It wasn’t too long ago that the employment landscape was a fairly simple affair. Some people worked for themselves while the majority of people worked for someone else. At the height of the American Industrial Period, say, right after World War II, unemployment was low, blue collar jobs were the norm, women were consigned to limited gender-specific roles and one could expect to retire after 25 years of dedication to one employer.
Over the past five decades, however, the economic model in most developed nations has pivoted away from an industrial model and entered the Information Age. This transition has been characterized by an increased outsourcing of manufacturing to developing countries and a subsequent growth in the service sector. The value creation process in such an economic system is based not on material inputs, but rather innovative and creative ideas. Labor in this paradigm does not work with tools as much as they work with knowledge and their product is information.
These social and economic changes have prompted some to state that “The Job” is dead. Dave Maney (2013) writing for Forbes Magazine states “The notion that most of us will earn our living in the future through an employee/employer relationship is headed for the scrap heap of economic history”. He explains that employment is nothing more than a series of relationships and agreements, which now, in regard to the employment of labor is changing as quickly as the marketplace.
Researchers conclude that soon will be working in a variety of “micro-careers” if we are not already there (Maney, 2015). The new “job” will be a series of short-term engagements. In a sense, we will all be consultants and self-employed. An article by Economist Magazine reports that the number of union workers had declined significantly, while those classified as temporary workers has, conversely, increased (The Economist, 2014).
For these reasons, education will become increasingly important. Knowledge workers will no longer be able to rely on the platform of a bachelors degree to earn a competitive wage. The need to learn will now be constant across one's career if one hopes to survive this brave new world. Researchers are already seeing a substantial gap in wages between educated and less educated workers and that gap is only expected to increase (The World Bank, 2001).
It used to be said of University Professors that they had to “publish or perish”. This impetus has now been transferred to most sorts of jobs in the knowledge economy. The implication for the rest of us looking to make our way in the world is that we need to be better educated, more specialized and constantly learning. Knowledge is the currency in an information economy.
Reflecting this trend, over the past forty years, there has been an increase in enrollment among institutions of higher education in developing countries. The provision of educational and training programs is becoming big business, not just in the developed countries but across the world. The global market for education is estimated at more than $2 trillion a year (Moe, Bailey, and Lau 1999). While one-third of the global market is in the United States, a sizable 15 percent is in developing countries and transition economies. Corporations too are spending more and more on training to become competitive in the global knowledge economy (The World Bank, 2001).
Preparing workers to compete in the knowledge economy requires a new model of education and training, a model of lifelong learning. It includes formal and informal education and training programs provided in a variety of modalities; from podcasts to online courses to courses “onground”. Not only is the way education is delivered is changing, so is the content. The new economy requires task-specific skills, as well as a focus on developing decision making and problem-solving skills (The World Bank, 2001).
The good news is that access to information is now nearly ubiquitous. Mobile devices and the internet means you can learn whenever wherever. The bad news is that the World Wide Web is a bit like the Wild West, in that there is no law and order to police the quality and veracity of information. As such, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish real information from “fake news”. At the same time, the effectiveness of learning has much to do with the way in which the information is presented. The mind seeks patterns in the world and tends to ignore that which is disordered and lacks context. Internet vernacular has actually coined new terms to describe this tendency of the internet: “Info Dump” and TL/DR (Too long, Did not Read). It’s not enough to put the information out there, it has to be organized.
It is becoming increasingly important that someone vets informational resources and packages it in a useful and efficient manner. Enter the Instructional Designer. The role of the instructional designer is to organize the information in such a way as to most efficiently and effectively facilitate the learning of the material by the learner. If knowledge is the currency than Instructional Designers are akin to bankers in an informational economy. This is underscored by the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for instructional designers to increase 10% over the next 10 years, an increase greater than average (The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016).
In a series of 4 installments over the next 4 weeks, this blog will examine the role of instructional design concepts as a cornerstone of the educational system upon which our emerging knowledge economy is predicated.
Maney, Dave. (2013, April 5). The Death of Jobs. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from:
Maney, Kevin. (2015, June 4). The Full Time Job is Dead. Wired Magazine. Retrieved
Economist Magazine. (2014, December 13). The Future of Work: There is an app for that.
Economist Magazine. Retrieved from:https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21637355- freelance-workers-available-moments-notice-will-reshape-nature-companies-and
The World Bank. (2001). The Knowledge Economy and the Changing Needs of the Labor
Market. Retrieved from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTLL/Resources/Lifelong-Learning-in-the-Global-Knowledge-Economy/chapter1.pdf
The Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-