I’ve worked in business and industry for over 20 years writing technical documentation and training materials. All of this has made me reflect on how truly different learning is in the workplace as compared to how learning occurs in schools. Because of this, schools leave many people unprepared for the kind of learning that is required in adulthood.
Training within business and industry is very specific. Training designers look at the characteristics of each learner group and then design the training to meet their specific needs. A group of engineers would not be trained in the same way as a group of factory-line operators because they have very different backgrounds and needs for the training. Training has always been a necessity within business and industry, but it is very expensive, and the amount of learning required — with more and more technology developed everyday — is growing exponentially.
This made me think even more about the fact that increasingly, people are going to have to take control of their own learning. The employer is going to take and less of a role in determining and providing training for the employees. It will be the employees themselves that will need to determine and complete the learning that is best for them — in order to keep up and remain competitive.
Students really need to begin to learn how to be adult learners. The process should start and high school and it requires that students take some control over their own learning. It also needs to utilize technology because technology is increasingly going to paly a larger role in how information is transmitted and received in the future.
Sharing the opinion of many other countries, I believe that formal education should begin to slow down and even end by the age of 15 or 16. At this point, students should begin to determine for themselves what is important for them. If they are planning on attending a formal university, they may continue in a standard academic route. But if college is not a good fit, there should be other options. Only this way can they determine where their interests and abilities lie, and begin the process of developing and continuing to develop those interests and abilities throughout life.
Technology can definitely play a part in this process. It can provide a useful “scaffolding” or integration of adult learning methods. Once students become familiar with choosing different applications, such as self-paced tutorials or distance learning courses, they can begin to direct more of their own learning, and they will be on their way to preparing for a life of continuous learning.