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As a rising generation of learners progress within their careers, they increasingly look beyond formal education to develop, sharpen and learn new skills. There are more online and informal learning resources than ever before (podcasts, MOOCs, books, boot camps, YouTube, conferences). All of this knowledge we’re acquiring through these different mediums combines to create our lifelong educations, each as unique as our fingerprint.

But despite the fact that learning is happening in every way and everywhere, keeping track of it all, measuring it and making it count is not happening for the most part. And it should.

Measuring the Education Combo

Learning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) end at college, but learning in 2016 and beyond isn’t just about new-age resources. It’s about combining both formal and informal education to create your unique expertise. This means college and online learning and real world experience and whatever comes next–the key word here is ‘and.’ We should be learning, progressing and stretching our knowledge all the time. But how are we making all of that count?

Many are taking advantage of the vast amount of learning content online. The problem isn’t the availability of learning resources. The problem lies in the need for a standard way to validate, measure and showcase everything we know to make all that learning count.

We are learning over the course of our entire lives–not just four, eight or 10 years of higher education. Yet the credential that sends the ultimate signal of learning (a degree) represents only the years you learned at a university. We need a standardized way to measure and verify all of our knowledge that goes way beyond formal education and embraces all types of learning and experience. Without that standard way to measure and express our lifelong learning to the world we face these kinds of situations:

  • You’re employed in a field you didn’t study in college. How can you signal your expertise in a different field?
  • How can you communicate how much more knowledge you’ve gained when you’re not pursuing or you’ve finished your formal education?
  • How can we show a skill set earned through self-directed online learning in addition to a skill set learned in the halls of higher education?
  • How can you know what skills you should master next to progress in your field?

These are problems we’re working to solve to create a world where everyone is empowered to continue learning and everyone has a standardized way to showcase what they know and can do. We believe the future of learning looks like this: continuous, lifelong progression, with each individual utilizing a standardized way to communicate all of their expertise to the world.

It means you have a collection of personal bests, lifetime learning and what you’re working on today to showcase.

Make Your Learning Count

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We’re headed in the right direction. Increasingly, companies aren’t relying on a college degree to tell them if you’re qualified, and many want to teach you, gauge your knowledge themselves and help you to gain training and new skills. For most hiring managers, what really matters are the skills and potential a person has, not where they were gained. But the key to unlocking empowered lifelong learning for everyone is making it all count with standardized measurement. To provide the world with a way to make sense of all the learning that’s happening–no matter the source. Without this, individuals and companies lose the ability to make the best decisions for the future.

What can you do today to make all your learning count? You can start by tracking everything you’re learning and creating diverse goals around what you want to learn. Explore the different options and make it a personal requirement to start adding what you learn to that collection so that you can signal to the world how you’re gaining new knowledge and what you can do. You can do this on Degreed, where we’ve created a universal way for everyone to measure all learning and pursue skills and knowledge from all avenues.

As we move toward solving the biggest problems we’ve ever encountered, we need experts to rise up and bring their personal bests to the table–to roll up their sleeves and put skills to work. We won’t get there by leaning on degrees as the sole credential for knowledge gained. We will get there by exploring, improving, producing and collecting all of our knowledge. By measuring it and bringing it together to form our expertise.

An extended version of this post originally appeared on GettingSmart, check it out here.

Every organization should promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. Today, this statement is obvious, uncontroversial, and broadly accepted. Workplace diversity is the right thing to do, and it’s linked to increased productivity and profits for the company. The fact that this evidence hasn’t eradicated workplace discrimination points to an issue that runs deeper within our company cultures.

Overt discrimination is rare these days. Most people don’t see themselves as prejudice. We assume that if discrimination is happening, it’s intentional and ‘it’s someone else, not me, doing it’. Yet there is a mountain of data to show discrimination in hiring is still widespread. Like all tough problems, this one is complicated.

