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Why Europe’s learning industry needs a ‘Sputnik effect’

To view Fabrizio Cardinali’s keynote presentation: “How can we get Europe’s learning Industry first to the moon (and back) by the next decade?” – please visit Online Educa’s website

When Fabrizio Cardinali, CEO of eXact learning solutions North America and Chair of the European Learning Industry Group, gave his keynote address at last year’s Online Educa event in Berlin he began with a speech – a wake-up call – that President Kennedy gave in 1962 when he committed his country to the Space Race by saying, “We’ll do it right and do it first, before this decade is over.” Some seven years later – just within the deadline he’d set – the USA won the race by putting a man on the moon.

What, you may ask, has that got to do with the learning industry in its current ‘malaise’? A lot, according to Cardinali – Cardinali believes that western corporate learning industry leaders need a similar vision and commitment if they are to help their organisations continue to compete and survive global competition effectively from the emerging world labour and educational markets. And this is even more urgent in the stagnating Eurozone.

For Cardinali, this means that in the learning industry context we need the West’s competing companies to come together, to collaborate and co-operate. Cardinali suggests that as entrepreneurs and thought leaders get together they will conceive new generation solutions and business models to not only help their own businesses survive but also, in the larger context, to help western economies survive global challenges by inventing the ‘next big thing’ in educational technologies.

And this is where the Renaissance comes in. During the Renaissance, Venice had a population of just 90,000 people; Rome had 35,000 inhabitants and Renaissance Florence only had 40,000 inhabitants. It would have taken three months to go from Florence to Amboise in France – as Leonardo did when he took the ‘Mona Lisa’ on a donkey ride to the French court. The Renaissance shows us that creativity and technological innovation are not the sole preserves of large, global companies. Rather, ’adaptive’ and ‘personalised‘ might be the key features of  next generation technologies and of the most effective content used to teach our children and train our employees.

“To be successful, we need to combine creativity and innovation. Interestingly, such a combination occurred in Europe during the Renaissance – so we should strive to create the circumstances that will bring about a ‘Renaissance 2.0’ perfect knowledge storm. “

Whilst technology innovators tend to compete, one against the other, all of Renaissance Florence was pervaded by a unique mood of cooperation and competition. Artists worked together, experimenting in cross-sectorial innovation far more than in vertical silos. Cardinali suggests that the learning technologies industry needs to engage in similar lateral thinking – still competing yet taking risks together.  At the very least, Cardinali says, we need to do what China or India is doing in terms of investment in skills development and new learning technologies and as fast as they are doing it – but we need to find our own creative and innovative strategies and solutions to the issue of performance support and talent development.

Cardinali also finds inspiration in Charles Darwin when discussing the challenges of global competition:

“Those who survive will be those who’re the most adaptive. Similarly, it’s not the most expensive or even the best educational design content that will succeed and stand the test of time. Those who’ll be the most successful in the marketplace are those who can adapt most quickly to new jobs and profiles. In a similar way, the best digital content that will survive will be the content that’s designed to better adapt to new learning delivery technologies and devices.”

To download the whitepaper on this topic please visit our site. And for those of you in Europe, you can catch Fabrizio Cardinali talk about why Europe’s learning industry needs a “Sputnik effect” during his keynote presentation at the upcoming Information Energy 2012 conference in Utrecht, Netherlands on the 8th June. If you would like more information please contact us!


3 Responses

  1. Ingo Dahn

    The Sputnik as well as the Apollo project where both big coordinated efforts toward a single SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) objective, the second in reaction to the first. There is a danger that drastic changes in the position of certain economies will not cause a Sputnik effect if they emerge gradually over time. The emergence of Japanese cars on the car market previously dominated by the US and Europe is an example of that. In such a situation the only way to avoid falling back is not to wait for a Sputnik Effect but to launch a Sputnik. This requires authority and resources. In Europe, with it’s built-in diversity both are hard to build. Nevertheless we are not at point zero. The European Research Program has considerable resources and it tries to set objectives and to exploit European diversity. But these objectives aren’t specific nor measurable. I’d be curious to exchange ideas about possible Sputniks to launch.
    As an educator, it seems to me an objective worth to be achieved to increase the time the average learner spends for interactive learning (which means interactions with teachers as well as with peers or systems) by a factor of 10 within 10 years. This is motivated by the observation that the most successful educational institutions have the lowest professor/student rate and that acquisition of competencies requires the solution of problems in a challenging environment.
    To achieve this objective, the eLearning industry might concentrate on the integration of communication and interaction into the products and on replacing non-interactive learning formats, such as lectures, with technology in order to provide teachers with more time for direct interaction with learners.

  2. Peter Hamilton - Intel Corporation

    A very clear consensus has emerged among educators that our 19th century ‘one size fits all’ batch production education system is no longer fit for purpose. The sea changes in society, technology and globalisation of the past 150 years have not been reflected in our education systems worldwide. Meanwhile as the global population heads to the ten billion mark with reduced resources the critical importance of knowledge work, the skills to be significantly more productive with fewer resources, built upon strong education systems with high participation in 2nd and third levels is critically important worldwide. Many societies seek to emulate some of our high achieving societies. We see the steady strong results from the Nordic societies reflected in many spheres including the annual PISA rankings on a consistent basis for the past decades. What is not often acknowledged is that these accomplishments are built upon a tradition of very high third level education participation rates of over 80% for the past 50 years – enabling this high success rate in what has been a resource poor part of the world for centuries.

    Meanwhile technology and broadband connections to the cloud have made enormous changes to the lives, skills and expectations of our young people. We have talked about digital natives for more than a decade. However today’s young people are the post-digital native generation. Technology is pervasive in their lives. They expect constant access and connection – they don’t even know or care where their data is as long as it is constantly accessible on the cloud. The post digital natives are as different from the digital natives – as the radio generation were from the multi-channel cable TV generation.

    Then they step into the classroom, shut everything down, and research has proven down-shift their brains. They return to the 19th century to be batch-processed or fall asleep. With every few years their perception of the classroom as an obsolete, alien, irrelevant place increases.

    1-1 individualized and personalized learning is all possible and quite practical today – technology enables this individualized focus. A continuous stream of research papers advocate individualized, skills and inquiry-based education help each student achieve their potential and prepares them for the 21st century society and economy.

    The call to action to educators is to now rapidly build the capability and capacity in our schools, create the connected environment of the 21st century and support 1-1 individualised and personalized learning approaches. Each year our 19th century approaches become more out of touch with the needs of the 21st century workforce and society, and the world in which our children now live.

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