Although it may sound like a contradiction in terms, the ‘professional learner’ label is apt for descripting an individual who makes learning a continuous part of their professional life. But what exactly must a person be capable of before they can be called a professional learner? And what place will a professional learner hold in today’s rapidly developing educational landscape? This piece delves into the fine details of these questions and more.
Our forward-thinking leadership has ensured that the UAE has the infrastructure and capabilities needed to adapt to the swift transformation this era of advanced technology demands. Our continued success depends on empowering people to respond to these developments as soon as they occur. Challenges we think are in our distant future can become our present-day reality in the blink of an eye, as exemplified by the current situation the world finds itself in. We must make preparedness a part of the human experience, and this can only be achieved by possessing knowledge and skills that remain valuable even in the face of great uncertainty.
The professional learner is someone who can navigate these rough waters and overcome the threats they present. These are the individuals who reach an advanced level of knowledge through a process of learning that is unapologetically self-reliant. Looking back, we see a clear evolution in educational themes, from instructional learning (where the educator plays the central role), to interactive learning (where it is shared with the learner), to knowledge building and empowerment in their latest incarnation. The latter produces students capable of creative and critical thinking, and problem-solving, which are as much life skills are they are academic.
While education remained unchanged for extended periods in the past, today’s landscape is completely different thanks to the rapidly accelerating technological breakthroughs we witness daily. Today’s generation of learners are vastly removed from their predecessors, benefitting from advanced skillsets shaped by a combination of all previous educational methodologies. This is evident from their swift and seamless transition to online learning during the current crisis. They succeed in keeping pace with the current transformation because technology is their language and its tools their passion. This is a generation naturally inclined towards professional learning, and this has never been clearer.
Thanks to their tools, today’s students have seamlessly transitioned to remote learning and are now able to access courses no matter where they are. The next step is to empower them to assess their capabilities and set personal goals, an essential step towards instilling a habit of lifelong learning. Education should not be restricted to academic plans designed by universities, which should never be considered the sole source of knowledge. Instead, professional learners should be capable of benefiting from a range of resources to further develop themselves. To the professional learner, a degree is just one part of a lifelong journey and not a goal in and of itself. It is a tool used to build knowledge and advance careers.
Over the past few months, education methods have evolved rapidly to compensate for the disruption caused by this crisis. Technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution offer learners efficient and effective ways to study and we should continue to embrace them long after the current situation subsides.
Dr. Abdullatif Al Shamsi
President & CEO, Higher Colleges of Technology