New D2L whitepaper, ‘The Future of Lifelong Learning,’ makes case for continuous skills development

Government, higher education and industry all play a role in providing learning opportunities to workers

In this global Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and genetics research are accelerating the transformation of industries, labour markets, and lifestyles. Global learning technology leader D2L released a new whitepaper at the 2020 Education World Forum on the future of work and learning. The paper describes how these forces and the interactions between them are permeating all aspects of our society, driving an increasing need for “lifelong learning.”

The “Future of Lifelong Learning: Designing for a Learning-Integrated Life” offers some solutions to the overarching theme of this year’s forum, ‘One generation – what does it take to transform education?’, while highlighting some questions still to be answered, said D2L Chief Strategy Officer Jeremy Auger.

“While we cannot forecast the future with any certainty, it is clear that there is an increasing importance on the education and workforce development sectors to continually enable working individuals for the jobs of both today and tomorrow,” Auger said. “Achieving the vision of a ‘Learning-Integrated Life,’ or ongoing learning and skills development as the enabler of employability, success, and purpose, requires a paradigm shift in the current models of education and skills development.”

The demand for lifelong learning appears to be strong and growing in both the short-term and the future. Up to 375 million workers across the global workforce—or 14 per cent of all workers—may need to change occupations and learn new skills by 2030. The share can grow much higher in individual economies, for example up to one-third of the workforce in the United States and Germany are affected, and nearly half in Japan.

However, education and training opportunities must be accessible to all, in particular for low-skilled and disadvantaged individuals. A lack of accessibility creates gaps in education and skills, leading to economic disparities. Currently for working-age adults, participation in learning varies substantially across demographic groups. For example, surveys from European countries found that younger adults participate more in training than older age groups (17% of those aged 25-34 versus 5% for those aged 55-64). And the highly educated are four times more likely to participate in training than those in most need of training to maintain and upgrade skills – individuals with a high school education or less. In the European Union alone, over 70 million adults fit the latter category.

D2L’s recommendations in The Future of Lifelong Learning whitepaper include:

  • Acting as a convener, governments should leverage a national strategy to create a shared commitment between government, public education systems, and employers to create a cohesive lifelong learning system.
  • Industry-academic co-design of programs have shown compelling benefits for workers, employers, and educational institutions. Industry-led partnerships with labor organisations should offer similar potential in preparing new workers and upskilling existing workers for changing technologies and business processes.
  • Higher education should address the demand for learning through new, flexible models of learning for adults.
  • Employers and postsecondary institutions must work together to develop models for assessment and recognition based off what already works.
  • Industry and higher education institutions should promote the development of durable skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence, all critical across occupations and for career adaptability.
  • In order for the shift in our learning systems to be realized and to meet the needs of a Learning-Integrated Life, data must flow more seamlessly between government, industry, and education.

This whitepaper is available at