As far as higher education is concerned, plenty is changing in terms of how individuals are gaining skills and knowledge, and how these credentials are being delivered.
No longer constrained by traditional pathways, students all around the world are now looking to the Internet and online learning to boost their credentials with a view to becoming specialists in their respective fields.
Hoping to shed some valuable insight into how exactly things are changing in this space, Jeff Maggioncalda — CEO of leading online learning platform Coursera — recently took time to host a media briefing covering pertinent developments and trends we might expect to see in the near future.
Here's what we managed to gleam from the session:
Even universities are recognizing the importance of online learning.
During the briefing, we learned that in many parts of the world, universities are adopting online courses and MOOCs as part of their degrees and certifications, which indicates more widespread readiness for online learning as the way forward.
To illustrate the point, Coursera now has over 3,500 universities around the world incorporating specific courses from the online learning company into their own certifications. 175 universities have partnered with Coursera to offer fully online courses and certificates, and many of these work with Coursera directly to offer full-fledged degrees that are now obtainable through 100-percent online learning.
Take for instance, Brickfields Asia College in Malaysia, which now blends various courses from Coursera into several of its curriculums — namely business, law, media and communications, and digital technology.
Students studying for selected diplomas or degrees in these disciplines will undergo in-person classes while also supplementing their learnings with smaller courses provided by Coursera, creating a hybrid combo of traditional and online learning that should become more mainstream as soon as education industry decision-makers become more acquainted with the concept.
According to Jeff, one of the reasons this is a net positive for students is that it encourages education to learners that would otherwise be unavailable with traditional pathways, thanks to circumstances beyond their control.
This also means that new and existing learners may even possibly land jobs without even needing university degrees in the first place, with many companies now switching to skills-based hiring as opposed to selecting candidates based solely on paper qualifications.
Data provided by Coursera shows that 94 percent of employers globally are now at least considering moving towards hiring based on skills, with about 34 percent already operating in this manner.
Eventually, we might even see the majority of companies go the route of completely hiring based on skills, especially within sectors that rely on technical knowledge and expertise, such as coding, business management, and data analytics.
Remote working is the way to go.
More than two years since the start of the pandemic, most of us can — without hesitation — admit to preferring the work-from-home (WFH) life quite a bit more compared to being forced to work from the office regularly.
With commuting to work taking up valuable time and resources, it’s no surprise that many consider WFH as the more productive option. This even extends to some MNCs, where managers have chosen to experiment with more flexible working arrangements to accommodate employees who have been vocal about having the option available to them.
According to Coursera-provided statistics, remote work will also become something of a norm moving forward, with the demand for flexible work conditions soon to outpace employers’ demands for workers to come to the office.
“Employers are not in control when trying to get people back to work,” said Jeff regarding the situation.
Consequently, this spells out good news for workers in these positions, as they’ll not only be able to work remotely much more in the near future, but there is also the opportunity of landing roles in a wider range of companies — especially ones that wish to source talent from locales excluding their physical offices.
According to the numbers, knowledge-based industries (finance, management, professional services, information sectors) boast the highest potential for remote work, with remote worker penetration continuing to grow all around the world.
Regionally, we're already seeing more countries deploy programs to welcome remote workers, such as the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) having the DE Rantau program, joining 25 other countries with similar policies.
"Until now, 'location' has been central to choice and opportunity in the labor market, drawing high-skilled workers to industry clusters and concentrating top talent in a few thriving hubs," Jeff said. "That is fast changing. The shift we experienced during the pandemic has decisively challenged the notion that jobs need to be location-bound."
"With the rise of remote work and unfettered movement of talent, anyone can work anywhere in the world," he added. "Removing geography from the equation not only lets employers tap into a much broader talent pool, but also dramatically opens up opportunities to people who need greater flexibility at work due to caregiving responsibilities, and to those outside traditional employment hubs."
Equal opportunity is the goal.
As mentioned above, the whole idea of online education is to achieve the goal of bringing equal learning and career opportunities to those in places where higher education is limited. Currently, only around 38 percent of people entering the global workforce have access to college-level education, which is pretty unfortunate considering the abundance of untapped talents everywhere.
Plus, the rise of automation threatens to make things even worse for such individuals, and it's become quite clear that quick and easy access to courses is the best way to go about fixing the problem — hence the need for platforms like Coursera.
Currently, there's a glut of individuals who could stand to benefit from these upcoming changes — those from impoverished backgrounds, females with fewer opportunities (not for the lack of talent), and students lacking access to knowledge due to where they live — and the Coursera team thinks that it's only a matter of time before governments and education institutions realize the advantage of flexible education avenues that deliver knowledge quickly and reliably.
"Exploration is an important part of education, and online learning platforms like Coursera give learners the option to experiment by enrolling in several courses before committing to complete a particular course," said Raghav Gupta, the Asia Pacific Managing Director of Coursera.
"In fact, this freedom to explore various interests is a valued benefit of online education, motivating learners to complete the courses they finally choose."