In 2014 online education and eLearning was worth around $56.2 billion and one year later had leapt to $107 billion global industry. With a CAGR of 7.2% it is anticipated the industry will be worth around $325 billion by 2025.
This surge of interest in eLearning is partly explained by the formats that eLearning now offers. Mobile learning, gamification and micro-learning broaden the appeal and let us learn new skills in the way that suits our available time, personality and budget.
What else could be driving the rise in eLearning?
With an increasing rise in automation and the rapid development in algorithms that can replace humans in jobs ranging from farming to armed services and on to stock trading, are we entering an age of reinvention?
In his book Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari states that algorithms are being trusted with increasing critical decisions in the armed forces; think pilotless drones programmed with ethical algorithms to conform to the latest rulings of the international criminal courts (Harari, 2017, pp359-360). This reduces the need for the numbers of soldiers and airmen.
Farm workers are seeing signs of their jobs disappearing as farming becomes increasingly automated to increase productivity and efficiency. Spread a Japanese company is building the world’s first robotic farm with all of the processes except planting seeds to be fully automated. This will improve energy efficiency, labour costs and will boost production from 21 000 lettuces a day to 50 000 and within five years they plan to increase that to 500 000 lettuces daily.
Economically humans are also losing their importance as intelligence is decoupling from consciousness (Harari, 2017, p361) and computer algorithms are being developed that will allow computers to outperform humans in a variety of tasks from playing chess to driving cars, diagnosing diseases and identifying terrorists (Harari, 2017, p361). Algorithms excel at pattern recognition often performing as well humans in accuracy but many times faster.
Robots and 3D printers are replacing many workers in manual jobs and white-collar workers are facing a similar threat. Banks are using fewer staff and more automated services for deposits, withdrawal of money and lending decisions. Travel agents are becoming superfluous when you can buy a holiday on a smart phone and hiring new staff where algorithms convincingly outperformed humans at all levels of recruitment is going to get increasingly automated.
Stock market trades are also governed by algorithms that can process more data in a second than a human could in a year and there very speed of action has been responsible for a number of ‘flash crashes’ over the years (Harari, 2017, p.364). Algorithms are not infallible, but are continuously improving.
A pizzeria in Silicon Valley is a ‘co-bot’ restaurant where robots help to prepare pizzas. Its owner expects that the restaurant will be fully automated within five years.
As many huge corporations invest increasing amounts of money in automation the list of jobs, careers and livelihoods that are affected by the unstoppable rise in algorithms will only increase.
Click to have a have a look at this infographic on the probability of automation in a number of jobs.
So, what? Isn’t this a good thing for business and profit margins?
Maybe, but what about the people displaced from their jobs or careers? If your job was outsourced to a robot or an algorithm costs a fraction of what it would cost to employ you and can work twenty-four hours a day, what are your alternatives and what can you do to get your life back on track?
PWC estimate up to 30% of UK jobs could be impacted by automation by 2030 with the US and Germany expected to see rates of 38% and 35% respectively, though this should be offset by job gains elsewhere in the economy.
When you read these figures, it is natural to be alarmed, but hey – you’re a professional; a doctor, pharmacist, lawyer or a recruitment head-hunter – you’ll be safe, no computer will be displacing you from your office, you’re indispensable.
Sorry, you’re not even remotely safe.
Computers diagnose lung cancer more reliably from MRI scans than doctors and the FDA has approved a device that can deliver low levels of anaesthesia automatically. Robotic controlled pharmacies are here to stay; a robot operated pharmacy opened in San Francisco in 2011 and dispensed two million prescriptions in its first year; without a single mistake. Algorithms to automate recruitment are adding value by speeding up the process and cutting the cost of recruitment. Sifting through tens of thousands of documents in the discovery phase of a lawsuit is increasingly being performed by databases exploiting big data techniques including syntactic analysis and keyword recognition.
If extensive job displacement is the situation that is facing the global workforce; reinvention, re-training and strategic learning will have to be part of the answer.
Ongoing education and eLearning is certainly going to be key in enabling the people displaced by technology and automation to reinvent themselves and re-train to fulfil a new purpose, but what should they learn?
The options for eLearning are, to be honest, numerous ranging from paid course to free and from full degree courses to quick and easy, short taster sessions. These course options encompass traditional learning environments with amazing support like the Open University to courses offered by commercial companies like Udemy or through platforms such as Thinkific and Teachable.
Have you heard about the Massive Open Online Course’s (MOOC) on offer? Top universities like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and many others are offering open access to some of their courses to increase their accessibility. These range from humanities to science and on to classics and all completely free.
Need an access course to get into further education? Want a new career in web design? Programming? Want to publish the novel that your desperate to write?
It’s all out there. Somewhere.
There are thousands of companies who are keen to train, educate and help people to do what they want to do and be who they want to be.
They want to be found. Really, they do.
It may require a little tenacity and a few false starts but soon you’ll be inundated with ideas that can be refined. There will be lots of content leading you back to their website that offers you a vast array of information to give you a taste of what’s out there.
Sign up for some newsletters to get a feel for the company and have a really good look around their website.
Are there free taster sessions? Downloadable eBooks to give you the basics? How expensive are the courses? Can you attend a webinar to see first-hand their style of teaching? Give them a call and speak to them, ask questions, keep asking questions until you are happy.
A lot of the reputable online course providers will offer a money back guarantee if you’re not happy in the first thirty days or sometimes even longer.
The single most important thing is to ensure is that you perform your own due diligence and you are completely happy before you sign on the dotted line. Ultimately, no matter how enticing the sales pitch, only you will know when you are happy.
Harari, Y. N. (2017) Homo Deus, Vintage.