When we were kids, we relied on our primary schooling to get us ready for the world. Yes, we could go to college and be anything we wanted to be, but we still relied on our K-12 years to teach us the basics. Reading, writing, math … once junior high school hit, we learned how to stay healthy and active in P.E. class, we learned the basic functions of government and the importance of voting in history and government classes, and we learned how to pay our bills and prepare for the future in economics class.

There’s no doubt that today’s children need to not only know how to use computers, but how to navigate the world of computing. Educators have sensed this need and advocated for things like coding classes and robotics instruction to become mainstream.

Today’s children still rely on their primary schooling to teach them the basics, but the basics have changed a little. All the stuff we learned is still important, but they’ve got a whole new world of technology to deal with, and education technology is the answer to preparing them for the basics they will need to thrive in tomorrow’s workforce.

What does tomorrow’s workforce look like? It’s still taking form, but we know that technology will play a huge role in almost every job available to them. The workforce will look vastly different when our children grow up. For instance, driverless cars may get rid of trucking, bus driving, and taxi jobs, but they’ll have all sorts of other cool things to focus on, like robot programming or organ farming. Even traditional farmers now rely on technology for things like testing soil content and monitoring the health of livestock.

There’s no doubt that today’s children need to not only know how to use computers, but how to navigate the world of computing. Educators have sensed this need and advocated for things like coding classes and robotics instruction to become mainstream.

However, one of the biggest advancements the 21st century has seen is the development of personalized e-learning software. Students no longer have to sit in one classroom and learn one thing at a time one way (the same way everyone else is learning it.) E-learning systems can be personalized and customized in many ways to best fit the needs of students: from customizing the aesthetic of the learning environment, to personalizing how the content is delivered (audio, visual, textual, graphical), to optimizing the way a student’s knowledge is tested, there are a million ways to make sure the e-learning environment is the best environment for each individual student.

This translates well to one of the fastest growing workforce trends, remote work. Many companies are giving their employees the opportunity to work from home, or anywhere else in the world, on their own schedules, at their own pace, and in the ways that work best for them. Many others still are opting to work for themselves, whether it be starting their own online business, or just running a small specialty service out of their homes. The traditional classroom environment of the past didn’t do much to prepare students for the freedom and responsibility that comes with working out-of-office, but today’s out-of-classroom e-learning tools are the answer to preparing our students for what has been dubbed “the mobile workforce.”

So how can educators help prepare their e-learning students for the future workforce?

Teachers who instruct in a flipped classroom are already becoming well-versed at e-learning’s ability to help students thrive independently, but what about brick-and-mortar teachers?

Well, the answer is simple: try to incorporate as many independent e-learning opportunities into your classroom as you can. There are plenty of valuable tools for flipped classrooms that can be utilized, at least in part, by all instructors. For instance, you can assign homework and quizzes to be done online, require that lesson plans be read online before class, or even have students watch a video lecture at home so they’re ready to discuss it the next day.

Once e-learning is incorporated into every classroom, the best way we can make sure our students are ready for tomorrow’s workforce is to follow the seven best practices for creating successful e-learning environments:

  1. Set goals and objectives that are learner-centered.
  2. Utilize assessments before and during each course to weed out knowledge gaps.
  3. Be there to provide prompt and constructive feedback.
  4. Let the students choose the types of content and media that work best for them.
  5. Set manageable milestones and follow up on their progress, and ditch the urge to micro-manage in between.
  6. Give your students access to online resource libraries that allow them to explore topics on their own terms.
  7. Provide ongoing support and encourage students to communicate regularly with their peers.

These best practices may seem slightly counterintuitive at first glance, but it’s important to remember that we’re preparing them for a world where there might not be a boss breathing down their neck every moment, and they will need to be able to meet goals and deadlines independently.

Educators are learning and evolving with the times, and it’s important for us to learn to support students from afar, even if we’ll see them in class tomorrow.