26 февраля 2021

Not Only Learning, But Also Unlearning: Svetlana Mironyuk's Outlook

You need to constantly replenish your knowledge and skills in our rapidly changing world, but you should do it only for yourself, while not forgetting to unlearn, that is, discarding unnecessary experience — thereby clearing the way forward and remaining relevant in a new frame of reference. Vice-Rector for Operations and Digital Development of SKOLKOVO Business School Svetlana Mironyuk discussed the future of professions, educational content and degrees, as well as EdTech, lifelong learning and global skills at the Clubhouse meeting dubbed "Why No One Needs Your Education" together with Albert Usmanov and Irina Khrapchenkova. RANEPA Rector Vladimir Mau also participated in the discussion.
Not Only Learning, But Also Unlearning: Svetlana Mironyuk's Outlook
Источник: SKOLKOVO Business School

Study Only For Yourself

Irina Khrapchenkova, Digital Director of Pyatnitsa: What type of education is needed today, and is it necessary at all? We shall start with the most important question: Does one need a degree and a formal confirmation of knowledge in our world today?

Svetlana Mironyuk, Professor and Vice-Rector of SKOLKOVO Business School:Indeed, in the realities of 2021, your education is really not that necessary to many people – maybe, except yourself. The main designer and customer of the educational model is the person receiving it, which is one of the most important discoveries of the 2020s. In previous years, that customer was the state, industries, and companies. Naturally, companies are trying to play this game of educational scenarios and at the same time influence the educational criteria upon which today's traditional education in universities and institutes is built.

In the digital world, however, the degree has been very much devalued. People without higher education degrees began appearing in various high career scenarios. Well-known tutors are teaching business practice without a college degree, and this can be a successful career teaching scenario. Another example of a career scenario without a higher education degree is the case of Albert Usmanov, my interlocutor.

Albert Usmanov, Director of Digital Marketing at S8 Capital: That's right. Even up to now!

Svetlana Mironyuk: You don't just have no higher education — you are aggressively doing all you can not to get it until your fortieth birthday, following a completely untrodden path: "I will manage communications, marketing and digital without a standard education; it is practically useless in today's world." Is that right?

Albert Usmanov: In a way, yes. If we are talking about global education, perhaps it is still useful. However, as far as Russian education is concerned, we are all well aware that products in the areas of digital, content or others that change frequently may not be relevant.

On the other hand, if we look at Western schools, American universities – they provide other skills that are useful in our work — not direct: relatively speaking, how not to be toxic, how to communicate with the team, and so on — something that practically does not change for a long time.

Svitlana Mironyuk: Albert was the first person about whom I was able to convince Herman Gref that a digital director can be a person in a high position at Sberbank without a higher education. You, to some extent, or you and I, have broken through this gap, the degree barrier.

Today, such a barrier, for example, exists with the MBA courses – it is impossible to get onto either the MBA / EMBA or any other related degree, that is, power courses, without a higher education degree. This is a state standard, and it is probably subject to a certain revision.

Self-adaptation Tricks For Relevance

Albert Usmanov: What type of education is in general demand now? We often say that we need data scientists, programmers, and so on — everything is clear with them. And what does the top of the non-obvious professions that everyone needs look like, where there are not enough people, but there is also no big competition, such as in development?

Svetlana Mironyuk: There are many futuristic scenarios, and it's cool to see how these predictions failed to come true — after all, the vision of professions from point X changes very much as you approach point Z, as the scenario is not linear, but quite variable.

I would generally not talk about professions and not even about skills, but about the properties or certain tricks, a person's settings that will help him in any event to remain in demand.

Recently, we have seen how adults with successful careers find themselves in a stressful situation, when there are still 10-15 years of active and busy professional life ahead, and all the past scenarios appear positive, but it is obvious that there will be no linear repetition of them in the digital world. If you have been, say, a marketing executive for 15 years, does this mean that you can and want to do this for another 10 years? And there is nowhere to grow higher: the position and roles are repetitive.

