Which century do you want to prepare your learners for: the 1900s, or the 2000s? The answer may seem obvious, but that’s not readily apparent in the eLearning we design. Many of our curricula reflect what we used to value in the workplace: mastery of domain knowledge. In the past, companies needed people who could crunch the numbers with a calculator to get the right answer or who had memorized how to assemble parts.
Now that we have workstations, robots, and AI that can do those things for us, there is less demand for employees to rigidly implement a single solution for a problem in the workspace. Instead, there is demand for what have been called 21st century skills. You can remember these by The Four C’s:
- Critical thinking
Let’s break these down into their component parts.
Critical thinking is the ability to reason and analyze evidence. A key component of critical thinking is problem solving. Now that we’ve created solutions for easily defined problems, it’s time to focus our attention toward complex problems. We also need to understand the output from our automated work to determine its accuracy. Employees should not blindly accept outputs from algorithms or jump on the latest social media trend without prior consideration.
Communication is the ability to share ideas with others through various media, such as writing, presenting, listening, and technology. When is an infographic appropriate versus a white paper? How do we best convey this information to our audience? What is proper etiquette on twitter? With the rise of social media, this is more important than ever.
Collaboration is the ability to work effectively and respectfully with others. We are increasingly seeing cross-disciplinary work teams. For example, instructional designers need to work with programmers, graphic artists, subject matter experts, and data scientists to develop effective eLearning curricula. It’s important for employees to respect each member’s contribution to the project and to strive toward a common goal.
Finally, creativity is the ability to develop novel solutions to problems. Creativity requires a willingness to abandon traditional problem solving approaches and to act within the constraints of the problem space. Employees need to be able to tolerate failure and understand it as an inevitable part of the creative process.
Our eLearning curricula should promote these 21st century skills. It’s hard to teach employees creativity if you’re making them select one right answer from a multiple choice question. You may choose to, instead, ask them to brainstorm solutions to a problem or provide a simulated space for them to explore their different options.
Our design choices reflect our values. If you value preparing your learners for the future of the work place, consider how your curricula reflect that.
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