Close

Sign up to get the latest news and stories on the future of work.

Subscribe Search

Search form

This post is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

Anant Agarwal is a professor of computer science at MIT, and the founder of online learning venture edX. Through edX, Agarwal has pioneered the massive open online course (MOOC) movement, with the aim of making higher education globally available, for free. In his TED Talk, Agarwal pushes for "blended courses", which use digital content and face-to-face interactions to reinvent what we do in the classroom. Given the growing importance of professional development in today's organizations, Agarwal's thoughts on education are relevant for HR leaders wondering how to invest in effective learning programs.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from his talk:

"The last big innovation in education was the printing press and the textbooks."

Agarwal points out that everything around us, from healthcare to transportation, has changed—while education has remained stagnant. HR, similar to education, has been slow to accept change. In our modern world, it's important to think about how to take advantage of new technologies, like "people analytics," to improve how people learn (whether that's in a classroom or an office).

"The millennial generation is completely comfortable with online technology. So why are we fighting it in the classroom?"

Millennials are not afraid of technology, and classrooms and offices should embrace this when it comes to learning programs. Trainings shouldn't try to cram everything into one lecture, but rather teach employees how to become self-driven learners on their own time.

"Students are learning from each other, and they're telling us that they are learning by teaching."

Some of the most valuable learning opportunities for students are not from the online course itself or even from Agarwal—the course leader—but the students' interaction with their peers. Employees and companies stand to benefit when employers move away from top-down learning approaches and embrace collaborative learning. Collaborative learning, similar to peer learning, is rooted in the idea that people learn better through sharing and social interactions than they would alone.

Header photo: TED