Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Director of the National Council for Online Education

Changing Market for Postsecondary Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has served to accelerate the changing market for postsecondary education.

We know all too well that the current virus pandemic is impacting enrollments in the near term, but this is temporary — the pandemic will pass. It will take months, perhaps even a year or two, but this threat will be behind us. We will be wiser and, I hope, better prepared for such disasters in the future.

Meanwhile, trends that began before the virus emerged are growing stronger. These changes will impact the demand for programs and modes of delivery for the long term. Employers are seeing expanding pressure to provide rapidly changing advanced technical services and products. Their needs are growing while the supply chain of qualified workers is tightening. As a result, we are seeing a growing demand for lifelong learning. We are already seeing students of all ages returning for continuing and professional education. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average tenure of American workers with their current employer is 4.2 years. That means that workers are not just changing jobs, but changing places of employment at a rapid pace. Advancing in this environment requires regular training and advancing education. Upskilling is the key to success in this fourth industrial revolution.

Strada Education has released the results of their most recent edition of the longitudinal study of prospective learners. With more than 5,000 surveyed, the nonprofit Strada reports, “We expect this is a wide range of formal and informal education activities,” Dave Clayton, senior vice president for consumer insights at Strada, said in an email. “As we prepare for economic downturn, everyone’s wondering about the implications for education — we don’t fully know the impact yet, but we’re tracking this closely. What we do know so far, based on this survey and our historic surveys, is that Americans want to see direct career benefits from their education.”

We need to respond to these trends in student demand. As Clayton points out, adult learners want their programs delivered online and directly tied to career development and advancement. That is our expanding role in higher education — online professional and continuing education. It is the growth sector of higher ed.

The first step in this process is to identify job market needs and student demands. We can do that by checking in with the business and industry in our region — create an advisory committee of business and commerce leaders. National resources are already in place to help guide us in tracking demand for new employee qualifications.

LinkedIn Learning released a list of the skills that companies need most in 2020. This valuable report is worth a careful read. Among the top soft skills are creativity, persuasion, collaboration and adaptability. These are topics that can be best addressed in short courses. They must be online — available anywhere, any time. Even self-paced modules can be effective. They are most effective for students seeking jobs if they carry badges that identify the specific skills learned and evidence of that learning. The LinkedIn Learning report also lists the hard skills that top its 2020 list. These include blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning and artificial intelligence. These skills may require a series of modules or classes to master. For hard skills a certificate that also carries badges for each increment is the best approach. The badges will certify the learning in each incremental part — module — of the certificate.

This is the new role for higher education in the fourth industrial revolution. That does not mean we need to discard our degree programs. Not at all. Instead we can use these approaches to build on-ramps to the degree programs and to build career ramps from the degrees to jobs. We will see graduates returning to us for just-in-time, up-to-date learning opportunities to build their e-portfolios. Our connections to students will not end with graduation but will continue throughout the following half century and more if we continue to provide offerings that meet their needs.

As the economy reopens after we have subdued the coronavirus, it will be clear that we have arrived in the fourth industrial revolution, where demands for leaders, collaborators and communicators will be paramount to advance the incredible technologies that are now emerging. Our success in higher education hinges on our recognizing and responding to those needs by providing relevant new career paths for new students and upskilling career-advancing paths for returning learners.

Are you connecting with business and industry leaders to determine their needs and preferences for new hires? Are you using badging, e-portfolios, certifications and related strategies to meet these demands? Will you be prepared for the reopening of the world economy?

 

This article was originally published in Inside Higher Ed’s Transforming Teaching & Learning blog.

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Marketing and Enrollment Management in a Time of Uncertainty

Institutions of higher education are faced with major challenges and have leaned toward many of their professional, continuing and online (PCO) education units to not only assist with bringing traditional teaching faculty into a more aggressive world of online learning, but to also supplement lost revenue and enrollments due to students not returning to campus…

Read More

Racial Justice and the Mission of Professional, Continuing, and Online Education

UPCEA and its members are deeply troubled by the recent senseless killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, and the lives taken before him. Many others have been affected in the wake of these tragedies. This, combined with the health care disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, underscore the systemic racism that…

Read More

UPCEA Signs Letter to Hill on Broadband Access and Infrastructure

Twenty-nine (29) higher education associations and organizations, including UPCEA, joined EDUCAUSE on June 5, 2020, in sending a letter to Congress on significant broadband issues for higher education. The groups asked Congress to consider the needs of economically distressed college students in relation to efforts to bridge the digital divide during COVID-19 pandemic, specifically citing the Supporting Connectivity…

Read More

UPCEA Partners with LX Pathways by iDesign

We’ve partnered to help you increase capacity around instructional design Do you need to increase your team’s capacity around instructional design? Would you like to add instructional design to your skillset? Great news! UPCEA has recently partnered with iDesign to offer even more online professional development through iDesign’s self-paced learning opportunities, LX Pathways. Our partnership…

Read More

Just Released: UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Credential Innovation

Over the past five years UPCEA has published two Hallmarks of Excellence frameworks, first in Online Leadership and then Professional and Continuing Education. These quality frameworks have been endorsed and used by countless organizations and institutions as they evaluate, enhance, and sometimes even build professional, continuing, and online enterprises. Today, I am so pleased to…

Read More

Colleges Show Great Interest in Alternative Credentials But Weak Follow-Through (Campus Technology)

No matter what type of alternative credential students are earning, most institutions don’t retain official information about it. In a recent survey, just a third of institutions (38 percent) that offer alternative credentials said they allow those to be represented on students’ university records. Nearly half (48 percent) said they weren’t in student records; and…

Read More

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.


UPCEA is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. UPCEA is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.

We offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


Click here to learn more.

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.