‘The Future of Work’ at the Intersection of Learning & Technology

What are some other books that you can recommend about the future of work?

December 13, 2015

The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization by Jacob Morgan.

Published in August of 2014.

Are you in an edtech leadership role?  Is there anything that you spend more of your time and energy on than the people in your organization?

The work at the intersection of learning and technology is people intensive.

Teaching is not a place where capital substitutes well for labor.  

This is particularly true for any efforts in blended or online learning.  Technology in education, if the technology is utilized in a way that actually improves learning, requires more time and effort from educators - not less.

Surrounding faculty with a team of non-faculty educators (instructional designer, media professionals, librarians) is necessary if quality is the goal of any technology-enabled education effort.

Figuring out how to fund, attract, retain, and get the most out of educational technology professionals has emerged as amongst the most important jobs of today’s edtech leaders.

A good book to have a discussion about the future of postsecondary edtech work would be Jacob Morgan’s The Future of Work.

Morgan breaks no new ground in this book, as he is not advancing theories of organizational effectiveness or the technologization of work that have not been covered by others.  Rather, Morgan provides a quick synthesis of the main labor market related trends that are most likely to impact employers and workers in the next decade.

The Future of Work would be a good book for anyone who hires and manages edtech staff to read and discuss.  Figuring out how to balance autonomy and flexibility of our edtech teams with the growing operational responsibilities is a challenge for even the most gifted of managers.

Blended and online courses can offer great benefits in terms of the quality and flexibility of the learning, but they also come with new demands on the people who work with both the faculty and the students to develop, run, and support these courses. 

Learning has moved outside of the physical classroom and on to a multitude of screens and devices, and teaching has moved from fixed in-class times to a more 24/7/365 enterprise.

Technology has great potential to expand the reach and impact of teaching, but if technology is deployed poorly (or if the technology doesn’t work as it is intended), the results are terrible for everyone involved.

An effective campus edtech staff will need to be mission driven, autonomous, and flexible.  Decision making authority will need to be pushed out to the edtech people actually doing the work.

The Future of Work profiles companies that have successfully empowered workers by eliminating layers of middle management.  These companies, such as Valve Software, GitHub, and W.L. Gore have flattened their hierarchies, while at the same time investing great trust and decision making authority in the hands of employees.

Could the academic technology workplace more closely resemble the structure and vibe of a tech startup?

Does the tradition of an annual employee review still make sense when almost all work is done in teams?

Are there ways to increase the flexibility and autonomy of the people that work in edtech, while simultaneously ensuring that the less glamorous but critical work of our academic computing divisions still gets done?

These are not questions that are addressed in the Future of Work, but I think that the book provides some useful frameworks from which these questions could be discussed.

What are some other books that you can recommend about the future of work?

What are you reading?



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