Benchmark This!

Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

The Lego™ Generation, Stackable Credentials and the New Economy

With Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon and lockdowns and more preventive measures emerging, the world has hope despite a rising number of cases in the U.S. and in other countries.  What is clear is that global economies will never be the same.  Until the pandemic and the virus are controlled, economies are not likely to recover.  When they do, many industries will grow from where they were before the pandemic (automation, robotics, logistics, data sciences, renewable energy) and many will contract (retail, fine dining, travel, tourism), while others will transform (food, agriculture, manufacturing, banking/finance, sports/entertainment, healthcare).  As a result, higher education will have to follow suit and adapt teaching and learning, educational delivery, and credentials to align with the changing marketplace.

 

Further complicating the post-pandemic economy will be the new employee in the new work environment.  The pandemic showed the world an alternative economy where many individuals work remotely with diverse co-workers via video.  Many who lost employment will be forever scarred and will look for ways to keep this from happening in the future.  As a result, values have changed, especially with the new workers … Generation Z.

 

Like their Lego™ toys, Generation Z in the U.S. grew up in a stackable, modular K-12 education.  Associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees will not go away, especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.  However, a new economy may warrant higher education institutions to rapidly implement alternative credentials, such as badges, certificates, and micro-credentials.  For Generation Z  (those 18 to 24 years of age) and young Millennials (25 to 29 year-olds) entering the workforce, a modular and stackable form of education that is delivered in both a convenient (online when appropriate) and preferred manner (classroom when possible) that increases the likelihood of employment will be the educational model and pathway for many.  Institutions of higher education may not be able to revise their existing degrees or develop new degrees at a pace required of the new economy.

 

The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) has the experience and leadership to help colleges and universities move faster to this new educational model with quality offerings.  UPCEA leaders were pioneers in the race to online (Sandeen 2013).[i]  They were also foundational to community-based education, as well as professional noncredit education with many issuing continuing education units (CEUs) and certificates.[ii]

 

There are signs that alternative credentials have staying power.  Strada Education shows growth and preference for skills-based and nondegree credentials.[iii]  A part of the optimal education model includes noncredit to credit pathways where learning, regardless of its being credit or noncredit, should count toward a degree.  A recent UPCEA membership survey shows that many institutions (43%) are moving in this direction.  Of these, approximately three-quarters are in the exploration or pilot stage of building out processes for noncredit-to-credit transfer.[iv]  With noncredit-to-credit in the works and badging and alternative credentials gaining momentum, plugging them in or fitting the pieces together to a larger credential such as a degree seems inevitable, especially given the anticipated speed toward a post-pandemic recovery.  Like Legos™, stackable credentials, whether they are purposefully designed noncredit badges fitting into a certificate which in turn fits into an associate’s degree which fits into a bachelor’s degree, or graduate certificates fitting into a master’s degree, will be the best educational model for the new, more nimble pandemic-sensitive economy.  The results of UPCEA research and a possible model for alternative credentials can be found at here. 

 

Lego™ was not always a stackable “brick”; it was a toy company first and had to evolve over time.  It evolved from a limited variety of colored bricks to a more complicated, but consumer-focused experience with the franchise having small toy sets fitting into a larger thematic toy experience designed around a child’s imagination.  Colleges and universities need to continue to evolve and innovate, creating an educational experience that is stackable, adaptable and relevant to the larger landscape … our economy and society.

 

 

 

[i] Sandeen, C., The Emerging World of Alternative Credentials, Higher Education Today, October 1, 2013.

[ii] Fong, J., Janzow, P. and Peck, K., Demographic Shifts in Educational Demand and the Rise of Alternative Credentials, UPCEA Publication, June 2016.

[iii] Fain, P., Alternative Credentials on the Rise, InsideHigherEd, August 27, 2020.

[iv] Ruhland, G., Wilson, L., von Doetinchem, S., and Fong, J., Non-Credit-to-Credit Pathway Activities, 2020 UPCEA West Presentation, October 13, 2020.

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

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.


Data that tells your story.

Whether you need to assess the viability of a new program, find out how you stack up with the competition or would like a program portfolio review, we can assist with research and data that will help move your unit forward. Your decisions impact the quality of your operation, as well as the bottom line. We’ll provide data that does more than sit on a page—it’s data that tells the story.

The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


Click here to learn more.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Data Privacy Regulations Set to Impact Higher Education Marketing and Enrollment

For 25 years, the collection and trading of financial, social, personal, and location data via digital means has been a booming, multi-billion-dollar business. Web cookies and other tracking technologies, such as personal identifiable information (PII), have basically followed digital users almost everywhere they went, and they rarely had much control over what was collected and…

Read More

UPCEA Seeks Part-Time Data Analyst to Join Center for Research and Strategy Team

UPCEA is currently seeking a part-time Data Analyst for a fully remote position with our Center for Research and Strategy team.   The Data Analyst is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and transforming data into actionable insights on various projects for UPCEA. Role responsibilities include identifying, gathering, and analyzing data to produce understandable and insightful figures and…

Read More

In Memoriam: Karen Swan

Long-time UPCEA member and colleague Karen Swan passed away in early September 2021. Dr. Swan served as professor of education at the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. Previously, she served as research professor at Kent State University’s Research Center for Educational Technology. Dr. Swan completed her doctorate in…

Read More

Investing in Future Talent: Results of Staffing Needs Snap Poll

With society adapting to a second year of the pandemic, institutions of higher education struggle to find a place of strength in a quickly transforming economy. For obvious reasons, many colleges and universities are banking on a full recovery of demand for undergraduate and graduate degrees and the robustness of the campus experience. Those that…

Read More

Infrastructure Package Passes Senate + $3.5 Trillion “New Deal” Budget Passes House of Representatives | Policy Matters (August 2021)

Major Updates Infrastructure Package Passes Senate + “New Deal” Budget Passes House of Representatives The bipartisan infrastructure package passed the Senate, 69-30, providing a major upgrade to American transportation, broadband investment, water systems, and more, totaling $1 trillion. The legislation includes $14 billion to provide financial assistance to eligible households, including students who receive a…

Read More

Reflections on trends in student success

While many of our colleagues across the country are in the throes of fall orientation, the first weeks of classes, and maybe even a little bit of college football, those of us on the quarter system have well over a month until our fall courses start. And if I’m being honest, I’m still knee deep…

Read 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.