The future of learning is not about machines

A commentary by Melanie Kovacs, founder of Master21 Academy, podcast host of "Joyful Learning" and "Forbes Under-30"-Listmaker 2018.

We know that machines learn fast, with data. But how do we as humans learn, so we're prepared for the next decade and beyond? Adult education providers moved their courses and workshops online during COVID-19. However, the future of learning will not be online only.

Online learning offers lots of opportunities for course providers, especially to scale programs, make them more accessible and reach a more diverse, broader audience. However, there are also challenges, like creating safe spaces in order to build the trust necessary for transformative learning to happen.

After having interviewed seven entrepreneurs in adult education for the podcast "Joyful Learning", I see a future of learning that is about slowing-down, people and joy.

Melanie Kovacs
... is a creative entrepreneur, business coach, podcast host of “Joyful Learning” and “Under-30”-Listmaker 2018. She studied International Management and Requirements Engineering. After selling her first company Master21, she now supports other entrepreneurs in education to turn their side hustle into a profitable business, so that they can do what they enjoy doing. She serves on the board of the Impact Hub Association and is a judge at the Swiss Economic Award.
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Here is why:

The future of learning is about slowing-down:

  • We learn every day, for example by analysing our fitbit data, observing our boss' behaviour, watching a TEDtalk or reading an article, like this one on Forbes. However, if we undertake nothing to make this passive learning active, we won't be able to connect it, make sense of it, memorize it and apply it. In order to "make it stick", like the highly recommended book with the same title, we need to make time for our learning and be intentional about it. One way to do this is by reflecting and journaling. Another way is to discuss it, for example in a community (as described in the next point).

The future of learning is about people:

  • First, networks like We Shape Tech offer relevant workshops and "Lunch and Learn"-Events for their members. These formats provide safe spaces, have the power to expand perspectives and let participants discover new topics. They might dare to look into topics they wouldn't look into by themselves, either because it doesn't have a direct connection to their jobs or because it's an intimidating topic.
  • Second, learning new skills together helps to activate the learning and make it meaningful.
  • Third, as we are social animals, learning in groups can increase our motivation and prevent us from giving up. That’s one of the reasons why at Stride, the unSchool for Collaborative Leadership and Social Innovation, attendees co-lead and co-create a venture together.
  • Fourth, in the workplace team performance matters more than individual performance. Just like we need collaboration to solve our complex problems, like the loss of biodiversity, we need to be able to learn and evolve together, as a team, an organisation and a society. To do so, providers like the Platform offer not just team events but increasingly learning experiences.

The future of learning is about joy:

  • Neuroscience shows that joy and comfort lead to effective information processing and long-term memory storage, like Judy Willis sums up in the Neuroscience of Joy in Psychology Today.
  • We only know two things about the future for certain. First, the future is uncertain. Second, the only constant is change. That means we need to be able to adapt. Those who approach learning with a beginner’s mind and joy will definitely manage to adapt faster and better.
  • With the rise of AI and other changes, mental resilience is key, like Yuval Noah Harari points out in “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”. By focusing on joyful moments one can also build strength.

If the future of learning is about slowing-down, people and joy, the question is: How can we design learning experiences that take this into account?

“The future [of learning] is already here. It’s just not yet evenly distributed” as the famous quote by William Gibson goes.

Many educators and especially entrepreneurs in education are already creating learning experiences that are about slowing-down, putting people first and joy.

Author: Melanie Kovacs

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

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