June 5, 2023

'Learning Sparks' educates users of all ages on topics aligned with jobs of the future

Want to understand the local effects of climate change or explore the brain of a butterfly?

From TikTok to master classes, access to educational videos has never been easier, but it may be hard to verify the accuracy of the content, or learners may face paywall barriers.

That’s where Arizona State University's new Learning Sparks comes in. Learning Sparks is a series of approximately 150 — and growing — meticulously crafted videos that feature the expertise of more than 40 ASU faculty members.

The videos are available to anyone with an email address to view at anytime, anywhere and on any device. 

Combining the film techniques of a high-production documentary with the insights of ASU faculty, each five-minute video harnesses a bite-sized yet potent learning experience. Learning Sparks aims to become a go-to place for those seeking direction and understanding in a rapidly shifting world of work.

In its recent Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum reported that nearly 25% of jobs are expected to change by 2027 with 69 million new jobs created — pinpointing AI and machine learning, sustainability and analytics as vital skills.

Jake Pinholster, executive dean of ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and Arts, is one of the faculty members who created a video focusing on the fast-growing field of extended reality and artificial intelligence.

“I hope that learners feel a little less intimidated by all the apparent chaos around emerging technologies like extended reality and AI and a little bit more excited about the possibilities for what they might accomplish with those technologies,” Pinholster said.

Learning Sparks videos are also designed for all types of learners — from K–20 students to mid-career professionals and lifelong learners. Through ASU’s Learning Enterprise, which advances universal access to learning at all life stages, ASU faculty members guide learners across a range of topics, including generative AI, semiconductors, pollution and virtual reality.

“Our aim is for Learning Sparks to be that point of engagement for people of all ages, regardless of background, to empower the kind of higher learning that changes the world,” said Meredyth Hendricks, associate vice president of ASU CareerCatalyst.

By making the big lessons from faculty highly digestible, Learning Sparks also makes it easier for learners to formally pursue degrees, certificates and microcredentials at ASU. 

Ara Austin, clinical assistant professor in the School of Molecular Science, was invigorated by the opportunity to adapt science principles to engage a wider audience — and entice more people to the field.

“The goal was to make complex chemistry topics seem more approachable, and also to connect those topics to real-life examples that are meaningful to the general audience,” Austin said.

Maria Anguiano, executive vice president for ASU’s Learning Enterprise, sees Learning Sparks as a gateway to further lifelong learning.

"These experiences were designed to ignite curiosity for learners in a way that catches fire and turns into a passion or even a fulfilling career," Anguiano said. "And they can come back as often as they like to gain new knowledge and skills along the way."

Written by Tom Haymes and Samantha Becker. Top photo by FJ Gaylor.