Predictions are one individual’s hunch based on the information at hand. Rarely do long-term predictions come true in just one year. Many of my 2018 predictions continue to head in the anticipated direction, some faster than others. However, what is clear is that, as happened to the music industry ten years ago, transportation (Uber, Lyft, Turo, etc.), lodging (Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc.), and more recently, higher and continuing education, is experiencing significant change.

  • 2018 Prediction #1: Millennials will find their voice and increase their influence. I predicted that Millennials would find their voice and they are growing in power and with influence. They played a major role in the mid-term elections, were the driving generation of the #metoo movement, and were inspired by the Parkland movement. Millennials were criticized for their inactivity in the last presidential election, as well as the midterm in 2014. Millennials are coming of age and are quickly becoming the managers and leaders in the workforce.
  • 2018 Prediction #2: Alternative credentials will rise as a result of Millennial influence. This prediction should continue rising over the next few years. While there is very little direct data on the full spectrum of alternative credentials in either 2017 or 2018, NCES reports that credit certificates continue to rise with at least eight consecutive years of growth, with the last reporting year being 2015-2016. Class Central also reported that 101 million users enrolled in a MOOC. While this number declined from the past year, the number of paid users increased as well as gross revenues to MOOC providers.
  • 2018 Prediction #3:  Business and higher education will become better partners. Change continues to happen regarding employers and higher education. The balance of power appears to be shifting more toward employers as the economy shifts with higher education showing signs of weakness. The National Student Clearinghouse in its latest report (Spring 2018) showed that higher education enrollments declining by 1.3% from spring 2017. Also, since 2016, more than a hundred colleges and universities have closed. My next blog will show industries with anticipated growth for 2019 and 2020.
  • 2018 Prediction #4: Business and industry will push for more STEM degrees and graduates, but with that comes opportunity in other disciplines. While IPEDs and NCES data is not out for 2018, Campus Technology and the National Student Clearinghouse shows enrollments in computer and information science degrees, as well as science technologies, have grown significantly from fall 2016 to 2017. Coding bootcamp providers are also reporting growth in their noncredit intensive programs.
  • 2018 Prediction #5: Focus on enrollment, retention and inquiry management as marketers figure out major technology and traditional marketing shifts. The focus on enrollment management is a long-term strategy, one that we believe continues its importance. There is very little longitudinal data on whether PCO marketers and enrollment managers are shifting their attention and resources to support CRM, dashboard, conversion, and other enrollment management tactics, but we feel that units still value these principles more and that they are needed to show ROI and demonstrate budget transparency.
  • 2018 Prediction #6: Content will become closer to the customer through technology. Content and knowledge was predicted to be more easily accessible and not necessarily residing in the mind and experiences of a professor. This long-term trend will require skilled professionals such as an instructional designer, multimedia specialist, content developer, or training professional to help connect more readily-available or instant content or experiences to pedagogy. In fact, colleges and universities, as well as K-12 educators and corporate trainers will continue to seek these professionals. These professionals are forecasted to see a growth rate of 13% between 2018 and 2028, which translates into 73,762 new well-paying jobs (see Table 1).  

  • 2018 Prediction #7: Competition will force higher education to explore previously ignored, underleveraged or untapped markets. 2018 was just one year in this prediction, which we feel will span multiple years. However, many corporations announced in 2018 that some of their jobs may not necessarily require a degree and that other factors would be considered. This statement alone should have higher education providers rethinking their strategy to potentially unbundle existing education products or create new certificates that might better prepare a candidate for one of these jobs. Some higher education institutions also announced new “lifelong” engagement strategies aimed at better serving alumni and other stakeholders, including local or regional employers or K-12 audiences.

