Jan Alexa (Research Manager, IDC Government Insights)

The new paradigm of education is omni-learning. The effects of changing patterns in the labor market, non-traditional providers of education, demand for digital skills, changing preferences of learners, and the development of transformative enabling technology has radically changed how education is perceived, valued in the labor market, provided, and, ultimately, also how it is experienced by learners. The prefix omni means “in all ways or places,” and perfectly fits the new educational paradigm.

Traditional educational facilities remain the undisputed leading providers, but they are often complemented by a host of other ways and places of learning, both formal and informal. Online learning platforms, MOOCs, and further education providers are among most common formal streams that complement traditional providers. Online self-help forums and YouTube channels counts among the informal ones, which on the one hand can provide accessible, free supplements to formal education, but on the other hand, facilitate the dissemination of incorrect and unverified information, and can neglect to focus on important points.

Perhaps more importantly still, traditional providers of education are now required more than ever before to interact with stakeholders other than learners and parents. Cooperation between industry, government, and the education sector is emerging as a golden rule for all levels of education, but is particularly of value for higher and vocational education. In effect, education providers thus have to incorporate multiple streams of constant feedback to address the needs of learners and their families, the short- and medium-term needs of industry and the labor market, and broader societal needs communicated by government stakeholders. The ways in which feedback is delivered also vary – be it formal and informal feedback from learners and parents, policy guidelines from governments, or cooperation rules issued by industry.

With regard to ways of communication, a mix of offline and online channels is emerging as the preferred option for most students. While the merit of the offline educational experience has been amply proved and most learners prefer to have some offline component in their learning experience, online components are steadily gaining in importance. To interweave all these possible educational channels into the meaningful experience is a daunting task both for the learner and for education providers. Achieving a true omni-learning experience means more than offering a choice of channels — those channels must be meaningfully synergized.

With regard to the timeline, education has ceased to be a single episode at the start of one’s career. The need for continuous, lifelong learning means that there are now multiple episodes in a learner’s life, during which he or she will benefit from interaction with educators. This includes lifelong learning to keep academic knowledge in their core field up to date, reskilling for periods of joblessness, and on-the-job trainings for auxiliary skills. Educators (both non-traditional formal and traditional ones, especially universities) need to adjust their offerings to make sure that all these educational episodes provide added value to the learner and complement each other, while retaining flexibility as needed by the ever-changing demand for skills.

To conclude, education providers must contend with a range of ways in which education is provided and evaluated, and seek to blend them all into a meaningful omni-learning experience to achieve good outcomes:

  • Places of provision – traditional, new formal, informal
  • Feedback sources – learners, family, labor market, industry associations, government stakeholders
  • Ways of communication – traditional offline, online, blended
  • Time slots — traditional children and young adults’ education, reskilling of jobless, provision of on-the-job reskilling for industry, lifelong learning for alumni (keeping academic know-how in their core field up-to date)

What does omni-learning mean for vendors?

  • The ability to orchestrate various ways and places of learning is becoming highly valued. Vendors need to increase the orchestration capabilities of their offerings
  • To successfully teach in this new, complex environment demands a lot from educators, who might feel overwhelmed. Students are not the only ones which need to learn. Solutions that cannot provide a manageable learning curve for teaching staff will have a hard time on the market
  • Being able to successfully insert themselves as stable parts of the education ecosystem, having working relationships with various stakeholders, and facilitating synergies is a must.

To learn more about IDC’s research on this topic, please contact Jan Alexa (janalexa@idc.com).