Long Life Learning Book Summary - Long Life Learning Book explained in key points
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Long Life Learning summary

Michelle R. Weise

Preparing for Jobs that Don't Even Exist Yet

4 (87 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

Long Life Learning by Michelle R. Weise explores the need for continuous learning in the age of automation and AI. It provides a roadmap for individuals, educators, and employers to adapt and thrive in the changing job market.

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    Long Life Learning
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    Academic institutions must respond to changes in the work ecosystem.

    Academics are prone to describing education in lofty terms. College is about giving students a global perspective, they say, or allowing them to explore their passions while improving their social skills.

    These goals sound pleasant, but they’re at odds with what learners actually want. According to 50 years of data from The Freshman Survey, first-time, full-time students consistently give the same number one answer when asked why they go to college. That answer? “To be able to get a job.”

    Students consistently care less about becoming citizens of the world and more about being able to start careers. Yet, according to Strada-Gallup consumer insight data, only 36 percent of college graduates feel that they have the right skills and knowledge to be successful.

    The key message here is: Academic institutions must respond to changes in the work ecosystem.

    Despite the clear gap between students’ desires and what academia currently offers, progress in closing that gap has been slow. The best chance of doing so is through disruptive innovation.

    This often-misunderstood phrase refers to innovations that start off targeting consumers on the fringes of society. These nonconsumers, as they’re called, are unique in that in a given market, there's currently no product or service that’s specifically targeted at them. A disruptive offering might be of a lower quality than other consumer groups would accept, but nonconsumers’ alternative is – well, nothing.

    Companies are unlikely to make an immediate or impressive profit from disruptive innovations. But as nonconsumers begin to flock to them, the quality of offerings improves over time until an entire industry has been upended. Personal computers started out as disruptive innovations, marketed only toward children and sold much cheaper than their popular cousins, mainframes and minicomputers. Now, of course, PCs are ubiquitous.

    In academia, the current best attempt at a disruptive innovation has been online university programs. Sadly, these have been marred by shady financial practices and predatory recruiting strategies. Many students who enrolled have been left with debt⁠ but no degrees.

    A successful disruptive offering might look like online programs combined with other innovations like modularized learning. This is where topics are divided into stand-alone units that learners can take in whatever sequence they need. Instead of having to progress through a course, students can choose modules that deliver desired skills, such as creating research-based arguments or applying mathematical formulas to financial decisions. It’s a cost-effective and agile solution for students and academic institutions alike.

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    What is Long Life Learning about?

    Long Life Learning (2020) argues decisively that the ways in which we currently think about education and its relationship to work are broken and passé. More and more jobs are being automated, college degrees have been devalued, and people are living longer lives than ever before. These factors, combined with others, are a blaring signal that we must shift toward learning that is designed to be both lifelong and suitable for longer lives.

    Who should read Long Life Learning?

    • Current or aspiring business and political leaders
    • Educators who want to help reform academia
    • Anyone curious about the future of work

    About the Author

    Michelle R. Weise, PhD, is the vice-chancellor of strategy and innovation at National University System. Previously, she was a senior advisor at Imaginable Futures, a philanthropic investment firm, and chief innovation officer at both Strada Education Network and Southern New Hampshire University. She was one of 30 management and leadership thinkers on Thinkers50’s list of people to watch in 2021.

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