From a prediction standpoint, 2019 won’t be that different from 2018, except that Millennials and Generation Z are slowly, but consistently finding their voice and becoming power players in the new economy. They should continue to accelerate some of the predictions. In the past year, the world saw major advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics; autonomous and electric vehicles; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), such as drones; financial technology (we use less physical money and more digital money!); health technology and other industries. In 2018, we also saw the introduction of many new tax changes, announcement of new facilities by Amazon and Google, increases and new technologies related to gaming and virtual reality, the legalization of cannabis in some areas, and greater global adoption of green energy sources, all of which should have implications for higher education and professional and continuing education.


The growing use of voice search and virtual digital assistants will have an increasing impact on how we deliver, search for and market higher education.

I watch the many ways in which my 7-year-old grandson engages with Google Home when he drops by the house. Whenever a question of history or fact arises, I pull out my phone or walk to my open laptop, but he always beats me to the answer by simply speaking out: “Hey Google …”

This is just a seed of a rapidly growing phenomenon in human-computer interface that will enable far greater personalization and reach. Voice recognition and artificially intelligent interpretation are at the core of these technologies. As this rolls out into a pervasive interface, we are seeing changes in the way in which higher education is conducted.

Georgia Tech, Northeastern University and Arizona State University are among the universities leading the way in embracing voice assistants in supporting students and faculty members. “Call it a next-level chatbot, a natural extension of existing smartphone apps, or even a way to demonstrate technological prowess in a crowded student-recruitment market. Believers say that the use of the technology will only expand, and that lessons from the first year of student use across the country can instruct future adopters,” Lindsay Ellis wrote in The Chronicle. The early applications are mostly focused on everyday student needs on campus, but clearly the future is the way in which this technology migrates into research and the curriculum.

Imagine a true “student assistant” that links to AI applications and can conduct customized research. For example, a student might ask the assistant to list five articles on a topic that is being discussed in class — such as the impact of the midterm election results on climate policy. A trivial extension of that inquiry would be to send the results to a printer. And how about a logical extension that is nontrivial: asking a computer program to write a five-page paper citing those five articles, print the paper and email an electronic version to the student?

Manuscript Writer by sciNote is AI software that claims to assemble the key pieces of a research paper. Reviews of the grammatical quality at this point are not strong, but the potential of this technology is undeniable: “The sciNote system is likely to improve, though. In theory, its AI will learn from its mistakes by comparing users’ finished papers to the software’s first attempts. Given what we’ve already seen in automated journalism, it’s not so crazy to predict that the quality of science paper robo-prose will soon become much better than it is today. Perhaps we’ll even reach the point where it’s about as good (or about as bad) as the work of average human scientists.”

How far away are we from a full synthesis of emerging capabilities to do original research and writing — all triggered by a voice command? Not far. And, one has to ask, how does the advent of this technology impact the way in which we teach? Do we need to re-examine our pedagogies in light of very smart assistants?

Outside the classroom, voice-search technologies are affecting the way in which prospective students learn about our universities, degrees and programs. Increasing numbers of students are asking Alexa, Google and Siri, “Which university in this state has the highest ranked M.B.A.?” or “What is the average starting salary for a blockchain developer?” and “What universities offer certificates in blockchain development?”

The questions lead us to ask if our marketing departments are optimizing for these kinds of questions. This step beyond search engine optimization is called voice engine optimization, and it differs significantly from what we have doing for the past decade: “When it comes to voice search, getting to the top is more important than ever,” Emily Alford from marketing technology site ClickZ states. “On a desktop search for businesses, there are pages of options. On mobile, there are less, but being in the top four will probably get you noticed. Voice search, however, really only gives one or two options.”

Voice enabling is the funnel through which we will access increasingly smart technologies. As these technologies evolve and further intertwine into a conversant smart system, we must respond and anticipate the changes that are only months away. A good place to begin is implementing VEO for all of our programs.

Universities must be responding to this new trend to capture new prospective students, and to make sure you are sending current students to the proper resources that will enrich their time on campus. Have you begun implementing VEO at your school? If not, one of the best ways to start is to simply act like a student might and use your devices to ask the questions one might ask in natural speech, and then assess the position of your pages and tweak, text and repeat as needed. The changes you find could be small, and their potential impact for your school could be transformative.

