How Distance Learning Meets the Challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution03 Dec 2018
The robots are coming, and we’re not prepared for when they take over. But Open Study College, which was a finalist for the Customer Focus Award at the Lloyds National Business Award this year, has developed a way to fight back, to equip people with the skills and training to adjust to this future: distance learning.
We’re of course talking about the so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, the ongoing transformation of the workplace by robotics and artificial intelligence.
It has huge implications for the future of work – it’s thought that by 2022, 75 million jobs could be lost worldwide to machines.
But it’s not the end of the world. Conversely, the World Economic Forum predicts that 133 million new jobs will actually be created by this revolution, making upskilling and adaptation essential.
However, traditional education is simply not up to snuff – at least according to Samantha Rutter, co-founder of Open Study College. She believes people need more opportunities to access the skills and qualifications they require to adapt to this changing economy, which is exactly what Open Study College seeks to offer.
No longer fit for purpose
Open Study College’s finalist status coincides with the 30th anniversary of the National Curriculum, which was introduced in 1988 as a standardised programme of study. Thirty years on, Rutter believes it’s no longer fit for purpose.
In her view, the National Curriculum’s rigid focus on traditional subjects such as a maths, English and science means students are leaving school unprepared for the modern workplace. Worse still, the curriculum neglects any form of education in the UK’s most common careers, meaning too many students are totally unequipped for the kind of work that is becoming more commonplace as the economy changes.
For instance, the most common careers in the UK are within marketing, PR and statistics, which the National Curriculum barely touches on. Furthermore, popular vocational occupations – anything from personal training to construction – are ignored entirely, meaning students interested in those fields are unable to telegraph the direction of their learning.
Open Study College has the answer
That’s why Open Study College wants to provide students with the agency to manage their own education. They do this through distance learning, which allows students to choose when, where and how to complete their chosen course – although they are given a year in which to complete it, there are no strict deadlines, and students can decide exactly how much work they wish to do.
These courses are designed both to supplement existing learning and to provide students with the skills and qualifications they need to advance their careers and seize the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
They cover not just traditional subjects like mathematics and history, but also vocational programmes such as beauty therapy, tourism, construction, and even accounting and marketing. This means students can upskill and advance within their chosen field, or simply follow their passion for a particular subject.
Dispelling the misconceptions
Doubters might tell you that distance learning restricts what students can learn, or denies them valuable contact time, but Rutter is keen to dispel these misconceptions.
Open Study College has found that the freedom it offers is invaluable to students, giving them a unique chance to fulfil their ambitions by learning and upskilling at their own pace. This is ideal for students undertaking a course alongside full-time work, for instance.
Furthermore, students receive full support from a dedicated tutor, as well as access to an award-winning eLearning site.
More than anything, however, Samantha Rutter believes that Open Study College plays an invaluable role encouraging people of all stripes to embrace lifelong learning, study the things that really interest them, and seize the opportunity to prepare themselves for the job market of the future.
Thanks to distance learning, more people can meet the challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.