DigiconAsia: What fundamental changes to education and learning have emerged from the pandemic? What could be the positive and/or negative outcomes, in your opinion, in the context of the digital economy we find ourselves inevitably drawn into?

Cook: We will be going in and out of lockdown until we find a vaccine. That means educators will need to create transformation using a blend of online and offline channels — these range from physical in-person meet-ups to scaled digital activity.

When I was at school, my education was confined to four walls and a teacher. Then came the Internet, and it gave education a shakedown putting into question a model that was in place for millennia. Peer-to-peer virtual and physical learning environments emerged where people come together to solve problems in Wikis and Hack-a-thons.

Today, lifelong learning is a survival skill with the World Economic Forum estimating 75 million jobs will be displaced and 134 million new jobs emerging.

For education to reskill the global workforce at this scale, education will be decentralized into learning communities where learning and assessment happen regardless of physicality. Here AI personalizes every learner’s experience so that human facilitators can focus on a learner’s transformation.

A big concern of mine is the inequality remote digital learning can create because of lack of access to the latest devices, high internet speeds, space to learn, and tech sophistication. With policymakers, we will need to figure out how to make it more equitable for all, and upskill educators to think like game designers, events managers as well as learned scholars. We will need to create a safety net for vulnerable people who feel isolated or left behind. And we will need to figure out how to build organizational culture amongst the generation of people who may not be able to start their career in-person.

As with the jobs market, I see there will be a hollowing out of mid-tier universities. At one end of the spectrum, you will have tech induced education that can be concentrated online. And on the other end, there will be vocational educators turning to practical, physical spaces to transform the opportunity in front of learners. These include many areas like the arts, construction, engineering, and R&D.

Tech companies will completely disrupt the market as Google and MIT, Apple and Central St Martins or Grab and NUS open their institutes of education. School faculty will have to learn to teach through technology, and the leadership in education will have to allow the big tech in or be in danger of being disrupted by them.

At Hyper Island, we make learning relevant and integrated into an individual’s life and work to enable growth and change. We understand that transformation happens through changing habits and mindsets, not just knowledge or processes.

Through this COVID-19 period, the learning landscape has changed in ways that will foster teaching new skills to employees, wherever they may be. I jest that we are not only changing the wheels while driving, but we are changing the chassis, engine and gearbox too. Change is complex, and what we experiment with, and learn from today, will make the foundations of a more influential transformation tomorrow.