This article was first posted December 12th in Inside Higher Ed’s Inside Digital Learning. 

Partnership Aims to Create Opportunities for Students to Earn Credentials with Labor-Market Value

New York, December 17, 2018: Workcred, an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) affiliate, has been awarded a grant from Lumina Foundation to partner with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) to facilitate coordination between higher education institutions and credentialing bodies to bolster student success and career outcomes.

In the U.S., nearly 11.2 million adults who have a high school diploma or less also hold a professional certification or license. Yet there is often a lack of awareness of how certifications can be used to achieve better educational outcomes. Through the partnership, Workcred, APLU, and UPCEA will explore how higher education institutions and certification bodies can better collaborate to provide students with opportunities to earn certifications as part of their undergraduate degree program.

The partners will host a series of convenings throughout the U.S.—which will include experts representing higher education institutions and accredited certification bodies—in order to fulfill the following objectives:

  • Forge relationships between higher educational institutions and credentialing bodies and facilitate information exchange at several sessions convened by the collaborative;
  • Enhance transparency through information exchanges and reporting so the requirements and value of both degrees and certifications are respected by industry and employers; and
  • Summarize the key findings and themes in a framework that can be used for pilot programs seeking to align efforts across institutions.

Workcred aims to strengthen workforce quality by improving the credentialing system, through preparing employers, workers, educators, and governments to use credentials effectively. It helps advance its mission through connecting and educating stakeholders to create a more integrated and effective credentialing system; helping stakeholders better understand the quality, value, and effectiveness of credentials and make informed decisions; conducting research to address workforce credentialing issues; and providing thought leadership, education, and training.

“We are excited to be part of this partnership to heighten awareness and collaboration to increase quality assurance and transparency about degrees and certifications,” said Roy Swift, Ph.D., executive director, Workcred. “Most of all, we are thrilled to help bridge the divide between all stakeholders, so that certifications can add value to the U.S. workforce.”

“Public universities are committed to student success and to helping to close the talent gap in the North American economy. APLU is pleased to be part of this partnership because it will help universities provide greater value to their students and to the employers who hire them,” said Sheila Martin, Ph.D., vice president for economic development and community engagement. “We will ensure that our members are part of this important discussion and that the results lead to pilot programs that can be tested and scaled to achieve impacts on quality assurance, transparent credentials, affordable pathways, and first credentials for adults.”

“Collaborating with Workcred, APLU, and the Lumina Foundation on this project is the continuation of our focus on quality postsecondary credentials, an area that UPCEA has led—in partnership with its members—for more than 100 years,” stated Robert J. Hansen, Ph.D., chief executive officer of UPCEA. “We are eager to convene postsecondary educators, certification bodies, and employers to consider the role credentials can have in a learner’s portfolio of knowledge and skills. We believe credential pathways are necessary for student mobility and learner success.”

“We hope that this important new collaboration to engage higher education institutions and certification bodies on curriculum development will help better prepare students for certification exams, and help students bolster the value of their degrees as they gain the attention of employers in a competitive job landscape,” said Holly Zanville, senior advisor for credentialing and workforce development at Lumina Foundation.


About Workcred

Formed in 2014, Workcred is an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) whose mission is to strengthen workforce quality by improving the credentialing system, ensuring its ongoing relevance, and preparing employers, workers, educators, and governments to use it effectively. Workcred’s vision is a labor market that relies on the relevance, quality, and value of workforce credentials for opportunities, growth, and development.

About Lumina Foundation

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

About APLU

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 238 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. The association’s work is furthered by an active and effective advocacy arm that works with Congress and the administration as well as the media to advance federal policies that strengthen public universities and benefit the students they serve.


UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education. For more than 100 years, UPCEA has served most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. Founded in 1915, the association serves its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities, and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners (such as adults that have historically been underserved by postsecondary institutions) and public policy issues.