Most discrimination these days is a subtle form of unintentional discrimination, known as implicit bias, or implicit social cognition. The unconscious and automatic judgments and decisions we make without realizing we are making them. And there’s the in-group bias which causes us to unconsciously prefer working with people who are similar to us. These unconscious impulses are shortcuts that helped our primal ancestors survive, but cause us to make errors in judgement today.

We like to believe that we make rational decisions, but 90% of our behavior is generated outside of consciousness. “Logic is often the last step in the process. The conscious intellectual brain steps in to produce a rational backstory to justify impulses generated in the murky corners of the unconscious mind.” -Janet Crawford, Neuroscience business expert

When you’re making decisions in hiring, and you get this gut feeling that this person just isn’t right, your conscious brain will step-in with a justification, picking apart the person’s qualifications or competencies or making one of these common justifications:

● She just isn’t ready for this role.
● He wasn’t the right fit for our company culture.
● She didn’t have the right attitude for the team.
● We want to make sure we hire the best person for the job, no matter what.
● This candidate isn’t bad, but we have another candidate that is perfect for the job in every way.

But how do you correct behavior and attitudes that people aren’t even aware of?

Step 1
Admitting that we are guilty of implicit bias is step one. None of us are immune. Including those among us who believe we would never discriminate. Our brains are hard wired for cognitive biases. We can’t get rid of our biases, but being aware can help us identify when these biases may be affecting our decisions. Most organizations’ anti-discrimination efforts focus on the obvious and intentional forms of discrimination, because implicit bias is harder to identify, harder to prove, and less clearly defined in anti-discrimination laws. Failure to take action against implicit bias means your organization is likely guilty of the practice.

Step 2
Training and education for dealing with implicit bias. Use this training as an opportunity to promote a culture that embraces all types of diversity: gender, ethnicity, experience, education, and others as being a company strength.

Step 3
Include a system for checks and balances such as anonymous job applications and a diverse hiring panel. An example of how this can foster equality can be found in institutions who use a double-blind method to review scientific research. The number of women who get published at these institutions increases significantly when a double-blind method is used to review papers.

Step 4
Review the metrics for your organization and offer continued training and education for improvement. If your company demographics match the demographics of the local population, chances are you’ve been successful in lowering the impact that implicit biases can have on hiring decisions.

Diversity in Action
Companies that find it vital to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace often make it a part of their core beliefs. One of Degreed’s core principles is equality. We seek equality—gender, ethnic, and otherwise—in our teams, practices and process. Our company has a goal that every team is 50/50 gender balanced and that every office reflect the diversity of the market where it operates. For more on our principles and what it’s like to work at Degreed check out our careers page.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.“

Peter Drucker

As our CEO often reminds us “Learning culture eats learning strategy for breakfast.” Every company has a learning culture, a way learning naturally happens on a day-to-day basis. Strong culture enables alignment and motivation, being a foundation for any strategy. The challenge is, specifically for learning, there are at least three main stakeholders to build your culture around. And their priorities don’t always fit neatly together. At some point, you need to choose which stakeholder is the focus. The 3 stakeholders are:

1. Learning & Development team

2. Business Leaders

3. Learners

There are pros and cons with any combination. Leave any one of these out and you’ll see problems. I’m not sure that the perfect balance of all 3 exists. Each organization will have a different need in where their learning culture fits. Therefore, every L&D professional should spend time evaluating these two deceptively simple questions:

  1. Which group is the current focus of your learning culture?
  2. Which group should be the focus?

 

We’ve developed a 20-question cultural assessment to help you reflect on what type of learning culture you have at your company. Enter your email here to get the assessment:

Here’s a sample of the questions you can evaluate:

  • Do business leaders come to you with problems that need solving?
  • How do business leaders and employees think about L&D? Is it “just training”, or more comprehensive?
  • Do Learners know where and how to access learning at your company?
  • Do employees volunteer to help lead sessions, and create or curate content?
  • Do you celebrate learning? How?

 

Take the questions and spend some time examining them. In part II we’re exploring the benefits and downsides of each type of culture, and in part III we’ll plan on how you can take action to change your culture.

