Half-Life of Skills

Earlier this week, I noted that I was beginning to dive into the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals.  Based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, the report noted ten trends.  I discussed the first of these – the organization of the future – in yesterday’s post.

The second trend in the Deloitte report was “Careers and Learning: Real Time, All the Time.”  The report began by noting – again, for businesses and HR professionals – that the concept of “career” is in flux.  The beautiful question asked is what does “career” mean in a world of 100-year lifespans, 60-year careers, and half-lives of skills that continue to fall to only about 5 years.  While this report is for businesses, one can easily see the overlap with faculty development.  A tenure-track position is a life-time commitment, yet the concomitant development of teaching and research skills can be problematic.  In the world of business, the report noted that organizations with dynamic career models outperform their peers by providing continuous learning opportunities and a deeply embedded culture of development.  Institutions of higher education, particularly those with centers for teaching and learning (CTLs), provide the continuous learning opportunities, but as one who has been in faculty development for a decade…and considering the numbers of faculty I did not see versus those I did, I question whether institutions of learning have cultures of development?

The report goes on to explore the explosion of high-quality, free or low-cost content available through such platforms as Youtube, edX, Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy, as well as micro-masters offered at some universities.  The commoditization of content raises the question of for CTLs – develop content in-house or link to these resources outside the institution?  A parallel question is whether CTLs should even develop content…the report highlights General Electric’s Brilliant You – an online learning platform in which GE employees develop and share learning content with peers.

The report suggested that for businesses – and I would suggest for higher education as well – that “learning” is a highly strategic business area.  A decade ago, businesses were interested in building out some content in an online directory.  Now, they are moving towards agile learning opportunities, promoting true lifelong learning, and retraining for multifunctional teams.

“…Forward thinking L&D departments are facilitating this growth in interdisciplinary thinking by viewing the corporate university as a commons instead of a training center…”

This suggests new roles for the leaders of CTLs.  As catalysts for change, they have to become curators and facilitators more than trainers.  The culture of the faculty development within the university – ironically – has to shift from teaching to collaborative learning.

To illustrate new approaches, the report highlights the University of Southern California.  One example was the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and STEM Cell Research, which teamed science faculty with cinematography faculty to develop new approaches to problem solving using digital imaging and virtual reality.  Another example was the Iovine and Young Academy for the Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, which used interdisciplinary teams of faculty for breakthrough design thinking for audio headsets.  The lesson learned is that CTLs have to move beyond interdisciplinary and focus on convergence.  What are the problems that if solved would have high impact…and what groups could make this happen?  CTLs are in a unique position to leverage university assets to quickly form faculty learning communities that could address these problems.

As was done with the first theme, the report provided a series of old and new rules.  Once again building off their work to focus on faculty development:

Old Rules New Rules
No requirement for skill development for teaching or learning
Faculty decide what new skills are needed and have the resources to learn these skills
Tenure track is “up or out”
Tenure track is one of many options, careers can go in multiple directions
CTLs exist to train faculty
CTLs curate learning opportunities and create useful learning experiences
Faculty learn in workshops and sometimes online
Faculty learn all the time, in micro-learning, in physical and virtual workshops, and across disciplines
CTLs are considered the one-stop for training
CTLs are the learning commons, bringing together faculty and cross-functional learning communities
Offerings are based on compliance and technology
Offerings are always on, collaboratively developed and shared, and curated from multiple sources
Learning is provided by experts
Learning is provided by everyone
Credentials come from the university
Credentials are loosely bundled from multiple sources

.

Such an approach requires some fundamental rethinking of the core mission of CTLs…but these are disruptive times, and the time is ripe to begin this rethinking.

What rules would you add or change?