Will online learning kill education jobs? Fear and the bottom line.

Are education jobs at risk – all thanks to online learning technology?

Everybody in the education business is thinking it. Online learning is becoming more mainstream, which makes the questions increasingly relevant:  “Will online learning kill education jobs?” The emotions vary depending on which side of the money you’re on.

If you’re in business, looking at the bottom line – you might see opportunity.  When you earn your income from teaching – you probably feel fear.

If you ask people in the education business what they fear, their answer boils down to two things.  Firstly, they worry that information is becoming free for everybody.  Secondly they worry that technology will replace their skill.

Let’s deal with the fears and then the bottom line.

Fear 1: Information is free and everywhere.

It’s a reasonable fear. After all, if something is free how could it be worth something?

Teaching requires a special ability to reduce a complex concept into an explanation or experience that enables other people to acquire skill, knowledge or even develop new behaviour. This is actually fundamental for human survival, and has been a universal human tradition since our ancestors first carved drawings on rocks.

Teaching somebody how to fix a puncture, download an app, or perform some life-hack should be free.  However, teaching somebody knowledge or skill in a sequence that builds in complexity, which can be applied to other situations in life, is priceless. Teachers therefore adds lasting value to society.

The fact that information is widely available wont take away that value.  If you think about it, volumes of information have been available in books, libraries, documentary films, archives and museums – for decades. In no way did these eliminate the need for teachers.

The world will continue to need these education professionals for their ability to curate, share and structure information for learning. (Also see 7 things lecturers can do better online than with face-to-face)

Fear 2: Technology is taking over

Isn’t this fear as old as the industrial revolution?

Reflect on how you’ve brought new technology into your own life in the last few years. You have benefited, but you have also taken note of the cost of progress.

As the world changes, as students adapt, and as more options become available; society will increasingly demand educators that prepare people for life, work, and the unknown.

eLearning is technology that enables learning. And just like teachers have brought projectors, smart-boards, and multi-media (audio, video, etc) to classrooms in years past, so they will bring the features offered by elearning technology. The art is to reap the benefits of progress while navigating change wisely. (more about how elearning is changing education business here).

Should teachers worry about losing their jobs to online learning technology? No. It is no more threatening than any other teaching technology before. Of course, teachers who do not orientate themselves with new online learning technology will become less relevant and less employable.

Teachers who embrace online learning technology and use it in a way that guides society toward a better future are priceless. That’s where the value is, and that is the bottom line.

You might want to read this article which illustrates the role of lecturers in online learning.


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