The Digital Ecosystem based on Empathy, Collaboration, and Innovation: Education in the 4IR!
We are currently making our way, head first into the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). Some might even say that we have already stepped into without ever preparing ourselves for it. This new industrial revolution will not only change the way we conduct business and perform in our economy, but it will also restructure the educational system all over the world.
What does education look like in a world masked by the 4IR? It is a world where innovation will be given importance, not replication. We are the pioneers of an age where individuals need to be taught to seek new, creative and innovative ideas rather than feeding them the same information. Textbooks based on past examples are outdated. Memorizing knowledge is obsolete. Innovative thinking and ways of teaching have to be championed today.
But are we prepared? Are we ready for this shift from old to new, from repetition to inventive ways of thinking not only within the classroom but also inside the individuals themselves, preparing them for the industries that lay ahead. And this is not a phenomenon specific to Pakistan, it is worldwide concern and has been for a long time.
Great minds in business and innovation today have been emphasizing the need for a learning revolution, a transformation that will forever change the way we view schools and universities. Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba said at the 2018 World Economic Forum that, “If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we’re going to be in big trouble,” while the co-founder of Singularity University, a leading company in executive educational programs has said: “How we educate our kids needs to radically change given the massive potential of exponential technology.”
Additionally, leading academics are also referring to the same change. The director of London School of Economics (LSE) has been reported to have said that in the near future, “anything that is routine or repetitive will be automated,” including the way we teach and learn in our educational institutions.
Though it seems recent, this move towards thinking outside the box and restructuring our education system from as it is today, it was theorized almost 50 years ago by futurist Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock (1970). He writes, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Is this not what the leaders of today are referring to? Is this not what education in the 4IR needs to look like?
Most schools and universities today are geared towards teaching students how to consume knowledge, knowledge that is taught to be memorized, learned and then applied to real life situations. They are not taught how to think, how to innovate, how to connect themselves with the industries that lie ahead in their professional careers.
In the 4IR, students need to be challenged to think, to problem-solve and to create. Not only do they need to be given that space to reflect but they also need to be given the opportunity to develop a sense of collaboration and empathy with like-minded individuals.
This cannot be done by students themselves. They need to be guided by teachers, people who excel at innovation, creativity and strategy. They need to help students change the way their education is built while also aiding them in applying their skills to current businesses and work processes. As mentioned by London College of International Business Studies, “Students need to learn to master the ability to navigate the unknown rather than just being experts in the known.”
Innovation is at the center of this transformation for the 4IR. But equally important is the need for empathy and collaboration. As mentioned by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, “The ability to understand and feel what others experience is critical. If I look at what is Microsoft’s core business, it’s about being able to meet the unmet and unarticulated needs of customers, and there’s just no way we are going to be able to succeed in doing that if we don’t have that deep sense of empathy.”
We can make our transition towards education in the 4IR through innovation, collaboration, and empathy. These are the building blocks of creating an environment that will fully optimize the revolution within the classroom as well as outside. Many initiatives today are already taking a step towards this future of change. EDUCAUSE is a non-profit association in the United States who are a ‘community of technology, academic, industry and campus leaders advancing higher education through the use of IT.’ University of Washington provides trainings to make education in universities more innovation and teach-based while collaborating with other companies such as EDUCAUSE. Not only do they change the landscape of the common university classroom, but they also prepare their students for leading industries today such as data analytics and computer sciences among many others.
Moreover, Cambridge University has introduced Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI) which combines the great minds in academia, industry specialists and policy makers to better understand the potential impact of AI today. Stanford University has also jumped the train and introduced a gift of $10 million to advance educational technology at its institution with the help of its notable alumni Angela Nomellini and Ken Olivier.
This is what the world has been doing and has done to change education in the 4IR. But what has Pakistan done? Higher education in Pakistan today are using websites such as edX and moodle to help bridge the gap between learning and technology in the university classroom today. These sites provide an online platform for course material to be shared to a wide audience. But despite these efforts, what’s missing is a connection to the industry that many other innovators have brought in today, such as EDUCAUSE.
Though these initiatives certainly do help to bring creativity into the minds of students, what it lacks is the connections and collaborations with industries in order to ready its pupils for the next stage of its life. Not only this, but many of these websites are made specifically for the school classroom environment and rarely fit into the needs of a university level education.
While the rest of the world is creating educational spaces that inspire and innovate new ways of thinking in their students, preparing them for the industries they will one day end up in, Pakistan is still behind. Even some of Pakistan’s top universities today such as LUMS, NUST, IBA and GIKI are still using the same old methods that were used decades ago. Though they have made initiatives to encourage more innovation in their surroundings, they are missing a large piece of the puzzle: the industry. Not only are we not creating a skilled human capital, but we are wasting resources on processes that have been recently abandoned by many universities in the West.
What we need to work towards preparing Pakistan and its higher education system to this impending 4IR. We, at EDTechWorx (EDTW) are working towards experimenting with this process: creating a learning ecosystem that keeps the academic experience up-to-date with industry needs. EDTW is a full-suite digital course creation and delivery platform for an intuitive learning experience connecting learners, academia, industry.
What is our recipe for this drive towards the 4IR? EDTW’s Digital Interactive Platform (DIP) is an enabler for developing a much needed education eco-system that has three main ingredients: empathy, collaboration and innovation.
Firstly, we focus on empathy by introducing Digital Interactive Books (DIBs) on our DIP. DIBs are co-designed by academia experts and relevant industry champions. Individuals getting access to DIBs are exposed to knowing and understanding the local environment though real life industry examples.
Secondly, collaboration is achieved through design thinking philosophy. DIP empowers individuals through divergence of ideas to convergence of a solution.
Thirdly, innovation is brought around by Industry Projects/Challenges.
This concept of crowd sourcing from viewpoints to concrete solutions is a humble beginning of an innovation-driven learning environment. Combined, these three can help in increasing graduate employability with an impact higher than ever before. Along with bringing top Pakistani universities, we have a diversified pool of institutions from all over Pakistan such as The Women University in Multan, Islamia College University in Peshawar and many more.This is only a small glimpse of what we, as a nation can do to help prepare ourselves for the upcoming revolution. We need to include higher education institutions in cities all across Pakistan and not focus on only the larWe need to think outside the box.
We need to think outside the box. We need to think freely, creatively, and innovatively.
About the Author
Dr. Farrah Arif
With a PhD from University of Cambridge and a distinguished career as educationist, corporate trainer, strategic thinker and marketing consultant, Dr. Farrah Arif, Founder & CEO EDTechWorx and LUMS Executive in Residence, has helped many organizations optimize their business strategy to drive sustainable revenue growth and profits. Her areas of specialty are Business Digital Transformation Strategy, Marketing in the Digital Age, Consumer Data Analytics and Simulation, and Design Thinking.