Taking A Critical Look At Your Own Experience

The most important thing that people must learn to think about today is adaptability, the ability to critically rethink their past experience. And the challenge in adult education today is to teach people to unlearn.

Alvin Toffler has a quote — I couldn't understand it for a hundred years — that the 21st century literacy is not in the ability to read and write, but the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. I understood what the words "learn" and "relearn" meant, but not " unlearn." What does it mean? Forget your past experience, your successes, heights, merits, achievements, and all your past knowledge? That is hard; our ego gets in the way.

Completely resetting the experience and at the age of 35-40-45 diverge to another career scenario is a difficult step for any person; here, education should help to abandon the application of past concepts and approaches to the analysis of the future. People automatically try to describe the future with words and their past scenario, but that's a dead end!

You need to develop the ability to unlearn – that is, to throw away your past experience, not to drag it into the future, not to drag your past regalia, positions, victories there, but each time to open a clean sheet and create a new career scenario for the next year or two, and then reset it. Constant resetting in the good sense of the word – I think that is what we should be able to do today.

Irina Khrapchenkova: Does today's academic education create the necessary package and a springboard for learning to learn? And does an erudite person even need this base for independently building a particular educational track? Or is an academic education no longer suitable as a basic one?

Svetlana Mironyuk: How many people learnt what they never needed to learn, and how many of them later renounced it... It all depends on the person and the challenges that they formulate for themselves. The saturation of the educational process is likely to change.

It appears that the two-stage scenario stops working, when a person gets an education at a young age and then "rides" on it for 25-30 years in a row, supplementing it with practical experience at the workplace, and then at the age of 40, if desired, starts an MBA or other degree programme and "rides up" the remaining 10-15 years on this reboot.

For some people, this scenario generally consists of a single stage: received some education once a long time ago and in this profession, with some minor improvements, you "get there". Then took this profession and it ended, because the life expectancy went up. We will actively work until we are 75 or even 80 years old — there are already plenty of such examples, and then there will be more and more of them.

Media scenarios: Do they work in education?

Albert Usmanov: To continually develop our skills and rethink our approach, I think we need to learn every hour, week, and year.

But, for example, over the past year, the pandemic forced 1.5 billion students around the world to switch to remote mode of work. Does the format in which you can live in one end of the world and study in the other end affect the quality of education?

Svetlana Mironyuk: We've all been squeezed out like toothpaste or pushed into the online format. Some have learnt to work remotely, while some have begun communicating on Zoom, without having tried it before, and have developed a new habit. Some have learnt to learn, while at SKOLKOVO Business School, we have learnt to teach through remote formats. This was a crash scenario; in March 2020, everything came to a standstill, along with the cash flow for salaries, and we were able to translate high-quality educational experience into digital channels within two or three months after building a technological infrastructure and mastering media formats.

We have learnt how to digitalise "long" educational content using media scripts that interact with the audience in short news stories or other quickly digestible information. We learnt not only through the talking head on the screen, but also through media approaches, computer graphics, scenario planning, working with three or four screens, and a wide range of technologies that made this experience more qualitative.

For me, the takeaway for 2021 is that media and education are merging together. This suggests that these two industries are acquiring a completely new quality that will certainly benefit the user. The user may indeed be in Bali, but can study on a Harvard course with the left foot, and with the right foot can study on some other self-development course that allows him / her to learn more seriously the business or scientific content that he / she is getting from Harvard. These things are connected.

Online Cannot Completely Replace Offline

Irina Khrapchenkova: Isolation and distance are stressful conditions. Perhaps they require some type of supporting environment? After all, people find themselves in a situation where they acquire skills and knowledge, but they fail to form social capital due to the distance with their classmates and the lack of personal communication with the teacher. What should be done to ensure the full value of distance learning?

Svetlana Mironyuk: I think that no online training will ever completely replace a live human scenario in terms of the depth of its impact on a person. This does not mean that one is good and the other is bad. They complement each other, especially when it comes to adult education. When we learn something, naturally, we do not do it from scratch, like small children, and not even like schoolchildren or students. We do this by applying new layers of knowledge to our past experiences and to our inner map: "I've tried this, I know this, I don't know this." And in live interaction, communication, and group work, learning, of course, is deeper and more effective.

