It is back-to-school season, and the kids are not the only ones gearing up to dive back into educational pursuits. Adult professionals in just about every industry are thinking about school as well. Some are seeking out courses because they are mandated by their state and/or industry, and some because they want the next promotion, or to keep the job they have. Others are investing time in learning because they just plain want to stay at the top of their game.
We do a lot of thinking about the nature of school as it applies to the ongoing education of working professionals, because our customers are continuing education (CE) managers and educational content creators. Many work for professional associations, where continuing education is a key member benefit. They are people with fingers on the pulse of their respective industries. They understand the needs of the professionals they serve and, in response, create educational content that helps those professionals do their jobs.
Our customers provide educational programming for people in life or death professions, like medicine, or people responsible for financial health and professionals who keep the innocent out of jail or the guilty in. When it comes to educational content the learners may be different, but they all share the need for a “school” that is flexible enough to fit their work/life paradigm and pretty much all are dealing with work schedules that are anything but flexible.
Online education has opened the door for the creation of a fungible school, where the classroom is anywhere the learner needs it to be. It might be on a laptop, iPad, phone or physical classroom. Parts of the educational program may take different forms – as in the flipped classroom model. Online allows classrooms to morph into the education delivery vehicle that the participant needs it to be (webcast, webinar, podcast, etc).
So what is a school? It’s a vehicle for delivering educational content the way the participant, the student, needs it to be delivered at any given time. It may have walls; it may have a power cord. It may be on a beach in the South Pacific. One can only hope.