Wenche Nag, Senior Research Scientist, Telenor Research, and Gorm Grønnevet, Vice President Customer and Competition, Telenor Research.
Imagine having a conversation with Newton on physics or discussing aerodynamics with Da Vinci. Or how about making a leap 50 years ahead to see the future impact of today’s energy consumption on your hometown? Jumping forward and backward in time, how is that for a perspective?!
It sounds like science fiction, yet the technology being developed has the potential to make all subjects come alive – from long-dead historical characters to possible future scenarios. This stream of innovation will transform how we explore and understand. It carries the opportunities to reshape learning formats, broaden their reach, and educate the talent pool needed to meet our climate challenges.
Technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are important for this to materialise, but the key is aggregation of knowledge by means of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Until today, aggregation and synthesis of knowledge have been the exclusive domain of teachers, researchers, and experts. Now, we see the prototypes of open domain language models that can write poetry like Shakespeare and answer as if you were talking to a paper airplane.
The educational system has been a cornerstone of high innovation periods including the renaissance and the industrial revolution. But the workings of this system have been quite stable for a long time. An Oxford don from the 16th century would probably not be out of place if ported into our Oxford of today (except perhaps for his fashion sense). However, this is about to change.
Let’s start with language. Language is the key to acquiring knowledge. Some researchers have tried to establish lingua franca, but mostly failed. For this reason and throughout history, we have observed that the same innovations see the light of day independently in different countries.
Today, no scientific paper should be out of reach for researchers. Automatic translation still has its weaknesses, but it carries the prospect of making scientific papers accessible independent of language. As this technology improves, the university lecture can have a truly global audience rather than one limited by language. Indeed, the reach can become global as more and more people have mobile coverage and devices become increasingly affordable. The printing press took centuries to make a major impact on society and education. Yet, in a matter of a couple of decades, communication hardware has enabled people across the globe to access educational material on their devices.
The shift will surely change the education sector. How will universities balance the production of online classes and tutoring in the next decade? And perhaps more importantly; how will they attract talent? How will native language institutions – like the Norwegian universities – deal with the competition from excellent tutors based in the US? We need to rethink what constitutes education to adapt to a world where the barriers of language and geography are diminishing. The role and content of lecturing, teaching, and tutoring may need to change.
No doubt, great institutions carry social stature and credibility, and that is a magnet for talent. But as in any sector, there are superstars, and they can be moved with the right incentive. This is a challenge for small countries like Norway, for the educational sector in general, and for the globe. Joint effort is a prerequisite to combat climate change and to secure a sustainable future. This task is too herculean for any one actor, and too important not to be undertaken. Incentives must be put in place to attract the best and the brightest minds world-wide to work for the common good. Digital technology takes higher education to new levels by 2030.
Geir Øien, Professor and Project Manager “Technology Education of the Future”, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Higher education has recently undergone radical changes, thanks in large part to digitalisation. Many changes resulted from emergency measures introduced in 2020, but while our quick adaptation was impressive, we still have a way to go in exploiting digital technology to support learning and increase education’s societal impact.
In 2030, one can still obtain a university degree as today, by enrolling in a traditional campus-based study program, but increasingly also by piecing together courses and modules across several universities and national borders. Programs such as the EU’s European Universities Initiative support this trend. Some degrees will rely on micro-credentials, which also support lifelong learning, and will be, to a large extent, delivered online.
Hybrid and blended learning will be the new normal in 2030, with digital and campus-based learning experiences complementing each other to efficiently support students’ learning outcomes and enable flexible, open, lifelong learning. Many universities are already offering extensive learning material online. We will also continue to see the global rise of platforms such as Coursera.
In the coming years, there is a need for more research on how digital technologies can be better exploited to support learning. This entails increased focus on modularisation of online teaching resources, student-active and interactive learning, and collaborative and team-based learning. Digital technologies might enable more team-based learning, e.g., between students from several universities across national borders.
