Education Anew: Motivation, Development, and Careers in the Digital Age

How to set priorities and organize the learning process in the new digital era? By sending tasks via SMS or turning stuffy classrooms into interactive spaces? Marina Kazantseva, a business coach for personal effectiveness, and Maria Ososkova, an expert on career guidance, addressed the current issues of today's education in an interview for Megabyte Media.

Marina Kazantseva (left) and Maria Ososkova (right)

Why should I invest in my development?

Marina Kazantseva: The only things a person always has on hand are their creativity, skills and knowledge. Your success in life depends on them. An investment is something you give up now for what you can then get in the future. It may not seem so fun, interesting and easy in the beginning, but it will get much easier and more interesting later. So it’s worth investing in your development for the sake of that better tomorrow.

Maria Ososkova: We are moving into an era of lifelong education and development. That good old time when we got a profession only once and stayed in it for the rest of our days is no more.

Who should be responsible for my development?

Maria O.: You are responsible for it yourself, as it is you who have to work for it and invest your time in it. What parents are interested in is that their child is comfortable and safe. The child's development is not paramount for them. The employer is only interested in this as far as the company's profit goes.

Marina K.: The company you work in will contribute to your development in a way that is convenient for them, and to the extent that suits them. They have a choice. On your part, you have to prove yourself worthy for money and time to be invested into your personal and professional growth.

How do I find the time for my development?

Maria O.: I have two thoughts on this matter. The first one might be a discovery: we all have the same 24 hours in a day. From this follows the second one: everyone should understand how much and what exactly they can do in a unit of time.

Marina K.: When I hear people complaining about them not having time, I suggest they write down everything they do during the day. It turns out that we spend a lot of time on nonsense. Whereas the modern-world education can be combined with other things, with your daily commute to classes or work, for example. It’s a huge misconception that the 15 minutes you spend in the bus isn’t enough time to do something useful; in fact, finding a couple of minutes in-between your regular daily tasks can amount to a lot of new opportunities. 

Maria Ososkova

How to stay motivated?

Marina K.: The main thing with motivation is that you have make it meaningful, in other words, to decide for yourself why is that you need to achieve this goal or carry on with this activity. We encourage students to work and take part in internships to keep their motivation going. As for adults, they usually know why they need to acquire this or that skill. It’s great if you have friends you’re working towards a common goal with, this gives a great boost to your motivation. You need to look for ways that make the whole process fun.

Maria O.: It’s the same story as with happiness: you can’t force a person to be happy, it’s a matter of whether they themselves want it or not. The main question to ask yourself here is, how much do I need it, and for what? This can apply to everything you do. If you develop a clear vision of that metaphorical staircase that leads you to this overarching goal you’re working towards, you’ll have the willpower to get up early and stay up late to achieve it. Where there's a will, there's a way!

How to learn effectively?

Marina K.: You need to develop a good level of self-awareness first, to understand your individual perception patterns and identify what makes you learn better. Then you set goals you need to work towards. And then you start upgrading yourself. To learn effectively is to learn regularly. If you’ve read a book and applied it to your life, don’t just stop at that. You need to go back to what you’ve learned from time to time.

Maria O.: I really like the proverb that says, "to have something, you need to do something". When we start reading a  book, it usually takes us a few pages to get a grasp of the story and zone off from all the distractions. It must be made into a habit, and that includes forcing yourself to peruse complex literature to help your brain develop in different ways.

Why is the demand for learning resources and courses growing?

Marina K.: The information has always been out there for us to learn. It’s just that before, you had to go to the library to get this knowledge, and now it’s the Internet that you turn to, which makes our task even easier. But if this information is not structured, it’s harder for you to absorb. And that is a key to what makes people willing to cash in on all these courses. The process of gaining knowledge isn’t that straightforward: you need to find information first, collect it, process it, check if it’s valid and relevant, structure it and only store it in your brain. So it isn’t surprising that we’re paying money for others to do this for us. The main task that experts developing educational courses face is structuring the existing information and presenting it in a way that is easy to understand.

Maria O.: This made me remember Netology: just two years ago, this online university was frowned upon, but now that the general public got used to it, they love it and are more than ready to invest into their educational courses. At the latest Moscow International Education Fair, the guys from Skolkovo admitted that when they were writing their recent Atlas of professions of the future, they thought that this list would be seven or ten years ahead. But these professions have already entered our everyday reality. This incredibly rapid pace with which the world has been changing starts to put pressure on people, which makes them consider ready-made educational solutions in the hope that these will help them stay relevant in this new era.

What pros and cons do you see in getting your education via online platforms?

Marina K.: Offline education makes you tied to one teacher and one location. There's this external stimulus which makes you attend your classes, and it disciplines you in a certain way. In online education, we are motivated by the money we've paid. It is very difficult to force yourself to finish a course, but in all other respects this education format is much more convenient, faster and often more interesting, because online courses are usually made by modern people who know a lot about gamification and new methods of learning. There’s even a platform being created now that is aimed at supporting the development of courses for messengers. You will just get SMS with chunks of information. Such courses already exist.

Maria O.: I have a friend who decided to drop out of university, having chosen a job as a project manager in a hi-tech company instead. And he continues to grow career-wise thanks to online courses. That's enough for him and his supervisors. What’s most important in your education background is the skills you’ve learned. In the past, people would go abroad to find good teachers. Now you just go on YouTube and you're already there. There is no guarantee that a teacher will give the same amount of information as a pre-recorded course will. IT companies are already less interested in their job candidates having higher education. They open specialized schools where after ninth grade students focus on learning special skills without the burden of unnecessary information.

Marina Kazantseva

Will online learning platforms replace tutors in the future?

Marina K.: Private education will be different, that’s for sure. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it will go away: offline education provides students with a quick feedback, especially if the teacher is competent. In online courses, this is much more difficult.

Maria O.: There will still be a demand for talented tutors. A lot will be replaced by software, but people will still be sought-after.

Will there be any changes in how the educational process is organized spatially?

Marina K.: Many schools are already talking about removing desks from the classrooms. Their argument is that next-generation education spaces should be designed in a way that enables free movement and communication in different formats and groups. Sure, open areas with huge windows to the floor are great. But we shouldn’t forget that many schools and universities, especially large, prominent ones, have facilities that are not easy to rebuild. We needed desks to write on them, but what can we replace them with if we switch to tablets and smartphones?

Maria O.: I’m inspired by the example of the Letovo school, which builds on the world’s best education practices. They didn't just put up cool chairs and paint the walls red. Much was developed with the psychology of perception in mind. There are a lot of opportunities now, and a lot of forward-thinking designers which come up with very high-quality, original solutions. The question is, how do we use it effectively.

Marina K.: We visited the Geropharm company recently, and discovered what an awesome office they have. When we pointed this out to them, they said that they grew so used to it that they don’t even notice it anymore. But that positive psychological influence Maria spoke about never ceases to act. People do work faster and more effectively in well-organized spaces.

We thank ITMO University’s Personal Development Center for assistance in the preparation of this article. Marina Kazantseva and Maria Ososkova are active contributors to the Center’s activities, which you can take part in according to their timetable available here.

This interview was originally taken in Russian by Evgeny Shiling for Megabyte Media. Translated by David Prowse.

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