Shaping the future of work | MIT News

If you had told MIT professor Tom Kochan 10 years ago that teaching online courses would forever change his outlook on education, he would have said, “I don’t think so.

Today, Kochan has fully harnessed the power of carefully crafted online learning experiences after spending six years creating and refining successive iterations of Shaping the Work of the Future, a MITx course that not only influenced a global audience of tens of thousands of registrants, but also changed Kochan’s approach to teaching residential courses for MBA students at MIT Sloan School of Management. “I learned so much about how to teach and learn from a larger audience, as they contribute to the discussions and react to the material, and how they share their own experiences in the labor market.” , he said.

Kochan, George Maverick Bunker professor of management and co-director of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research, had no interest in teaching online when MIT began developing massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2011. The veteran MIT’s class and faculty member since 1980 began to think differently when they realized the power of the platform to bring new knowledge out of the Ivory Tower and put it into the mind and the hands of learners around the world. He recalls: “I felt we had a message to convey to a larger audience, who are not in our classes at MIT, people who are in the workforce and who are going through these changes. “

New perspectives on globalization, technology, and politics have helped broaden the audience for the course. The program has evolved continuously, keeping pace with the rapid changes in the workplace over the past decade. Today, the course, which is archived after six successful years, has inspired the new edition of Kochan’s book, “Shaping the Future of Work: A Handbook for Action and a New Social Contract,” published by Routledge.

Adapt to a changing world

The original course path used the previous edition of the book (co-authored with Lee Dyer, Emeritus Professor of Human Resources Studies at Cornell University) as the base text. First published in 2015, the manual was based on a course Kochan had taught at MIT Sloan. Over time, however, Kochan found that not only did the book need to be updated to reflect technological and societal changes, but also that the course students themselves influenced the way he designed the course material. The latest edition of the book encompasses the breadth and depth of the MITx Global learning community of the course, incorporating material, examples and learner outcomes from the MOOC throughout the book.

“Updating the book was really fun,” Kochan says. “It gave us the opportunity to show what we were learning from our students as well as ideas emerging from our MIT Working Group on Future Work.”

The new edition also includes a new chapter, “The New Social Contract,” which Kochan and Dyer wrote with learners as part of the 2020 Shaping the Work of the Future. MITx Classes. This contract outlines the responsibilities and duties of four sectors – education, labor, business and government – in creating a thriving, dynamic and equitable workforce. The government, for example, must raise the minimum wage to an acceptable level and provide subsidies and access to higher education for all; education in turn should incorporate technical literacy and learning opportunities into its curricula. Unions must work with employers to represent the interests of the workforce and bring technology to the workplace in a way that improves human work. Business leaders should prioritize funding for continuing education for employees.

This is a significant change in the scope of the original book and the original MOOC, which Kochan said was aimed at young people entering the workforce for the first time. But over time, the course began to attract a much more diverse range of ages and backgrounds than originally anticipated, including teachers and mid-career professionals. New technologies have become a regular source of debate, forcing Kochan and his team to adapt the course to keep pace with industry innovations.

A learning community

For Kochan, another key evolution of the course came with the addition of 2019 co-trainer Meghan Perdue, whom he describes as a “true partner”. Perdue first approached Kochan after making a presentation at the MITx Digital Learning Lab, where Perdue is a scientist. She had taken the course and shared her ideas with Kochan, who was so impressed that he asked her to review the whole program and tell him what she was going to change.

“We rewrote 90% of the course for the 2019 edition,” Perdue recalls. The changes seemed to resonate. “The learners really loved this course,” she says, describing how participants would “stay”, stay active on discussion boards, add hundreds of comments to posts, and respond to each other long after the course is over.

The revamped course also benefited from the involvement of Elisabeth Reynolds, Executive Director of MIT’s Future Work Working Group, who served as a co-trainer for the final session of the course. The findings of the Institute-wide, multi-year working group were both informed and informed by the conversations taking place in Kochan’s Course. Reynolds has since brought her expertise on workforce transformation to the White House: in March, she joined the Biden administration’s National Economic Council as the President’s Special Assistant for Manufacturing and Development. economic.

The topicality of the subject helped to create a community. “A lot of people who have been drawn to the subject have been drawn to it with a sense of hopelessness and anxiety,” says Perdue. “The course gave them a framework to reflect on their fears about the future, especially for work and politics, in a way they could understand and control.”

“I was inspired by the course to spend more time coaching and mentoring my staff, especially those in the early stages of their careers,” said one learner from the 2020 course. “Where I can. , I will share some of the course content and ideas. We need to develop a generation of business leaders who see the world very differently. Who are motivated by goals and values, yes. But most importantly, who recognize these responsibilities start close to home, providing their jobs and human dignity. “

After a hugely successful six years, Kochan decided to archive the Shaping the Future of Work course. He then plans to develop a follow-up course for workers’ representatives on what he calls the “front line” of new technologies who need to know not only design and implementation, but also decision-making regarding how. for which these technologies are adapted. In the deeply collaborative vein of its predecessor, this course will be created in partnership with the labor movement, the AFL-CIO Technology Institute, and with an activist group.

It’s a perfect next act for a professor who is both an academic and an advocate. As Perdue says, “Tom is an evangelist. He is a man whose mission is to change the world.

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Perry Perrie

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