The main question to focus on today is, “Where are you and where do you need to be?”

 

To help L&D teams better engage employees, Degreed recently surveyed 512 people to understand how today’s workforce really builds their skills and fuels their careers. The findings, which are summarized in a new report titled, “How the Workforce Learns in 2016”, might make you rethink three common myths about workplace learning.

The infographic below showcases these 3 myths and the truths behind them. You can read more about them here.

3 Myths in Workplace Learning

How it all started

Not to be nostalgic about my education, but this is the type of high school I wished I’d gone to.

Earlier this month, I served as a panelist for Design Tech High School‘s Presentations of Learning, which is a 3 minute creative display by d.tech students that demonstrates reflection, growth & improvement in the practice of design thinking to the greater community (taken straight out of the pamphlet because I couldn’t have said it any better).

D.tech High School is incredibly unique in that it immerses students in technology, design thinking and project-based approaches in the classroom with personalized learning. Design thinking is especially prevalent throughout all the lessons, and all teachers go through training at the Stanford d.school before teaching a d.Lab class.

What exactly is design thinking and why is it so important?

Design thinking is a way of thinking that puts being human first. The process looks like this:

design-thinking-01

Notice that the first and fundamental step is empathy. You observe, ask questions, and conduct interviews to find out what the other person really needs. This is where your assumptions and biases are put aside and the listening ears come forward.

Then, you define the problem with a big picture perspective of what exactly the needs are that we’re trying to solve for, to ensure that we’re not climbing the ladder that’s leaning against the wrong wall.

With the constraints set, it’s time to ideate and use the imagination to come up with the craziest ideas in your wildest dreams that can solve the defined problem. This is where the students expressed they had the most trouble in – speaking up and not being embarrassed about their ideas.

Then you narrow down the ideas to a couple to prototype. This is where you get scrappy and mimic the product and experience of using the product. Common materials are cardboard, construction paper, post-its and popsicle sticks (my favorite).

Then you test your assumptions. When your assumptions are wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s a failure. It only means that you’re one step closer to the right solutions, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Design thinking is an ongoing process, not only in the sense that you continuously iterate but also that it doesn’t just stop at the classroom. Throughout the panel, questions were asked to encourage the students to think about how they can apply these concepts they learned from their projects in life and for the upcoming semesters.

I was amazed by the quality of the presentations, the creativity of the mediums they used and the variety of their projects ranging from animated gaming videos to organized camping trips to composition of a rap song (basically all the things that I’ve only dreamed about doing). It was incredibly high quality and almost unbelievable that there were so many young actresses, writers, comedians and musicians in the house.

An unexpected effect of learning

I was in for a bigger surprise though – the way the students described themselves before design thinking completely blew me away. Almost every one of their presentations started with “I was really shy….” and I couldn’t believe that was true when the student standing in front of me spoke with such confidence and ease.

That’s when it hit me. Design thinking doesn’t only change the way the mind thinks but it also transforms the personality. Being a part of the process led to confidence. Turns out that conducting interviews encouraged them to step out of their boundaries and speak to strangers. Working with others to define the problem facilitated collaboration and teamwork. Sharing all kinds of ideas took away the embarrassment and hesitation to voice what’s on their minds. Constantly prototyping and testing melted away the fear of failure. Having the type of environment to experience this led to more confidence.

Creating a learning environment

To sum it up, the students were encouraged to be bold. d.tech provides them with type of environment to experiment and fulfill their curiosities at their own pace. Classes also mirror this type of mindset, with minimal tests which can be retaken throughout the semester, leaving the rest of the time dedicated to learning by doing projects. Those who are at a slower pace than others get focused help on a specific topic they are having difficulties with and only move on once they understand it. Similar to pathways on Degreed where a variety of content in different formats (courses, books, videos, etc.) can be curated into a self-paced learning path to learn new skills, d.tech empowers personalized and self-directed learning.

