Academic institutions and industry have interesting relationships, where they randomly interact but seldom do they commit to permanent collaboration. In the age of mega disruption and acceleration, emerging technologies are often the root cause of separation because there is a frequent disconnect between what academic institutions offer in terms of programming compared to what industry demands. The talent skills gap continues to widen and there is a need for academic institutions and industry to come together in the form of co-invested strategic partnerships. A separation of these entities is not an option and this will be avoided assuming both partners drive technology instead of it driving them. Academic institutions and industry must work collaboratively to fuel innovation resulting in successful application of technology in the learning environment. This includes development of smart campuses, smart classrooms, smart laboratories, smart centers, and smart people. Academic institutions and industry must work in partnership, creating accelerated career pathways for citizens of communities served resulting in job security and financial stability and employers with sustainable business models supported by needed skills. The future is now. What are we doing about it?
Trends and Challenges Impacting the Smart Learning Environment
The United States is under producing employable talent. Industries are impacted by the immediate need to upskill existing employees (adult learners) and recruit new employees (first-time entry into the workforce) with needed skills and credentials. Added pressure is looming due to emerging industries, occupations, credentials, and training methods. These factors, combined with globalization, emerging markets, an ageing workforce, skills shortages, budget pressures, and lack of talent pipelines, has led to numerous challenges including the environment in which students learn.
"Innovation and technology must be a collaborative mission, as we are now at the crossroads where education providers and industry partners must work together and co-invest to create steady pipelines of skilled talent at an accelerated pace"
Opportunities and Strategies Impacting the Smart Learning Environment
Learning models are starting to focus on accelerated education and training resulting in stacked credentials, industry certifications, professional skills and on-the-job experience. In addition, there is an increasing trend to develop “earn and learn” pathways supported by industry employers. Such is the case at Miami Dade College, where our programs and pathways are continuously re-adapting to the needs of both our students and industry. The environment in which students learn is changing from a traditional classroom to a smart classroom, lab, or purpose-built facility outfitted with the latest technology influenced by industry input and funding support. There are also emerging models that include virtual internships, apprenticeships, and remote job placement. Smart environments often incorporate blended learning theory providing instructors and students access to collaborative and silent study spaces, digital learning technology, specialized software, assistive learning devices, audio and visual resources, interactive displays, and remote classrooms as examples. There is an increasing trend for instructors to be connected to the learning space through smart technology whereby industry subject matter experts who are current practitioners are credentialed by academic institutions to instruct on-site, online, or in hybrid formats. There are also emerging examples of “flipped classrooms” where instruction is offered off-campus at the location of an industry partner and access is provided to current and modern infrastructure including technology that is not within the reach of the academic institution due to lack of resources.
The Future of Smart Learning Environments
Academic institutions and industry must resolve the disconnection between both parties and marry one another, resulting in true co-invested strategic partnerships whereby the needs and capabilities of each are defined. Programming and curriculum must be co-developed including academic faculty and industry professionals, which also includes co-investing into education and training environments such as the use of smart technology on-campus, online, and/or on-site at a purpose-built learning facility or industry partner location. Innovation and technology must be a collaborative mission, as we are now at the crossroads where education providers and industry partners must work together and co-invest to create steady pipelines of skilled talent at an accelerated pace. The bandwidth of smart technologies and how they are applied in the learning environment will only increase with time and it is important for academic institutions and industry partners to work in synch driving technology and not letting technology drive them. The future identity of academic institutions and industry partners will no doubt change due to continuous evolvement of new technologies, economic shifts, and social innovations. Smart learning environments as they are defined today will not be the same tomorrow, and there is much belief that artificial intelligence will be connected to all forms of technology. How will this impact the way students learn, instructors deliver programs, and employers recruit skilled talent? Something big is going to transpire!