We learn to effectively mix people and "make friends" with each other — this is part of the social function of education. It is easier to teach people to communicate in a real physical classroom than in a virtual classroom, but everyone is trying it — both INSEAD and Harvard. Online courses offer group coaching programmes that allow you to establish contacts, as in Clubhouse, so that people start to communicate, trust and help each other.

Similarly, in online courses, we see how people's engagement decreases over the course of weeks, despite the fact that clients like the course and at the end they write "How great that we took it!". 40% complete their homework on time, and 10% of people pay for the course, come to it, register, meet people, and drop out without completing it — not because they did not like the course, but because they realised their completely different needs, which are not necessarily caused by a request for new knowledge, but may be dictated by a desire to have fun, communicate, acquire some social skills and self-assessment options. The logic could be as follows: "I am studying at INSEAD and added a star to my self-assessment; I am studying at SKOLKOVO – I also added a star."

Albert Usmanov: Many people are unable to study at SKOLKOVO or Harvard, and often turn to a variety of distance schools and courses that have recently proliferated to repackage their profession — Russia is now experiencing a boom in this format. There are small educational so-called EdTech companies appearing that try to package current professions — for example, a marketer, programmer, designer or others, into a specific distance learning course lasting six months and promise a diploma, for example, with a guarantee of subsequent employment. Both the people's needs and their motivation are quite clear here. But how good are these courses in Russia? To what extent do they correspond to university practice? Does the knowledge gained there really reflect anything, and can it be viewed as applicable?

Svetlana Mironyuk: Yes, because – let all flowers bloom. A person may need Harvard for his / her level, another – SKOLKOVO, and the third may require a practical course, highly applied, but giving a stepping stone opportunity to move forward. Everyone expects a personal educational track to set itself or that someone will come and set it out for you, but in fact, you put it together yourself. It's like a thread and beads: Found a bead — strung it, found another one, examined it, added another one to the thread. Maybe some of them will be superfluous or dead-end, but you are still stringing these beads yourself today and choosing for yourself. Needless to say, you need a navigator to help you navigate the courses and choose their sequences. Coursera, which added 21 million new users during the pandemic, now offers such a navigator.

Irina Khrapchenkova: As for the role of the state in education — there is a feeling that it still provides the same education as always, and business is picking up the need for changes and investing in future employees already at the stage of their training, opening own schools. Does this mean that education in the future will be private and that business will be the initiator of changes and the organiser of this education?

Svetlana Mironyuk: It's great that business is doing this — let all flowers bloom in this area, too, as always! The more investments go into education — public, private, or any other, the better off the receiver, the user, and the potential student. I don't make boundaries for myself here. I have colleagues at the Higher School of Economics, I am friends with them, and from RANEPA, and I respect them immensely for what they do in the field of public education.

Technologies For Engagement And Motivation

Albert Usmanov: What constitutes modern education in general? What is the role of technology in education?

Svetlana Mironyuk: The role of technology in education is to engage and motivate, because education is becoming one of the creative industries in the attention economy. We are striving for the attention of our clients on a par with the media, show business, culture and other creative industries.

Education certainly wants to consider itself special. The media always thought they were special, too. Nothing of the kind! One of the common creative industries... And technology turns out to be an advantage for education, which it can use in competition with other creative industries for attention and depth of content consumption and acceptance.

Irina Khrapchenkova: How exactly is education fighting for attention presently? With gamification? What educational formats are used and how exactly?

Svetlana Mironyuk: From concrete examples, SKOLKOVO Business School created an augmented reality (AR) studio for the pandemic, and not only do we shoot videos of professors loaded with computer design and augmented reality effects, we also learnt how to broadcast from there, that is, make live broadcasts with AR. It looks cool when deep and interesting content, meaning, or knowledge from a professor is offered with multimedia binding and there is beautiful packaging, without which it would be worse.

