It’s a well known dictum: “Economies have moved from the industrial age into the information age” — this was obviously most strikingly represented by the advanced in internet technology and the emergence of the world-wide web way back in 1989. Since then we’ve traversed Web 1.0, global recession and Web 2.0, and now more than ever, professionals are not only turning to the internet for information, but deep and specific career enhancing knowledge as well. Enter the knowledge entrepreneur.

It is easier than ever today to access simple to use online platforms, that help the specialist, enthusiast, academic or professional package what they know, make it accessible to the world, and make money. Let’s explore what factors are driving this growth.

Millennials

Young people entering the workplace are increasingly discovering that, for a range of rather complex reasons, higher education is not quite keeping step with what the job marketplace requires.

Last year the Mayo Clinic completed a study that showed a competency-based medical training was a far better “fit” for the Millennial generation, than traditional medical teaching practices. The study went on to conclude that Millennials tend to do well in learning environments saturated with collaboration, feedback, technology and mentorship — the hallmarks in fact of online learning.

There is now also a generational push back against the post-recession trend of “degree inflation” and many companies are reviewing what some commentators claim is an overemphasis on degrees, rather than selecting candidates based on skills or experience.

Finally, Millennials grew up learning differently:

  • Many grew up in self-service education environments such as home schools and alternative classrooms;
  • They are familiar with using, sifting and selecting digital information resources;
  • There is no real “divide” for Millenials between online and elsewhere; they are comfortable and familiar with interacting online and need very little familiarization training with new technologies and platforms.

As Millennials age and breach middle and upper career paths, the ongoing knowledge revolution — how people gain skills, where they find knowledge and how they train — will become increasingly digital, global and specific.

Failure of Higher Education

This is a massive topic, but in terms of the knowledge entrepreneurship it is important to describe the gap being left by higher education that knowledge entrepreneurs and other digital learning alternatives are racing to fill.

Let’s focus for now on the US higher education system. The biggest barrier to higher education for Millenials is the crushing cost, and attendant debt. With the best will in the world, many youngsters with great grades are unable to advance their learning without a digital alternative. Millennials, even those that can afford higher education, or qualify for a loan, continue to “crave fast, flexible and affordable education” creating a dynamic market for knowledge entrepreneurs who are willing to use best-in-class online platforms to package what they know into accessible, far reaching and affordable lessons.

Higher education institutions, while adapting somewhat to student demands for greater digital connect, better feedback loops and improved collaboration with both students and professors, are making incremental steps. however many do still hold onto old models of instruction, which are not only resource heavy, but ultimately no longer fit for purpose.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

RPL is an emergent trend in technology training, adult learning, lifelong learning and career advancement. RPL is the process of giving academic recognition to formal learning via recognized awards, informal learning via previous experience and non-formal learning for uncertified, but conscientious/planned learning.

More and more employers are recognizing that skilled and ideal candidates are slipping through the net because academic recognition is oftentimes too narrow. In countries such as Australia, UK and Europe RPL is advanced through government policy that aims to broaden and deepen access to education, broader inclusion in the economy, as well as rewarding individuals for lifelong, and life-wide learning.

Closing thoughts

There can be no doubt that e-learning (and I specifically don’t use the word “education”), the production and consumption of life and career enhancing knowledge via digital tools is already revolutionizing the way we contemplate what we know, and what we need or want to know. It’s also creating a dynamic community of interconnected learners and teachers, dislodged from any central academic paradigm, that are exploring, learning and creating new knowledge entirely online.

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