This Week’s Trends in Education and Technology (April 27-May 3)

[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]

Notable Quote

Nearly 100% of the jobs created during the economic recovery went to workers with postsecondary education training. That training really begins in high school. The work of the future will require a robust system of lifelong learning and high school may just be the fulcrum in that system, best positioned to make the necessary profound changes across the system.

Heather E. McGowan — Future of Work Strategist, GettingSmart

Things That Caught My Attention

Workforce Readiness

The quote above is one example of an increased focus on meeting the challenge of workforce readiness and career training. Heather McGowan’s post at GettingSmart gets to the heart of one transition taking place in U.S. education and society.

Right now, the university degree is the new high school diploma. It is the best proxy we have, but it remains insufficient. Four out of five CEOs say that skills gaps in creativity and problem solving make hiring difficult and nearly half of job tasks may be lost to automation within the next two decades. While we have substantial technical skills gaps we also have a profound shortage of non-technical, uniquely human skills such as empathy, social intelligence, creativity, communication and judgment among others. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce predicted that without changes to our postsecondary education system immediately, our economy will be short 5 million workers  by 2020. This is not new information but our responses to these challenges are insufficient. Merely pushing more people on the existing factory pipeline through higher education is not working. Nor are efforts to retrain those displaced in short-term skill acquisition boot camps. We need to start thinking differently.

Of course, workforce preparation doesn’t end with high school. Colleges and universities remain a primary conduit for educating and placing adults in the workforce. One of the key challenges facing higher education and its students seeking employment? Working with companies to identify and address the skills students need to succeed professionally.  As Ryan Craig, managing director of investment firm University Ventures and a panel participant at a conference for public-private partnerships in postsecondary education said, “Employers literally want to see that (graduates) have the skills they’re looking for so (they) can be productive in that job on day one. That’s hard and that requires a set of new and different initiatives (from universities and third parties).”

Higher Ed

Affordability remains the perennially hot topic in higher education. We see it in efforts by Austin Community College’s expansion of zero-textbook-cost degrees and the University of Texas System’s new task force on reducing textbook and course materials costs. We also see it in new institutional models such as College Unbound. We also hear about it, though pretty much every available media channel, from 2020 presidential candidates, most of whom have an affordable or free-college plank in their platform (see this analysis of Elizabeth Warren’s plan). Not surprisingly, a recent poll/study shows fairy broad support for free-college programs among young people.

College readiness is another consistent topic in higher education, and Western Governors is rolling out a new academy to help those students who need extra preparation before they begin college courses.

Media, Publishing, and Cultural Trends

The big news in educational media this week was the announcement of a planned merger between Cengage and McGraw-Hill. If/when the merger is completed, the combined companies will be the second largest educational publisher (together their annual revenues exceed $3 billion).

Not surprisingly, there were a number of different takes on the announced merger, and not all of them were buying into the companies’ spin about how the move will allow them to serve students more affordably. Allistair Adam, at FlatWorld, provides a nice “insider’s view” of how such mergers work in the textbook world and what it could mean for different groups (investors, employees, faculty, and students. In addition, Jeffrey Young at EdSurge outlines how the merger might affect course materials.

By the way, the largest educational publisher, Pearson, has released its Q1 trading update, which provides additional insight into U.S course materials markets.

Research Articles and Posts for the Week

K-12 Education

The 50 States of Education Policy: A continued push for school choice

What the debate over homework is getting wrong

Charter School Funding: It is a Scam

Charter schools damage public education

What if the Future of Work Starts with High School

Higher Education

Poll: Support for free college among young people

Adult Students Have Moved Into the Mainstream. How Can Colleges Adjust?

ASU Agrees to Independent Investigation of Its Online Textbook Practices

Western Governors Addresses College Readiness Gap with New Academy

U Texas System Task Force Charged with Making College More Affordable

Austin CC Expands Zero-Textbook-Cost Degrees

The Misuse of the Diffusion of Innovation

College Unbound Helps Working Adults Earn Fast Affordable Degrees

Elizabeth Warren student loans plan: Universal, free college pricey

Learning Design and Learning Technology

As Online Learning Grows, So Will Proctors. Case in Point: Examity’s $90M Deal

Liberal arts navigate poverty, diminished opportunity, robots

Design as Participation

On Connectivism and Scale

Workforce Readiness

Understanding higher ed’s role in workforce education partnerships

More MOOC Madness? UK’s FutureLearn Raises $65M to Expand Global Footprint

Walmart unveils an AI-powered store of the future, now open to the public

How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity’

What if the Future of Work Starts with High School

IBM HR head Diane Gherson on becoming a skills-based company

Media, Publishing, and Cultural Trends

Amazon Says It Could Have Fully Automated Warehouses in 10 Years

How Merger of Two Textbook Giants Could Impact Course Materials

Cengage, McGraw-Hill Agree to Merge to Become 2nd Biggest US Textbook Publisher

Over 13% of the homes in Japan are abandoned

Cengage Unlimited Cites a Successful First Academic Year

New ‘Horizon Report’ Looks Back on What Past Predictions Got Wrong

Irving Wladawsky-Berger: The Third Wave of the Digital Economy – Promises and Challenges

Pearson 2019 Q1 Trading Update

Technology Trends

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the ‘future is private’

The Task Ahead of Us: Transforming the Global Economy With Connectivity, Automation, and Intelligence

Irving Wladawsky-Berger: The Third Wave of the Digital Economy – Promises and Challe

Walmart unveils an AI-powered store of the future, now open to the public

Forget about artificial intelligence, extended intelligence is the future

Electric Cars Are Estimated to Be Cheaper than Regular Cars by 2022

Chinese electric car maker BYD’s first-quarter profit up 632 percent, sees first-half profit up