Monday, August 08, 2011

A Jobless Future - A New New Deal - Why Isn't eLearning Part of this Conversation?

Last week +Jeff Jarvis posted this in Google plus and it sparked some interesting conversation. Since there aren't really titles in a G+ post you can learn a lot from the first line.
"We're not going to have a jobless recovery. We're going to have a jobless future."
I was lurking around the conversation without offering my thoughts and then I saw this blog post from Jason Calacanis titled "A New New Deal: Adult Technical Education (or "The Jarvis Deal")". I would HIGHLY recommend reading BOTH items. The comments from the Jarvis post got off track pretty quickly and turned into taxes, politics, and bla, bla, bla. Jason's post refocused the conversation and was the driver for this post.

So, who are these guys?

Jeff Jarvis is a Journalist, Professor, and Show Host. He is also the creator of the popular blog BuzzMachine. Check out his wikipedia page here.

Jason Calacanis is listed on his wikipedia page as an Internet entrepreneur and blogger. He is a highly outspoken personality in the world of new media and tech and hosts his own network called My personal favorite is This Week in Startups.

Okay, so NOW you're caught up. You know who these guys are and you've read their posts. Now tell me... don't you think WE have a role in this conversation? Don't you think its about time we stopped hiding in our little insulated training corner of the corporate world and stepped up? In the powerful rhetoric of my friend and colleague Aaron Silvers (The Beard), "HELLS YEAH"!

So, here's your chance. We all have a unique perspective on this topic. Our industry is filled with the smartest Educational Technologists, and Instructional Designers, in the world. I want you to get in on the conversation with Jeff and Jason. Offer your $.02 because honestly, I don't even think they know you/we exist. Personally, most people I know didn't even know our career/profession existed before they met me.  

Here's what I think and know from personal experience.

Anything and EVERYTHING that is repetitive, currently uses human physical power, is currently paper-based, or in other ways INEFFICIENT will, at some point, be done by automated machines. I believe Jeff is right. Many jobs will never come back. Other jobs are evolving because of technology and those insisting on "the old ways" will become displaced workers. Because even if YOU are damn good at "doing it your way", at some point someone will begin doing it better, faster, cheaper through the use of technology.

The case study I'm currently living is in the health care industry. Home health care to be more specific. I've watched my wife sit in our bed covered with paperwork completing form after form after form to meet government regulations. Home health care agencies were mostly small businesses that hired contractors to provide the care and then the business would push the paperwork and billing so everyone would get paid. A NIGHTMARE! (Oh btw, NONE of the regulations are actually based on providing quality care...but that's a different rant)

Well, one newer company in town has invested in a fully automated system, with tablets and cell phones for the care givers and NO PAPERWORK. New employees that refused to learn the technology have already been let go. And companies unable to convert from paper to digital processes have already shut their doors.

And that's only ONE example! I see it in many many more places on a daily basis. The bottom line is you better start getting comfortable with technology in whatever field you are in, or you will be left behind.

Adult Technology Education
So, that leads us to Jason's post. And let me just say, that I have a lot of respect for Jason. I don't know him, but its obvious he's a real smart, ambitious guy. So, if you read his post you'll understand my next comments. I LOVE hearing entrepreneurs work through they should...LIKE ENTREPRENEURS. But when entrepreneurs apply their entrepreneurial thinking, data, and solutions and attempt to apply them to government entities, I'm left scratching my head. I was hanging with him right up until I read this line...
"Let’s add 20% to that number for management and overhead of the program..."
As another esteemed colleague might say, "bless his heart". Seriously, I don't have time to review any current school system finances, and so I'd love to be corrected on this, but I think THE biggest problem with our schools today is that management and overhead is WAY above 20%. And what about the unions? I won't go there.

Like I said, I LOVE that American entrepreneurs are putting their brilliant minds to the task of education. But entrepreneurial ventures are completely different beasts compared to government run agencies. I'm sorry to say it, but I just don't think our government is up the task of being entrepreneurial. American entrepreneurs gave us the "for profit" university model of which the government is battling because they are taking money away from public universities. (here's one of many articles).

So, as part of a conversation and in theory I think some of Jason's number are a good starting point. However, in the end something this good will never come from the government. It will need to be a free market venture. And so with that, I have a question for Jason. If someone brought your Adult Technical Education business plan to Launch, would you put up $$$ and invest?

What can we, the eLearning community do?
I hate writing long form blog post but I feel like I need to add this last section. I've been in the eLearning business for a long time and I've every technology-based training solution that exists. We have virtual worlds, simulations for software, interactive 3D simulations, synchronous online classroom training, social learning, serious games, mobile learning, collaborative learning, and on and on. There is no reason to spend money on a physical space for teaching/learning any more. I know, I know, we all still believe in the power of face-to-face collaboration. But what I'm saying is that collaborative gathering spaces already exist. There is no need to build any more physical spaces for adult education.

I'd also like to add that from what I've heard, the types of jobs that most technology companies are looking for require a certain set of skills mostly not being taught in our current educational systems. So, a better solution might be encouraging companies to create their own Adult education training programs in partnership with other companies and share the responsibility for growing a more educated workforce.

There is a lot that CAN be done. I guess the question ends up being how can someone make this profitable, or else its never going to happen.

Maybe this is a conversation we should have at DevLearn this year. Jason, I'll have an open invitation waiting for you if you'd like to join us.

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