Transform Education into Life-long Learning

This work by Marcelo Bernardes was originally posted on LinkedIn.

As an undergrad student, I had to complete courses that did not seem to have value for real life. The arguments used at the time to justify this approach were:

  • We have to prepare you to be a professional, regardless of the actual field/industry you might end up working on, so we should cover all bases
  • This way you know in which book/body of knowledge to find the information, in case you ever need it during your career
  • We are teaching you to “learn how to learn”

While “learning how to learn” continues to be a critical skill today, the knowledge currently available over the internet has made the ability to cover all bases a questionable goal. And the speed of change, makes knowing the “right” book a daunting task.

On the other hand, being able to quickly derive value from the (learning and financial) investment is increasingly desirable. And soft skills like the ability to work in groups (in an increasingly diverse global and multi-generational workforce), and the ability to reach beyond your area of expertise (as part of cross-functional teams) are increasingly required for one’s professional success.

As we realize and internalize these and other changes happening around us, here is how we can led the way and retool our education system to address the needs of businesses and society.

Transforming education into a life-long learning experience

In our society, knowledge is needed in a snap, and only knowledge applicable to the task at hand is sought. Therefore, it is necessary to re-think our start-end bound “education” concept, one where we must cover a preselected number of topics, and transform it into a life-long learning experience.

This means going from a fixed curriculum to a flexible repository of knowledge available on-demand. And focusing on individual learning needs throughout each ones’ live, rather than looking to cover a specific set of topics during a class or degree.

Purposeful networking - the path to effective teamwork

As we are young, we tend to approach teamwork as an activity where we select our team based on common interests and personal traits. The growing workforce diversity makes it important for us to be able to deliver results regardless of our personal affinities with others. Students must have the opportunity to learn how to purposefully network with those around them.

Purposeful networking is the ability to identify one’s own strengths, communicate these strengths, and dynamically connect with others in a complementary-skill team to address a common goal.

And a life-long learning model is a great way for people to identify each other and connect with a purpose.

Becoming learners for life

So, if students do not “finish” a class, how can we be sure individual have the necessary skills to perform a task or a job? We move from grading to regularly assessing competencies. And there is a much better way than completing online tests for life. Let us "gamify" (Wikipedia) learning, individual, and professional development!

Rather than having school transcripts which show how well one did in each class, how about having a trophy case, assessing one’s soft and hard skills? A simple way for us to understand our strengths and areas where we might wish to develop ourselves, either to pursue a specific career path or achieve a specific personal growth.

Through knowledge gamification, individuals are empowered to improve themselves and pursue their aspirations, which is the first step to become a learner for life.

What is your take? Is your professional growth dependent on a degree? Would purposeful networking help you achieve your goals? Can gamification help you become a learner for life? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles -; Post updated May/21/2014)


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