Ahead of us are experiments with mixes, combinations of AR, virtual reality (VR) and other features — the same games. For example, gamification with VR glasses gives a person the opportunity to try out certain scenarios — to try on different careers or professions, as well as to generate ethics tasks. It's one thing to analyse a situation from slides and drawings, and quite another when you find yourself in virtual reality glasses.

Albert Usmanov: Russia already has electronic workbooks. And are there any projects that allow employers to check on a special application where a person worked and what they did, where they studied and how well? Or does the digital environment in education end up with a person receiving a piece of paper, and the employer must believe that he / she really has the knowledge listed there and can apply it in practice?

Svetlana Mironyuk: HR specialists today have a lot of their own developments, and if we are talking about hiring an experienced specialist, they do not only look at that person's CV, but also thoroughly check the professional track record and the success of projects in which the individual participated. Today, as an employer, I am more interested in the versatility and multi-level applicability of a person's experience than in the completed educational scenario. However, if the candidate has taken many different courses and their diversity allows you to expect them to be multidisciplinary, this will be a significant element.

If we are talking about young people who are just finishing their bachelor's degree, I would not attach any importance to that piece of paper… So I was an excellent student, graduated from university with honours, but never in my life was anyone interested in my grades in the subjects that I had on my degree transcript. And I myself don't even believe in the veracity of this transcript myself — whether it's digital or something else. I would like to try a person in business, give them a chance and see what they can achieve in practice, and not grade on the assimilation of some specific knowledge.

Irina Khrapchenkova: In what direction is the personalisation of educational track records moving, and how is this happening technically now? Is this implemented at least somewhere, or is there still no personalisation as such at the moment?

Svetlana Mironyuk: I will borrow a phrase from our friend Alexander Laryanovsky from SkyEng. He expressed a very simple and profound idea: we do not teach specific people either in universities or in schools, or even in business schools; we teach a group, classes, that is, a group substance. Adult education has a certain barrier to entry; in business school, we try to make the classes homogeneous so that people of the same level or experience, but at the same time from a wide variety of industries, learn together. The greater the variety of industries, the richer their group experience will be.

Naturally, there is no personalisation within group educational scenarios today, when someone would be given, say, more content on mathematics, and someone else – statistics. That is, we still see the group as a whole, and not the person, but this transition to the person as a unit will take place in the coming years before our eyes. For this to happen, incredibly subtle and accurate educational analytics have to be built – multiple metrics describing a particular person's capabilities and challenges that will allow to adapt to them and put together a personal track with them.

Albert Usmanov: I am now reading that RANEPA experts identified a risk that 20 million Russians will lose their jobs due to robots and automation by 2030. How can we make sure that our technologies in Russia are ready for this, and that people are not left without jobs? RANEPA, I think, rather conservatively assessed this. Deloitte estimates the loss of almost 70% of jobs worldwide due to automation and robots. How to retrain so many people, and most importantly – with what? In fact, a pandemic in education may break out…

Prospects For The Automation Of Professions

Svetlana Mironyuk: Vladimir Mau, Rector of RANEPA, is in our audience. Let's take advantage of his being here with us and ask kindly him to answer this question.

Vladimir Mau, Rector of RANEPA: There are many illusions here. We can actually repeat the mistake of Karl Marx, who believed — if anyone remembers or heard about the conclusion of the first volume of Das Kapital, that the machine will replace people, and at one end there will be pauperism, poverty, and at the other — wealth, and that there will be no people, leading to everything collapsing. In fact, technology is developing more dynamically, more richly, and we should not, in my opinion, equate work with working hours. I am no prophet, and I do not want to fantasise, but when Marx wrote his historical work, 10 hours was considered a normal working day and nothing less; thereafter, 8 hours was considered a good working day.

