Online Training is Crucial to Business Success
I can’t begin a personal perspective without admitting how challenging this year has been for my team, our higher education partners and teachers, and the kids we all serve. I’m appreciative for the ways my team has stood up for one another as a leader, a parent, and a human, and humbled by all we’ve been able to accomplish together in this challenging year.
What Happened in 2020
There has been much talk during the course of 2020 concerning what will and will not return to “normal” once COVID-19 has been defeated. I can’t forecast the future, but I think many of the innovations and developments we’ve seen this year will endure. And I know two things for sure: first, many students will return to in-person learning, but demand for high-quality online education and shorter, non-degree learning pathways—such as boot camps and short courses—will continue to grow as individuals upskill, reskill, and seek greater educational flexibility. Second, there will be an increase in demand for online undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, millions of people in the United States have lost their jobs. According to recent Labor Department figures, 3.9 million people are unemployed for more than a year. According to Pew Research Center, 46 percent of lower-income adults say they’ve had problems paying their expenses since the pandemic began, and about one-third (32 percent) say it’s been difficult to make rent or mortgage payments. Many positions are no longer available. According to a Strada Education Network poll, more than a third of Americans believe they will require training or education in order to obtain new jobs.
Online Boot Camps and Certificate Programs
Alternative credentials like boot camps and certificates have developed as significant stepping stones to professions in the digital economy, and obtaining a bachelor’s degree from a recognized non-profit institution remains one of the clearest roads to social mobility and great job outcomes in the United States. Universities that can fulfil the expanding requirements of adult learners by providing high-quality, career-related, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities will emerge stronger and more relevant from the epidemic.
This unsteady year, that has been my steady ground: I still believe in the great non-profit university’s ability to satisfy society’s vital requirements, and I see higher education as more robust, adaptive, and innovative than most people believe.
Growth of Online Schools
This year, we witnessed it in action as schools and institutions competed to make remote learning a reality for students. Institutions with current digital education investments and plans were clearly ahead of the curve. Simmons University, a long-time collaborator, has offered online graduate degree programs since 2012 and just launched Complete Degree to give women with an affordable, career-enhancing, and academically demanding undergraduate degree online. In a year when women are being displaced from the labor at alarmingly high rates, this is noteworthy. Another long-time 2U partner, the George Washington University College of Professional Studies, helped us established a scholarship fund for local citizens from the Black and Latinx communities, as well as women and individuals from low-income households, in collaboration with a local workforce development agency.
These schools didn’t have to start from scratch in 2020 when it came to developing a digital and lifelong learning plan; they already had the connections, relationships, and investments in place to better fulfil the needs of students during this turbulent year. Given the massive blow to college finances that has been widely highlighted in the media this year, this is noteworthy. One of the issues we’ll encounter in 2021 is how colleges will find the resources they need to continue their digital transformation and meet students’ requirements. This is clear in my talks with university presidents and provosts, who recognize that more investments in a digital strategy and strategic alliances will be vital to developing a more sustainable future.
According to Harvard, there are now 700 colleges partnering with 200 partners to provide students with high-quality online learning. This is only going to get worse. Edtech companies that have established a commitment to quality and openness in their operations and outcomes can assist schools smooth the way by collaborating with them to develop long-term digital transformation strategies based on science-based learning frameworks. We can also help shift the debate about online education partners away from institutions’ value-add and toward students’ value-add, which is something I’d like to see more of in 2021.
In a recent tweet, James DeVaney, assistant vice provost at the University of Michigan, said that we “need to change from ‘what’s your rev share’ to ‘what value do you create?'” ‘What is your contribution to learning?’ is a question adapted to higher education. Reach, research, money development, reputation, and revenue are all important to me, but only in the context of learning. That’s the level of transparency we require.”