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DIY Mindset Reshaping Education

group of college students sitting on bench with "higher education" text and icons in the background

A do-it-yourself mindset is changing the face of education worldwide, according to new survey results. Learners are "patching together" their education from a "menu of options," including self-teaching, short courses and bootcamps, and they believe that self-service instruction will become even more prevalent for lifelong learning. In the United Sates specifically, 84 percent of people said learning would become even more self-service the older they get.

Among those who have needed to reskill in the last two years to continue doing their jobs, 42 percent found information online and taught themselves and 41 percent took a course or training offered by their employers, a professional association or bootcamp, compared to just 28 percent who pursued a professional certification program, 25 percent who enrolled in a university-level degree program or 12 percent who did nothing.

If people had to learn something new for their career quickly, they said they would be more likely turn to a short training program (47 percent), followed by access to a free resource such as YouTube, or Khan Academy (33 percent). A smaller share (20 percent) would head to an accredited university or college.

Those results come from a survey conducted by learning company Pearson and Harris Insights & Analytics. Some 11,083 people ranging in age from 16 to 70 and from 11 different countries or regions of the world took the 20-minute online survey. Results were weighted for age, gender, region, urbanicity, race/ethnicity, education, marital status, household income and socio-economic status to align respondents with actual proportions in their respective countries. In the United States, 1,000 participants did the survey.

Among the findings, more Americans believe that the education system is more frequently "failing" the current generation coming into work right now (60 percent) than working well for those young people. A slight majority (54 percent) said they believe the U.S. higher education system is good or great compared to those in other countries. In comparison, 70 percent of respondents in Canada, 68 percent in the United Kingdom and 66 percent in India said the same. And two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans said that a college or university education is "getting more out of reach for the average person."

A majority of U.S. respondents (64 percent) agreed that higher ed wasn't teaching "the right skills" for the current job market. A similar number (67 percent) said institutions were too focused on serving traditional students and needed to offer better options for working adults.

People put faith in technology for enhancing education. Among U.S. respondents, 83 percent said students today had the benefit of tech usage to support their learning, making it "easier and more fun." And more than four in five (81 percent) reported that within a decade they would expect more students to attend school online than in person. Most (70 percent) also predicted that print textbooks would be obsolete by 2025 and that in the future YouTube would become a "primary learning tool" (59 percent).

Artificial intelligence received mixed reactions. While two-thirds of people said AI could make learning more fun and engaging (69 percent), could have a "positive impact" on education overall (68 percent) and could provide more personalized educational content (66 percent), similar numbers worried that AI would collect too much personal data on students (70 percent) and could displace classroom teachers (66 percent).

"Gig jobs, unconventional careers, tech disruption and lifelong learning have ushered in the talent economy. Now more than ever, learners understand the need for lifelong education," said John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson, in a statement. "People are meeting the demands of this new world of work by taking control of their own learning. Now, technology and innovation are giving educators, governments and companies the greatest opportunity in human history to rise to the occasion and improve lives through education."

The full report, along with a whitepaper exploring the survey's implications for higher ed, is openly available on the Pearson website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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