UPCEA was pleased to welcome 58 new member institutions in 2018:

  • Arapahoe Community College
  • Baylor University
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Broward College
  • Campbell University
  • College of Lake County
  • College of William & Mary
  • Collin College
  • Concordia College
  • Dixie State University
  • Drake University
  • Duke University
  • Duquesne University
  • Endicott College
  • Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • George Mason University
  • Goshen College
  • Hamline University
  • Hampton University
  • Indiana University East
  • Indiana University Kokomo
  • Indiana University Northwest
  • Indiana University South Bend
  • Indiana University Southeast
  • Juniata College
  • Kapi’olani Community College
  • LIM College
  • Louisiana State University Shreveport
  • Maine College of Art
  • Marquette University
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Miami University
  • Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
  • Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Montclair State University
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • Norwich University
  • Purdue University Global
  • Resurrection University
  • Santa Monica College
  • Sierra Nevada College
  • Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
  • Southern Utah University
  • Springfield Technical Community College
  • The Master’s University
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Calgary
  • University of Florida
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of New Orleans
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • University of the Arts
  • University of Wisconsin Colleges Online
  • West Los Angeles College
  • Western Governors University


See all UPCEA members here, and learn more about membership here

Just like that, another year is almost over. If it’s been as much of a whirlwind for you as it has for us, you’re likely struggling to make sense of all that changed on the digital learning landscape this year.

Our second annual year-end recap is here to help. We gathered some of the most thoughtful observers of the field to ask these three questions:

  • What digital learning development from the past 12 months (either a specific piece of news or a trend) will we still be talking about five years from now?
  • Why is this development likely to stick around as a topic of conversation and a driver of innovation?
  • How will the conversation evolve in the coming years?

Here’s what they said.


Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning, University of Illinois at Springfield

This will be remembered as the year that higher education realized traditional certificates and degrees were no longer fully serving the needs of learners. Driven by advancements in technology, jobs in the workplace have begun shifting and disappearing underneath the graduates holding those jobs. Whether you call these changes the rise of the 60-year learner, lifelong learning or lifetime learning, the message is the same. No longer will one, two or three degrees suffice to support a career. No longer will occasional, continuing education sustain the learning needs spanning a career.

In June, Harvard’s dean of continuing education, Hunt Lambert, hosted a symposium on the 60-year curriculum. Also in the summer, Washington University’s vice provost of Continuum College, Rovy Branon, wrote about certificates supporting lifelong learning for the work force. Building in part upon the remarkable record of Georgia Tech professional education led by Nelson Baker, in April the university adopted an extraordinary vision for the future, Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Learning — calling for the Georgia Tech Commitment to a Lifetime Education.

Looking ahead, we must envision anew the way we serve the learner. Emerging are models of a subscription approach to support lifelong students on a large, continuing scale. Among early examples of subscription is the Michigan Ross School of Business, where they offer a free lifelong subscription to selected continuing education. Some years ago, my good colleague Vickie Cook taught me a new learning practice of self-determined learning, heutagogy. In the coming years, providing lifelong career learning will evolve beyond continuing education classes into university subscriptions to an online heutagogical learning environment of robust continuous support of self-determined learners. Students will return again and again to fulfill their needs.

Read the full story here.

Higher education groups request exemption for Title IV student aid and international students

​UPCEA today joined over 150,000 groups and individuals submitting comments on the Trump administration’s proposal​ to overhaul how the government evaluates whether a would-be immigrant is “not likely to be a public charge”—that is, not likely to use public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid, a requirement of many visa categories and green card applications.

The administration’s proposed new definition would require an extended investigation into an immigrant’s history and job prospects, and give wide-ranging discretion to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reject an immigrant’s application for admission or for an extension or change of status, as well as reject applications from non-immigrants such as international students seeking student visas.

