From ’just-in-case-learning’ to ’just-in-time-learning’ with dynamic continued education

Planning is not bad at all, but being ready to change plans becomes more and more central. Lifelong learning is a part of what a futurist calls “just-in-time-learning”: the ability to dynamically acquire relevant knowledge when needed.

Long-term planning and linear career paths can no longer stand alone. That doesn’t mean you have to put all your education plans on the shelf. Far from it. But you need to think about lifelong learning and continued education in a far more dynamic way than traditionally.

Everyday-life turned upside down

Simon Fuglsang Østergaard is a futurist and senior adviser at the Institute for Futures Studies, and he believes that the present Corona pandemic has given us a taste of how the future labour market and work life are changing.  

“When everyday life as we know it is turned upside down – and we will experience more of that – then it is important to be adaptable. In life science, data and technology are gaining importance and thereby challenge professional standards as we know them. At the same time a new breed of specialist is emerging, the so called neo-generalists. They are specialists at being generalists, so to speak, and excel at taking the best from one field and combining it with another. Neo-generalists bring ideas and knowledge into play in new contexts – and they are less vulnerable when a specialist area disappears due to automation”, Simon Fuglsang Østergaard explains.

There is a need for people who are able to see contexts and manage complexity. Simon Fuglsang Østergaard elaborates: “There will be a shift from what we call ‘just-in-case-learning’ to ‘just-in-time-learning’. In other words, we move away from acquiring knowledge that we may use at some point, and instead become specialists in absorbing and acquiring knowledge, exactly when we need it.”  

Corona as a simulator of the future

Our adaptability has been put to the test both for the individual employee, for entire companies and organisations. Atrium itself has undergone a transformation to offer more courses digitally, and in many ways, Corona can understood as a simulator of what the future holds in store – and as such an opportunity to test our readiness.

“Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic. Other disruptions will surface, and you have to prepare for that. If you don’t develop your skills, you’ll find yourself at the back of the queue. Darwin taught us: it is not the strongest who wins, but the one who is most prepared for change. This holds true whether you have to deal with a new teaching situation or are developing vaccines in record time in a pharmaceutical company”, explains Maibritt Thoft-Christensen, Educational Program Leader at Atrium and responsible for developing courses for the commercial side of the life science industry, such as Marketing Compliance and Market Access.   

Dynamic competence development

Cutting budgets for education in a time of crisis can be costly in the long run. A prerequisite for dynamic competence development is that employees have access to acquire new competencies when needed. Also, across traditional subject area divisions. “We see a trend towards a need for a different mix of competencies for the individual employee than before. For example, the traditional pharmaceutical companies must ensure that they acquire tech competencies, while tech companies should acquire knowledge about general topics within medical science,” explains Marianne Puggaard Jensen, Educational Programme Leader for health science courses at Atrium.  

Make room for the unpredictable

It is natural that there are traditional professionals and specialist areas where you and your company still want to stay up to date and increase the level of competence. It makes sense, and you still have to do it. At the same time, it is important to be aware of the new currents.

The need for vigilance is mainly stems from the fact that the extensive technological development makes it almost impossible to predict which competencies are ‘must-haves’ in the future. And that brings us back to Simon Fuglsang Østergaard’s point about ‘just-in-time-learning’: “the ability to identify needs and acquire knowledge when needed will be a crucial competition parameter in the future labour market,” concludes Simon Fuglsang Østergaard.