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Will online learning replace physical institutions in the future?

8 September 2017HighlightsUSAEurope

Will online learning replace physical institutions in the future?

  • Online learning could help better distribute information and create better networks
  • More of us are continuing to learn later in life, with mature students on the rise
  • A recent Citi webinar discusses how technology aids learning after graduate level

The rise of the lifelong student

The expression "half-life of knowledge", coined by Fritz Machlup in 1962, describes the amount of time it takes for half of the learnings within a field to be superseded. Consultants suggest that this period is about five years for most learned skills, which means that retraining is an important consideration for everyone, regardless of age.

At a recent Citi webinar on the subject of learning and its future, Ayesha Khanna, CEO and Co-founder of ADDO AI, said, "encouraging everyone after their graduate degree to continue to acquire skills is critical."

Khanna is currently studying for a PHD after a 15-year stint on Wall Street, which makes her one of many mature students bringing about a shift in modern education demographics.

A new way of learning

As well as factors like later retirement and rapidly changing workplaces, adult attitudes to education are being changed by the increased prevalence of the online classroom.

For one thing, the wealth of topics available with just an internet connection means that people can tailor their learning to their goals – something Professor Pauline Straughan, Dean of Students at the Singapore Management University, suggests is a key factor for the lifelong learner.

"It must be a purposeful journey," Straughan says. "There must be something that you want to do, [and then] you plan ahead and you scan the horizon and then you go for it. Then you learn well."

The flexibility that internet learning offers is another benefit. Whether you're a professional or a pensioner, practically everyone now has the opportunity to learn from the best institutions in the world – "MIT, Yale, they are setting up satellite campuses everywhere", says Khanna.

Today, it seems you're as likely to find parents juggling their own homework as well as their children's.

So, what's the future of online learning?

While these benefits are an obvious step forward for the future of education, both of our experts note that the importance of connecting with others should not be underestimated.

"The university of the future will be one that is more networked and distributed," Khanna says. "There is no substitute for people getting together and debating and brainstorming. This whole idea of testing your assumptions is the foundation of knowledge and that is more than the acquisition of information."

On the matter of learning in a traditional classroom situation, Straughan says, "Learning is not just about the dissemination of content. It is about learning how to work with each other. Appreciating how you can function as a group."

While there's no doubt that online education is a massive boost for the lifelong learner, the importance of surrounding oneself with different perspectives should not be forgotten. Whether the effective connection built between in-person classmates can translate to online communities is a question that's still open to debate.

Find out more about how education will change as a result of future workplaces, or ask your relationship manager about tracking your learning goals with the Citigold Total Wealth Advisor.

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