From the transformations I saw in the students, it makes me think – what if the learning delivery method mattered just as much as the actual lesson content? What if learning was the core motivation rather than the occasional byproduct of rote memorization? What if education wasn’t only a tool to get into college and a job after graduating, but also a toolkit for life?

What would that look like? It’s some food for thought as we work together towards reinventing the future of education.

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The book “The Living Company” by Arie De Geus has taught me I have missed a valuable lesson from the things that are happening in the world around us. The book focuses on how companies are able to be successful for over a hundred years. One of the main topics that Arie touches on is learning, if we are not learning we are not progressing. This is shared through the story of the titmouse in the UK.

In the UK, milk used to be delivered in glass bottles with no covering. Titmice and Red Robins were able to take the cream off the top to provide nutrients they had not received before (this can be viewed as the introduction of an LMS to Corporate Learning).

Things were great until milk providers started to put caps on the milk (these are the changes in learning and learning habits we all encounter). The titmice were able to learn how to penetrate the cap and get the cream. There were a few red robins that were able to get the cream, but the majority never actually learned how to penetrate the cap.

So the question becomes: is our company the Titimice or the Red Robin? Is our company finding out new ways to engage the learner or are we sticking to our old tricks? So why do you care? The titmouse tried new things. As they learned they found some things worked and others didn’t. Once they found out how to open the lid they started to share it with others. The Red Robins that learned didn’t share it with others and that is why the greater population wasn’t able to learn to benefit from the originally nutrients they had received.

You could always find a new LMS with new features, but that is like just adding a plastic lid instead of an aluminum lid. In the end the employees are still unable to enjoy the cream. Time for personal reflection, are you trying to do things the old way of learning and are starving of necessary nutrients or are you allowing your employees ways to learn and share to make you stronger?

I would love to hear your thoughts and insight. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter @bg_baldwin.

Student-Loans-Is-It-Worth-It

Here’s a statement I can nearly guarantee you’ve seen again and again: Americans have a lot of student loans. Here are the facts:

Tuition has been rising at nearly 3x the rate of inflation in recent years, and the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. has grown to over $1.2 trillion.

About 40 million americans are carrying some student loans, and almost 70% of the class of 2015 graduates with a bachelor’s degree have student loan debt, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Market Watch reports the current student debt amount is rising at a rate of $3055.19 per second.

You can often find personal blogs from people like James Altucher and Mark Cuban penning their thoughts on the costs of college and the problem of student loan debt. If you Google “is college worth it?” you’ll find articles from every major news site you can think of filling the first 3 pages of search results.

That leads us to ask the golden question that the people behind these statistics, the Americans who carry student loan debt, have been asking themselves for years: Was it worth it?

The new 2015 Gallup-Purdue Index study on Education aimed to answer just that. The results are in.

Survey Says

Here’s what Gallup found

“Recent graduates who received their degrees between 2006 and 2015 are significantly less likely than all graduates overall to think their education was worth the cost.”

Let’s break that down with the numbers. For recent grads (those who have graduated from 2006-2015) merely 38% strongly agree their education was worth the cost, and among those who had student loans (of any amount) only 33% strongly agree it was worth it.

The Effects

And it’s not just our bank accounts that are affected as a result of student loan debt. Our life choices and the economy take a hit too. As grads adjust to life after school, and (hopefully) dive into the workforce, those payment deadlines creep closer until monthly minimums become due. As for the effects of student loans on those individuals life decisions? Gallup examined that too.

48% of recent grads have delayed post grad education because of student loans. 36% delay buying homes, 33% postponed buying a car, and 19% delayed starting businesses.

It seems that we should just create a new life stage category that states: “currently delaying life goals and purchases until I pay off my student loan debt”.

I’m still wondering, what will the cost of college look like in 10, 20, 50 years?

We want to know: What do you think? Was your education worth the cost? Tweet us at @degreed to tell us, and check out the full Gallup-Purdue Index Report here.

You just learned about student debt and higher education. Get credit for this article on Degreed.

 

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