions.
In addition, there are another set of external influences such as quality assurance policies, innovations in educational technologies and institutions and cultural norms and practices in relation to life-long learning. Finally, we have an overarching influence of the Sustainable Development Goals.
All these factors and their relationships are represented in the influence diagram below and will be discussed during the forum.
Advances in emerging technologies continue to drive innovation in education institutions and the workplace. The knowledge and use of these technologies as well as the ability for technology-enabled learning and upskilling are becoming imperative for self-improvement and advancement in the workplace. Developments in artificial intelligence and robotics have particularly seen a demand on employees to add breadth or depth to their current capacities. Only a few years ago, a college degree guaranteed a stable job and to some extent, long-term career success. It is, however, increasingly the case that individuals need to embrace lifelong learning to remain relevant in their workplace, as a college degree now only helps new graduates enter the workforce. It is because of this that many institutions are not only focused on providing high quality learning resources but also equipping learners with the knowledge and skills needed to blend appropriate technologies and online resources, including OER, to attain lifelong learning. The question we might ask is whether the evolution of new technologies and learning platforms like MOOCs, augmented and virtual reality learning environments and microlearning have been successful in realizing flexible, personalized, work-based learning. Are there ways to train a learner to prepare them to become lifelong learners? Is the use of technology in education all that it takes? Are there successes or has this debate over-emphasised the potential of technology for lifelong learning? This forum will attempt to answer these questions and address ways in which education institutions and international development organizations might harness emerging technologies to prepare a workforce that is ready for lifelong learning.
Opening up education
Opening up education is a broad concept that became popular with the establishment of the UK Open University. The ‘open education’ movement now encompasses open educational resources (OER), open science, open educational practice (OEP), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), open pedagogy, open textbooks as well as ‘traditional’ open entry, flexible learning. This sub-theme will focus on how all these approaches can be used to improve access to education at all levels, and particularly with a focus on lifelong learners. Ways of improving access can encompass the use of any of the forms of open education, and institutional models to flexible learning, such as public-private partnership, accrediting informal learning and the use of technology to support online, flexible learning. The aim is to explore new models of learning and evaluate the implementation of existing approaches to foster open education. Perspectives can include student learning, designing open education, delivering learning opportunities, and managing learning organisations.