How We Teach Today Can Help Shape the Careers of Tomorrow | D2L
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How We Teach Today Can Help Shape the Careers of Tomorrow

  • 4 Min Read

Don’t worry about preparing students for jobs from an Agatha Christie novel. —Clark Aldrich, Unschooling Rules

We often hear that a significant percentage of jobs our students will have in the future do not exist today. This comment is typically followed by talk about how we need to instruct differently, assess in another way, or otherwise prepare students in ways not currently seen in higher ed.

It’s not an overly controversial statement to suggest that newer and newer jobs become available over time, as that is merely a trend that has been accelerating for decades. But just how different will these jobs actually be?

Beyond clean energy jobs, careers in climate-based cleanup and medical positions that leverage machines being built right now, future employment possibilities are hard to predict.

Just take a look at “Woolly Mammoth Reviver.”


A private company is actually looking for scientists and technicians to take DNA found, mostly intact, in extinct mega-elephants in order to clone them so that they can roam the planet again.

Seriously. That’s a job in 2021.

How the Workforce Can Inform Teaching and Learning

If we intend to determine how we should teach and learn today by trying to predict future jobs, we’ll need to consider organizational behavior studies as well as more and more learning science research, including cognitive psychology and neuroscientific findings to meet the need.

That’s where the conversations began in a series of upskilling workshops we ran this fall during a professional development webinar series for faculty and administrators with the South Dakota Board of Regents, an organization governing six public universities and two special schools for the blind and visually impaired and the deaf. It is an honor to partner with many higher education institutions that use D2L Brightspace, but it is really gratifying to have high-level strategic conversations with faculty and administrators about the future of both learning and the platforms that will enhance or augment that learning.

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The SDBOR webinars with faculty started by discussing what employers seek from workers in 2021. People such as Daniel Pink, Jacob Morgan and Daniel Kahneman have written extensively about how hiring managers today are looking for workers different from those of even a decade or two ago. While 1990s business leaders wanted workers who were loyal, collegial and experts at their job, hiring managers are looking for very different skills and traits in 2021.

Today’s graduate needs to be able to (fluidly) work in and out of autonomous tasks as well as being proficient at deeply interdependent group work. Gone are the days of working in parallel, as much of today’s work requires genuine team approaches. Similarly, employers want people who can curate, filtering out the copious amounts of noise generated by an information society with access to content at the push of a button. But importantly, employers consistently discuss two new factors crucial to the success of most organizations in 2021: love of change and creativity/innovation.

Leaders realize more than ever before the importance of having a workforce that embraces change, seeing it as a transformation driver. Similarly, qualities such as creativity and innovation—requiring employees who do not need to be told every step of every process or solution—are imperative. Those students who ask for a template for every project or need to know exactly how many citations are “required” are going to struggle to impress in an interview, let alone on the job. Likewise, students taught by an educator who demands they answer every problem with an identical, list-driven solution are not being set up for success upon graduation.

Partnering With an LMS To Plan for the Future

As we started our conversation with SDBOR faculty—one that also delved into the neurotransmitters needed to drive motivation, curiosity, and completion—we discussed how the LMS needs to evolve to ensure all this is possible. We performed some bookended training to talk about not only the future, but also how to most effectively teach, engage and support students in the present.

Will one of your students revive a woolly mammoth in a future job? Who knows? The point is that if we all work together on the pedagogical/andragogical models, as well as on the learning ecosystem frameworks, there should be nothing that stands in the way of any future career path for any student seeking to learn.

Good luck and good learning.

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