Technological progress affects the demand for education and training, and how education and training are provided. In 21st-century economy, higher levels of educational attainment correlate to higher earnings; skills and fields of training are an important currency in job markets. If workers take on a larger variety of jobs over their career, or if skill requirements shift—whether due to technology or other economic factors—they will need to learn a more diverse set of skills over time. This requires an educational system that provides access to continuing education relevant to the changing nature of work.

Information Technology (IT) is also changing how education is provided—both the nature of coursework, and access to education via the Internet. Recent years have witnessed a growth in the availability of online classes over the Internet, creating a new mechanism for access to education worldwide. Organizations such as Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy offer numerous online courses, and companies such as Udacity now team with employers to create and deliver online training in areas that enable employees to move up the career ladder and acquire skills in high demand.

The promise of change in online education is enabled by a combination of broad access to the Internet, ease of creating videos, recorded lectures, and hosting them, as well as innovations in combining lecture-style training, online exercises, and crowd-sourced grading. This model of online education offers the promise of a potentially significant increase in access to education. By globalizing the delivery of education, it also holds the potential of offering students access to the best teachers worldwide.

Moreover, a large number of “traditional” universities also provide a wide range of online education programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students enrolled in online degree programs may complete some or all of their courses online, resulting in degrees with identical designations and transcript notations as campus-only students. Not only Bachelor’s, but Master’s degree programs are taught with this model, which emphasizes students’ ability to return to gain additional “lifelong learning” experiences while working full-time in a professional setting.

Technical change and evolving work models are leading to new demands for a more flexible and lifelong educational system, while at the same time providing the basis for new kinds of broadly accessible online education. Primary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions, including the arts, vocational schools, and research universities, attempt to offer different types of education. Their curricula, however, may need to be reevaluated and redesigned to better meet the needs of future workers.

For all types of online education, specifically what should be taught in order to best prepare individuals for their future career is quite unknown. It is easy to support the idea of education that prepares the workforce for future dynamism in employment and enables lifelong learning. It is much more difficult to answer the question of what specifically to teach, and how, in order to achieve that educational goal.


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