Learning by doing
David McCallChief Learning Officer, RedAcademy

Lifelong learning is crucial to today’s fast-moving tech economy

What is your view on the state of adult education today?

Traditional education focuses on teaching, rather than learning, and this is totally disconnected from the needs of today’s world. The idea of a “sage on a stage,” the monotone prof reading from slides, rightfully belongs in our industrial past. We know this approach results in under 10% knowledge retention, while “active learning” produces retention over 70%, and so our students focus on learning by doing, working with real-world clients, and work effectively in cross-functional teams. Long before the industrial school system, we mostly learned through apprenticeships — learning how to do something by trying it under the guidance of industry mentors. It's time to bring this approach back into our education system.

Colin Mansell and Mandy Gilbert -- both already successful entrepreneurs who created digital and recruitment agencies, respectively -- could see that education for the workforce wasn’t meeting the rapidly changing needs of business, government or society. So they founded RED Academy.

What is RED Academy's teaching philosophy?

We believe there are many different ways of learning; teaching is only one of them (and the least effective element). We now learn a great deal on our own as adults through self-directed learning, and can see the effectiveness of models, just as children do, by learning through play. We also learn a great deal interacting with others -- this is known as social learning— sharing what we are learning with others, observing, nurturing our informal mentors. This learning by doing, through trial and error, and play, is what we call experienced based learning.

Because technology is transforming the world or work, with 70% of the careers of today phasing out in the coming decades, and evolving or being replaced with never-before-seen jobs, our responsibility is not just to provide skills but to develop a learning mindset, a resiliency and adaptability in all of our students.

“Learning to learn” is therefore todays new core competency, and that is what we focus on; it is about how you learn, how to unlearn old ideas and relearn new. At RED we believe there are three key components to learning to learn: (1) creative problem solving, (2) teamwork & collaboration skills, and (3) self awareness and self leadership. These components happened to also be mentioned among the top 10 job skills employers will be looking for the year 2020 in a recent report by the World Economic Forum.

How can companies invest in employee education and development?

The current norm is for companies to provide their employees with professional development funds for conferences, courses, and workshops, but how many employees are making the most of that?

Companies should take the next step in supporting - even requiring - their employees to upgrade their skills on a regular basis. This is not happening enough, and it’s putting people and processes at risk of falling behind as new tech and trends emerge in their industry. We now work with companies to solve this problem, offering RED-facilitated trainings for your existing employees, and RED traineeships to make sure your new hires are more prepared than ever to hit the ground running.

What do you think is the future of education?

Wouldn’t it be great if -- rather than paying $100,000 for a Master’s of Financial Engineering -- you could instead learn all the skills you need directly from prominent hedge fund managers? Igor Tulchinsky, founder of pioneering hedge fund WorldQuant, did precisely that and opened the doors to a first-of-its kind Masters degree in 2016. These types of industry-led education such as Tulchinsky, Minerva and RED Academy are paving the way offering alternatives to corporations and students alike.

Skills will come and go but learning to unlearn the old and relearn in new is the new paradigm for learning for life - this is the future of education.