At issue is how the government looks at public benefits an immigrant has already used or is likely to use. While only cash benefits are considered right now, the new approach would include Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), Section 8 and other housing benefits, and Medicare Part D subsidies for low-income earners.

In comments submitted on behalf of UPCEA and 30 other higher education associations, ACE expressed concern over how the proposed change would impact American students with immigrant family members as well as international students, including graduate and professional students who upon graduation may become legally employed in the United States.

While the associations are “deeply troubled” that the scope of the definition will include programs like SNAP and Medicaid, their comments focused on Title IV federal student aid programs and international students on F-1 and J-1 visas.

“Under current law, federal student aid is only available to U.S. citizens or green card holders, with very few exceptions. Nevertheless, we have heard anecdotal reports of students who are U.S. citizens turning down financial aid packages because they are concerned that receiving educational assistance may adversely impact their non-U.S. citizen family members’ applications for admission or legal residency,” the groups wrote.

Although Title IV programs are not included in the definition, the associations are asking that they be specifically excluded to help curb a potential chilling effect on first-generation American college students.

On the international student and scholar issue, the groups believe the expansion of public charge to apply to non-immigrants, including F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, and H-1B specialty workers, will create further delays in visa processing and discourage international students and scholars from coming to the United States, exacerbating a downward trend in international student enrollment at American colleges and universities. They are also asking for F-1 and J-1 student and exchange visitors to be explicitly excluded.

To read the full letter, click here​.

Higher education marketers are faced with significant challenges in attracting new adult students into their professional, continuing, and online (PCO) programs. The target market is now primarily spread across four generations of adult learners, recent Generation Z graduates (those 22 or younger) and Gen Zers not going to college, Millennials (those 23 to 37 years of age) who are becoming managers and parents, Generation X (those 38 to 53) who are new organizational and societal leaders, and Baby Boomers who are slowly looking for the employment exit to spend more time with the multigenerational grandchildren.

PCO marketers are also faced with a shifting portfolio of programs. They market online degrees, noncredit certificates, pre-college programs, programs for those in retirement, technology bootcamps, and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), among other credentials. In addition to the diverse credentials and programs, content is also changing as the economy shifts with artificial intelligence, digital currency, healthcare technology, evolving transportation, transportation science, and new retailing.

A recent UPCEA survey of 90 marketing departments show that PCO units spend on average just over a million dollars ($1.1M) on 7.8 marketing staff and advertising and media expenditures. Of this amount, just over a half ($560K) is spent on media or advertising. The $1.1M spent on marketing contributes to generating $18.6M for the PCO unit and institution. With marketing being such a strategic piece of the revenue and success puzzle, why are we failing or not optimizing the conversion of the expensive inquirer?

Another recent UPCEA study showed that six-in-ten Millennials will give a correct email during an inquiry and half provide a true name. Half provide an accurate telephone number while the majority provide a false physical address if it is required, but not perceived as essential. After contact information is provided, most will tolerate another question or two. 

However, a review of twenty PCO websites and forms shows that many ask for too much and may risk losing the relationship. On average, a PCO institution will ask the inquirer to complete a dozen questions, on their digital form. Units also make many of these questions and fields required.  Instead of building the relationship through multiple points of contacts, PCO units try and force the young Millennial or older Gen Z’er to complete the form to get the information they ultimately desire. 

As a result, the likelihood of leads providing false information or abandoning the form is almost certain to increase. PCO units have also forced new adults to answer more questions than they prefer, as well as ask what they may perceive as irrelevant questions. Lastly, almost half (9 out of 20) the PCO forms we reviewed provide no opportunity for inquirers to ask a freeform question nor do they provide a real-time assistant or live chat function. So, why have many PCO units failed here?