By and large, the fact that some millions-and we don't really know whether 20 million or 40 million — will not have to work in traditional types of work does not mean that they will not work at all. Just like the fact that the normal working day is now 8 hours, it does not follow at all that after some time, the working week will not have to be reduced to 3-4 days, or the working day will be 4 hours, and so on. Or, maybe, it will not formally exist at all and everything will largely shift to service and people's investment in themselves. After all, the problem is not how much you work, but what kind of activity creates the conditions for your active and productive life. In this sense, it is not necessary to analyse the future in terms of the realities of yesterday. So we really don't know…

But the same Marx — on a related note (by the way, we should not identify him in the same vein as the atrocities of the middle of the 20th century), predicted that wealth will be determined not by working time, but by free time, that is, by the time that people will be able to invest in themselves. And in this sense, if fewer people are needed, this does not mean that they are poor and unemployed; it means that the manufacturer allows them to work for themselves, their education and their health.

Albert Usmanov: Meaning, in fact, instead of doing finance or accounting, people will think more about themselves and become self-employed?

Vladimir Mau: Yes!

Clients Demand Pragmatics

Irina Khrapchenkova: In the new attention economy, people are pressed for time. Do they need less training time now? Is there a tendency to reduce training hours and change the appraisal system?

Svetlana Mironyuk: On the one hand, the audience is inclined to be pragmatic. We need increasingly quite short, dry – no water, pragmatic courses, training scenarios. This is the track we see: less water, more structure, and clearer content.

On the other hand, an interesting thing is happening with education in general: industrial education is becoming the same background environment as media consumption. Media has ceased to be an object, becoming the medium in which we live. We don't notice how we consume media content. Education is moving in the same direction, becoming part of our environment. Therefore, the consumption of an increasing quantity of new knowledge and practical skills is becoming a process like breathing.

Albert Usmanov: In Russia, the thesis is circulating that a specialist should be multidisciplinary and have different skills. For example, I know how to do marketing, programming, and I understand something else in design; in this regard, I'm probably a good specialist. On the other hand, it is perceived as a way to save money: "Let's have an accountant who will also handle our HR?" What is meant by the "right specialist"? How effective is it at all, and do I need to learn everything?

Svitlana Mironyuk: Vadim Kulik, a very interesting person and an IT specialist to the core who is the current Deputy Chairman of VTB and is engaged in the digital transformation of the bank, told me that he does not need "just IT specialists" today, but multidisciplinary IT specialists. An IT specialist who has worked in medicine will create an exceptional app — one that someone who has never worked in medicine will not be able to create. And so forth.

We are moving towards the scenario of not a deep specialist, not a broad profile. In science, for example, delving into one's own topic, perhaps, remains an important, dominant feature. However, we are moving towards a situation where a large number of roles will require people with complex multidisciplinary experience. And, adding up a variety of competencies and skills, we will give birth to all sorts of breakthrough stories.

Irina Khrapchenkova: At the same time, there is still a division not only into global skills, but also into soft and hard skills. If it is clearer with specific skills, then how can soft skills as a discipline be taught, and where is it taught? And is it even possible to learn things like communication, empathy, business intuition?

Svetlana Mironyuk: Possibly. If it is not given to you by God as an ability at birth, you can learn it. What is important is to realise that you need it. But I reiterate the idea that the future is created not by lone individuals, but within groups of very different people who are able to communicate with each other, find common ground, and put their diverse experience into breakthrough solutions. This can be learnt in practice by listening to yourself and getting feedback from others.

I recently came to the conclusion that the most important thing is not the ability to speak or communicate, or even the ability to lead, but the ability to listen. Very few people know how to listen to other people and hear them.

Albert Usmanov: It is probably also important to not be destructive. And I would like to have programmes like "How to Stop being Destructive in Just Three Weeks"…

Irina Khrapchenkova: If you could change one thing in Russian business, what would you do first? What do you really wish for?

Svetlana Mironyuk: I would make it more conscientious and empathetic. I would like the social responsibility of Russian business to be several times higher than what it currently defines itself as this responsibility. I mean investing in development, education, helping children, developing philanthropy and charity. There are many areas where our business is simply greedy and lacks the scope of vision.


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