Complex Made Simple

How blended learning can help you stay competitive in the digital age

The accelerating pace of technological, demographic and socio-economic change is transforming industries and business models. In turn, this alters the skills that employers seek in employees. Under these conditions, all of us, therefore, risk letting our skills rapidly become irrelevant. And this possibility further increases in the light of the third industrial revolution led by new technologies.

With companies deploying newer and faster technologies and toolkits such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, Digital Product Management and more, how does this impact employees performing in these areas?

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Man vs. machine?

First, while companies may automate mundane and repetitive tasks, this is not going to be the first time such a thing has happened. There have been many such occurrences in the past as well, and it has traditionally resulted in a positive outcome – that of humans moving on to higher quality work. Second, as Gary Kasparov has successfully highlighted in his book “Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begin”, it is not a challenge of man versus machine, rather it is about humans complementing machines. And last but not least, as even Darwin might agree, humans have evolved to overcome much harder changes in the past.

The learning here is that the future is about evaluation and constant learning. For professionals to continue being relevant, it is imperative for them to upgrade their skill set continuously. For education providers, this means that content needs to be constantly upgraded, and not only its format but also in the way it is delivered.

One of the best ways for individuals to upskill is by enrolling in various courses, and in those that cater to roles which they aspire for. Unfortunately, recent studies show that most candidates abandon these courses halfway through. A good example of this is the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), where the completion rate is approximately 6%. This points to the need for an educational platform that is both efficient and flexible.

These requirements are being met by various emerging institutions that help provide high touch online learning services, also referred to as blended learning. Such forms of education are invaluable when it comes to helping people upgrade and acquire new-age skills. Blended learning has become the preferred choice when it comes to learning various new-age skills for two major reasons.

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The first is that the online learning industry in the Middle East is expanding because of continuing technological innovations. This, in turn, is leading to a high demand for skilled labour in the jobs market, as well as the need to constantly upskill for career progression. The second reason is that working professionals are driven by a need to manage their time efficiently even while upgrading their skills. In fact, a report from the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index, which measures the extent to which countries and economies optimise their human capital potential through education as well as skills development and their deployment throughout the life-courses, states that the MENA region currently captures 62% of its full human capital potential. This means there is much scope for courses that permit balancing a day job, which in turn leads to individuals developing new skills to help them stay relevant in this digital age.

Blended learning programmes such as PearsonX in the Middle East, allows candidates to focus more on competitive and applied courses. These programmes include learning through localised case studies, resolving business challenges and capstone projects and hackathons.

Bringing globally recognised curriculum together with local knowledge and expertise can ensure effective learning outcomes for specialists looking to acquire new skills. Further, classroom networking and mentoring by a career success coach helps candidates stay on track and equips them with skills for real-world situations. Equally critical, blended courses offer curriculum and competencies that are most in demand by employers and by an ever-evolving workplace.

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By Roy Strik, Head of Business Development, Pearson Professional Middle East

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