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Excerpt from Society 3.0: Section 4, Chapter 9: Future of Higher Education

Following is an excerpt from excerpt from "Society 3.0", by Tracey Wilen-Daugenti

While it is often difficult to predict with great certainty where higher education is headed, in May 2011 the Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute published Future Work Skills 2020 in response to the growing demand for such insights by individuals, educators, business, and the government (University of Phoenix, 2011). It identified several drivers of change with the potential to reshape the future landscape that were considered most important and relevant to acquiring future work skills:

  • Extreme longevity: Increased lifespans will change the nature of careers and learning. It is estimated that by 2025, the number of Americans over the age of 60 will increase by 70%.
  • Rise of smart machines and systems-workplace automation: Human workers will be nudged out of rote, repetitive tasks.
  • Smart machines will be integral to every domain of our lives, such as medicine, teaching, production, security, and combat.
  • Computational world: The increased use of sensors and greater processing power make the world a programmable system. Every object that we come into contact with will be converted into data—and on an extreme scale. The ability to mine, manipulate, and interact with the data will become increasingly important.
  • New media ecology: New communication tools require a new media literacy beyond text. As technologies such as video, digital animation, augmented reality, and gaming become more sophisticated and pervasive, the need for a new sensibility to use these technologies becomes more acute.
  • Superstructure organization: Social technologies drive new forms of production and value creation. New technologies and social media platforms are driving an unprecedented reorganization of how we produce and create value.
  • Globally connected work: Increased global interconnectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the center of organizational operations. There will be greater exchange and integration across geographic borders. (University of Phoenix, 2011)

In addition, the study also identified a range of key skills that would be relevant for the future:

  • Sense-making: Determining the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed. In a world that is increasingly automated, there will be a need for new skills that can make sense of the automation and understand the output of a highly mechanized environment.
  • Social intelligence: The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions. This refers to the skill of detecting and absorbing people’s emotions, gestures, and words in a highly complicated and automated environment. Demand for these skills is increasing as people in the world have become more distant. The ability to build collaboration, relationships, and trust is a key factor.
  • Novel and adaptive thinking: Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond the rote or rule based. This refers to the skills of responding to unique and expected circumstances of the moment, and possessing the talent to adapt and provide novel thinking.
  • Cross-cultural competency: The ability to operate in different cultural settings. This refers to operating in a globally connected world that requires teaming and collaboration at a distance— often across national borders.
  • Computational thinking: The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning. As data increase, so does the need for people who can manipulate and understand it and be able to construct value and meaning from it.
  • New media literacy: The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication. In a world that is increasingly full of rich media, this refers to the skill of deciphering and using multiple forms of such media (e.g., videos, mobile, and social technologies).
  • Transdisciplinary literacy: The ability to understand concept across multiple disciplines. In an ever complex world the need for people who have deep and broad skills increases to be able to cope with multidisciplinary problems.
  • Design mindset: The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes. This refers to developing the skill to design one’s environment to be conducive to thinking rather than a traditional structured approach.
    Cognitive load management: The ability to discriminate and prioritize data by importance and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques. This refers to how people filter and focus on what is important in an ever-changing, complex, multimedia world.
  • Virtual collaboration: The ability to work productively, drive engagement and determine presence as a member of a virtual team. (University of Phoenix, 2011)

Current Trends in Job Skills and Education

To assess the most vital future skills for the jobs of tomorrow, we must look more closely at where we stand today, and at where higher education enterprises are headed as they adapt to changing work and family structures. Today, employers are increasingly requiring degrees as a prerequisite to employment. Between 1973 and 2008, the share of U.S. jobs that required some training past high school climbed from 28% to 59%. By 2018 this number is projected to reach 63% (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010). In earlier chapters, we discussed how trends such as globalization, changing demographics and family dynamics, and technological advances are transforming society in fundamental ways. Here, we discuss the trends that impact individuals’ approaches to education and the factors that influence higher education institutions as they try to adapt to societal changes.

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