After founding a startup Panda Training I wrote an article called "The Future of the Training Industry". It depicted the vision behind Panda. And it was a bestseller. Two years after I want to revisit that vision. Firstly, because it changed and, secondly, because what we are working on right now might surprise you as a unique view on the future of education. It might even totally blow you away.
Headlines like "Why Education Must Change" and "Education system needs to adapt to a fast-changing world" won't surprise anyone at this point. Everyone is aware of the shortcomings of the current education systems, whether it's school, university or corporate education. People are desperate for change, yet not much has happened in the last decades. Certainly, a lot of small changes are happening all the time, with e-learning, iPads, VR/AR and other modern tools. But while tools are certainly helping, fundamental problems are still there. Talk about the change that has to happen in education is on everywhere, all the time. So why hasn't much changed then?
We don't know what makes a good education.
I propose that it's because we don't know a better way. We can't replace university education system because we don't know what to build instead. E-learning is only a fraction of corporate education because classroom training is still the most effective tool we've got. We don't know what makes a good education. There are a lot of innovation initiatives in education, from tools to completely new ways of facilitating the knowledge transfer, but the biggest problem is that cause and effect are not easy to spot in education. Results are very hard to see in the short-term and innovation efforts might often lead only to marginal improvements, which easily go unnoticed.
If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. This old business saying might be the key to education. I believe that marginal improvements are really important. Only being able to spot those we would be able to progress, step by step, in the right direction.
Luckily for us recent progress in data science might mean that now is exactly the right time to start the revolution. But one more important thing before we drift off too far in dreaming about the future: before we can ever dream to work with education data and learn from it, we first need to establish the infrastructure, culture and system for gathering it. Because, let's be honest, we don't have that much data on what works and what doesn't in education.
The teacher sucks
If you have ever been a student you probably have heard the usual explanation of why someone didn't like the lecture: "the teacher sucks". Teacher, trainer or educator is often one of the major factors for the success of the education program. Yet, very rarely do we track the performance of educators, especially in school and university systems. More has been done in the realm of corporate education, but still the market keeps following the rule of the survival of the marketed and branded. Training providers and businesses do attempts at measuring the training performance, but often, due to various reasons, the results don't produce actionable insight.
Companies are the pioneers in evaluating the results of trainings. They do way more than schools or universities even attempt. Post-training questionnaires are very usual in today's world. Yet, corporate sector faces 3 major challenges on the road to successful training evaluation.
First challenge is investing in data analytics and research. Just seeing "4.0" as a training score and tossing it away isn't enough. We need to see the big picture. Not only that the "teacher sucks" but also in which area and what could be improved. There are, of course, reasons for why companies don't often apply data analysis to their training evaluations. First of all, only in recent years data analysis became mainstream and tools and talent became abundant. Secondly, it's an expensive investment for the vast majority of the companies. Lastly, research of the great questions like "what makes a good education" is a risky endeavour.
The second challenge is scarcity of data. For the majority of the companies the amount of trainings they run isn't enough to have a sizeable sample. And the problem for the huge corporations that do manage lots of trainings is the fact that it's only data from their company, in a vacuum, without external validation. What does "4.0 score" mean? Okay, it's better than our previous trainings on average. But is it better than the industry average?
Negative feedback would never end up on the trainer's website.
The third challenge is the fact that findings from the research these companies sometimes conduct often has limited applications. For example company X finds out that a certain trainer provider needs to improve his or her delivery. They decide to keep that training provider off their list. That information never gets out. Negative feedback would never end up on the trainer's website. What that means is that value of company's X research and the resources they've spent is very limited.
Transparency of the market
Two years ago when we set out to build a corporate training marketplace, a big part of our vision (alongside with bringing corporate education to the next level) was transparency of the market. The idea was to sell training through our online portal and evaluate the results of that training, eventually establishing a solid reference and rating system. A standard for the training industry to compete on a basis of training quality.
We will invest into the research of the question of "what makes a good education" and get to the bottom of it.
Since then, the vision hasn't changed. But we believe we've found a better way towards it. Instead of evaluating the trainings we sell, we will go out and help companies evaluate the trainings they already have going on. Both businesses and training providers. Both internal and external training. We will start with the corporate education because the need is more urgent. Companies know they are dumping billions into education programs and those better be worth it. We will solve the first and second challenges for companies by bringing all the training evaluation data together and extensively investing into research as our primary business. We will look past the "4.0" scores and do our best to provide companies and training providers with actionable insights. We will invest into the research of the question of "what makes a good education" and get to the bottom of it.
More than that, we also will solve the third challenge companies have by publishing the results of the evaluations. What if one could track both positive and negative feedback training providers have received in the past? One would be surprised, but so far companies we've been talking to are cheering to such a possibility. Many are confident in themselves and would be happy to reallocate some of their budget from marketing to improving their education skills. Of course, some might be hesitant at first, but what might happen is that interest of businesses in the system to better allocate their education investments could dictate an avalanche of adoption following the early adopters.
Key to the development of humankind
Collecting the data about what works and what doesn't, doing the research and then using those insights in a smart way and bringing transparency to the industry could allow Panda Training to change education. Improve it, drastically. So, why does it matter?
Education is the key. There are always a number of forces working towards progress. Some are immediate, "light bulb"-like strikes of insight and innovation. Other are more steady and consistent, like knowledge. Both of those depend on culture. Culture defined as "the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively". And culture, I would claim, is born with education.
What is your vision of the future of education and how that will affect humanity as a whole?
Panda Training started the recent pivot two and a half months ago with a blast. We have a few big companies with whom we piloted the service already and we will start working with 20+ clients after the summer. We might be naive, yet we honestly believe this might leave a dent in the human development. And we would appreciate your support. If you know of an organisation that could benefit from our service, drop us a line. You can always find more information on our website https://panda-training.com/. Join us in bringing education to a whole new level. Thank you.
Dima Syrotkin, CEO at Panda Training Oy