Advances in AI, data analytics, connectivity, and sensors will change work processes and influence state-of-the-art methodologies in many fields, requiring quicker curriculum revisions. XR (Extended Reality), /AR/VR and digital twins will make visualisation and analysis easier and enable deeper insights. There is untapped potential in using AI and data analytics in student assessment, while advances in multimodal user interfaces, language technology, and robotics can support inclusion and universal access in education.
The way forward lies in combining on-campus experiences and physical learning with the flexibility, collaboration possibilities, and complementary pedagogical approaches enabled by digitalisation. Society’s digital transformation and the green shift will impact learning goals, academic content, and execution of programs. As machines overtake many tasks traditionally performed by humans, education must focus more on developing uniquely human qualities while not diluting academic depth and rigor of knowledge.
Tomorrow’s education must equip students with holistic competence beyond pure academic knowledge, with the overarching themes of sustainability and digital transformation integrated into study programs. The goal is to integrate deep academic knowledge with uniquely human “21st century skills” such as collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. In addition, there will be greater emphasis on developing mindsets and attitudes that support ethical reflection and entrepreneurial thinking, uniting humanistic, societal, and technological perspectives to support innovation that is not only technically feasible and economically viable but also desirable for humanity.
Telenor Learning & Development: What future ready employees look like (and why businesses should facilitate upskilling)
Cristina Rynning, Vice President Global Expert Development, Telenor Group.
In Telenor’s Learning and Development team, we envision that the people at our company in 2030 are not just employees – they are students as well! As a business, we’ll be competing on many of the same grounds as universities in terms of students and diplomas. Employees will participate in carefully selected programs to acquire the necessary skills for Telenor to continue empowering societies, including working towards a sustainable future.
Industries have been on a path of double disruption impacting people, processes, and technology, fuelled by digital transformation and increasing automation, since the early 2000s. Covid-19 amplified this impact and momentum, driving organisations adaptability to evolving on aspects of workplace and workforce.
As we move forward, some high-level areas will likely gain more focus for the future workforce irrespective of the industry. Firstly, digital literacy and computational thinking. Digital technology is already integral to everyday life, and computational thinking is the foundation that drives it. While we will have AI and automation, a human mind will still be its creator and director, thus bringing to the forefront decision making, problem solving, and analytical thinking. With the technological advances, emotional and social intelligence will gain more significance, be it for leadership, managing teams in new flexible ways of working, shrinking geographical distances, growing diversity and gender equality ambitions, etc.
Furthermore, as human-centred innovation becomes more core to industries, the scope for creativity and innovation becomes vaster and more complex, although with the potential to simplify it using machines. Lastly, in the last few months, we have witnessed some significant shifts in overall organisational design. One such shift is new ways of flexible and hybrid working, where organisations are currently exploring to find their balance. In addition, automation and the pandemic drives businesses to explore new business models and value chains. Thus, there is growing importance towards a learning mindset, which has a twofold impact. First, to prepare the current workforce towards forward looking skills. Second, to build skill readiness within the organisation for a foreseeable future. This requires organisations to have a strong and robust set up towards an ongoing learning process, which acts as a bridge between new ways of working, technologies, and up- and reskilling of employees at their different professional stages.
As this gradual shift happens in skills, the learning platform technologies are evolving. Some of the key technological drivers that will fuel the delivery methods in learning and development are AI based learning systems, which will deliver personalised learning content, and AR/VR based content delivery, which will bring a more realistic and contextual environment to learning.
There are some key steps that firms can take towards building the capabilities of the future workforce. The first is a data driven learning and development strategy. Without a clear idea of the current skills and where new skills are needed, investments in learning are easily wasted. The second step is inhouse learning academies. We expect that it will become important for firms to align the reskilling with the expected demand. Third, investment in learning solutions, including technology, is likely to become a key to driving organisational development in the years to come.
It seems apt to close by a quotation from Alan Turing, the father of computer science and artificial intelligence: “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” No crystal ball is needed to understand there is plenty that needs to be done to meet our common climate targets. And a key to unlocking the potential is learning and development.
Technology is predicted to transform work life as we know it by the next decade, while renewables and new technologies will help ensure a future stable supply of power. Gain more insight from the Outlook chapters about Work and Live.