  • They are working with legacy systems and processes designed around the Boomer or Generation X adult learner.
  • They have refused to challenge the defaults of third-party systems or that of the central IT unit of the higher education institution to redesign the form around the Gen Z’er or young Millennial. Some state that “We can’t change the variables. It’s part of XYZ and the system doesn’t allow it.”
  • Some marketers, enrollment managers or IT staff are under-resourced and try to squeeze too much information from one engagement. In doing so, they are losing out on many potentially qualified leads, filtering them out unnecessarily.
  • Some units lack a proper CRM or have not automated steps to break down information needs into multiple engagements, thus forcing the relationship into a single 12+ required question form.
  • Some maintain a subtle arrogance that their higher education product is in high demand and if the potential learner wants it, it must be on the institution’s or unit’s terms.
  • An occasional few use the process as a way to screen or qualify the lead. One institution interviewed stated that if the potential adult learner cannot provide the information to the unit, then they aren’t a good candidate for them. This is a very dangerous ideology for a PCO unit, as it is likely to use false or biased assumptions.

As PCO units move into a new year, investing significant budgets on generating leads, they need to challenge their processes for centricity around the new learner, as well as generate transparent conversion metrics to leaders and program managers to avoid simple, but costly mistakes.

Much is written about strengthening the link between education and employment. Jobs are changing and likely to continue to evolve over the coming decades. Education must evolve, too.

How do we make sense of all that is being written and said about the linkage between education and employment? Certainly, we are seeing effects of a shift toward increased value in education that is most relevant and responsive to employment. We can see that in the job market — in both salaries and position openings. We can see the linkage in competency-based learning initiatives springing up at colleges and universities, both large and small, across the country.

But where do these patterns point in the longer term?

I really appreciated the approach (and title) of an Indianapolis Recorder report, “Don’t Let Your Diploma Hit Its Expiration Date”; it succinctly sums up the situation. Long gone are the days that a diploma marked the end of necessary education. The learning in many, if not most, fields “expires” and becomes dated due to the advances in technology and changing needs of society. The job market is rapidly changing.

What are the highest-demand jobs that the Federal Reserve has identified? They include engineering, finance, sales, construction and manufacturing, and information technology.

The Fed publishes the Beige Book, more formally called the Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions, that comes out eight times a year, just prior to each regular Fed Reserve meeting. The September Beige Book summarized conditions as tight:

While construction workers, truck drivers, engineers, and other high-skill workers remained in short supply, a number of Districts also noted shortages of lower-skill workers at restaurants, retailers, and other types of firms. Employment grew modestly or moderately across most of the nation, though Dallas noted robust job growth, while three Districts reported little change that partly reflected a dearth of applicants. Six of the twelve Districts cited instances in which labor shortages were constraining sales or delaying projects. Wage growth was mostly characterized as modest or moderate, though a number of Districts cited steep wage hikes for construction workers. Some Districts indicated that businesses were increasingly using benefits — such as vacation time, flexible schedules, and bonuses — to attract and retain workers, as well as putting more resources into training.

Jobs in these fields are tight and, yet, employer requirements are tightening even further. No longer willing to accept the standard-issue college graduate, employers are increasingly looking to hire those persons with a relevant set of professional skills, including soft skills such as leadership and communication.

Half of the Fed districts note that (qualified) labor shortages were constraining or delaying projects. Also worth noting is that businesses in some districts were putting more resources into training. That’s a wake-up call for all of us in continuing, professional and online education. Why are employers increasing their training and not turning to us to coordinate and provide that training?

So what are we doing to change this situation of employers expanding their own professional development? This should trigger further outreach to business and industry regionally and beyond to see what we can do to meet the changing needs. We should recognize the 60-year-learner vision that Harvard’s Hunt Lambert, the University of Washington’s Rovy Branon and other leaders in our field have championed as an approach to meet the evolving needs in our field.

The Georgia Tech Commitment to a Lifetime Education recognizes the needs of the learner/workers are changing and will continue to change throughout their lifetimes; those institutions that recognize and adapt to these needs will thrive in the future.

This article was first posted November 28th in Inside Higher Ed’s Inside Digital Learning.