Preparing for Future Jobs and Careers
Online: Trending Now #140
Jobs and careers are changing rapidly, influenced by emerging and maturing technologies and an evolving marketplace mix for human and AI skills and functionalities.
It seems that the most popular book for summer reading this year at my university has been Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun. It recognizes that we have moved beyond mere retention of facts as the primary descriptor of the best qualified applicant or worker, to such areas as critical thinking, depth of understanding, mental agility, literacy in the 21st century technologies, and leading human/intelligent computer interaction. Publisher MIT Press describes it in this way:
A “robot-proof” education, Aoun argues, is not concerned solely with topping up students’ minds with high-octane facts. Rather, it calibrates them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or create something valuable to society—a scientific proof, a hip-hop recording, a web comic, a cure for cancer. Aoun lays out the framework for a new discipline, humanics, which builds on our innate strengths and prepares students to compete in a labor market in which smart machines work alongside human professionals. The new literacies of Aoun’s humanics are data literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy. Students will need data literacy to manage the flow of big data, and technological literacy to know how their machines work, but human literacy—the humanities, communication, and design—to function as a human being. Life-long learning opportunities will support their ability to adapt to change.
Long gone are the days when we professed to prepare students for a life-long career in a given field. Facts are near instantly accessible in an internet environment. In a sense, the World Wide Web becomes an appendix to areas of the brain where memory is stored and processed. Facts are easily accessed and updated. But, it is much more difficult to build creativity, social and emotional intelligence into a machine, as Lee Raine of Pew Research says:
But there are skills that may help you protect your career from robots, according to a survey of more than 1,400 technologists, futurists and scholars, released Wednesday, by the Pew Research Center. “The vast majority of these experts wrestled with a foundational question: What is special about human beings that cannot be overtaken by robots and artificial intelligence?” says Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research at Pew Research Center and co-author of the report. “They were focused on things like creativity, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking, teamwork and the special attributes tied to leadership.”
Updated facts and processes are the material for periodic employee trainings. Education, on the other hand, is where we must cultivate the creativity, social engagement, cross-cultural communication, critical thinking, teamwork strategies and leadership abilities of our students. We have been doing just that for some time. But, now we must focus on these and related skills and abilities for our students to succeed in a competitive marketplace of humans and AI.
And, we must not lose sight of the fact that the very same is true of all of us and our careers in this dynamically changing field of professional and continuing education. Our value within universities no longer resides primarily in historical knowledge, but rather in the processes, engagements, and interactions with both our fellow humans and our AI-enabled bots and programs that make our colleges thrive.
Of course, I will continue to track the developments in emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices, in the Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning – no advertising, no spam!
Ray Schroeder Founding Director
Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow, and Founding Director of the National Council for Online Education at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.
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