Shaken up by the advent of digital tech, education is changing. There's no getting away from it: learning no longer takes place solely within four walls, for a designated period of time. Against this backdrop, Total is working with students and faculty from universities the world over to find solutions to future energy challenges, with them and for them. Inspiring and listening are two key virtues for doing so.
In 2012, David Puttnam, Ireland's then Digital Champion, wrote in Views of the Future, Dangers and Opportunities that: "Learning is no longer something that needs to happen within particular hours, in a particular place, or even with a particular group of people."
He was definitely onto something. For although from the outside looking in, all of the world's universities seem safely ensconced on their campuses, a revolution is happening outside the classroom. As you've no doubt guessed, it's a digital revolution that calls into question the very principles of education, prompting Peter J. Wells, chief of higher education at UNESCO, to remark that: "Industry employers contend that half of what students learn in the first two years of a four-year technology degree will be out of date by the time they graduate."
Classroom work now shares the stage with MOOCs (massive open online course), virtual courses, recorded university lectures on YouTube and real-time university discussion groups on Facebook. Courses are getting increasingly collaborative and ever more open to the wider world, in real time.
As a result, most of today's sought-after professions didn't exist just a decade ago! Director of ethical hacking, team building genius, data visualization expert, cognitive computing architect, organizational catalyst, digital prophet, chief happiness manager: who would even have been able to come up with such job titles in the early 2000s?
Surfing the digital-tech wave, education is evolving. It's more open and more plugged into the way the world is changing. It's also more innovative and more uncertain. Should students keep acquiring hard skills or give priority to soft skills such as dealing with uncertainty, performing under pressure, critical thinking, communicating and getting along with others, to name a few? Those are the new skills and talents the business world is looking for, putting an end to job descriptions as we've known them for decades.
For that matter, what is learning? UNESCO's Incheon Declaration in 2015 makes a down payment on the answer by articulating an aspiration: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and … lifelong learning opportunities for all" by 2030.