EduTECH 2016: 3 things I learned and what it means for the employment gap



This 7–9 June 2016, Asia’s largest education technology conference EduTECH took place in Sydney, Australia. During the conference, I learned a lot about converting academic to employability skills from the people I spoke to. I’ve distilled my key 3 insights here.

Look where the students are

I met someone insightful at the conference called Nick, and like me, Nick had a portfolio career before shifting to education. He never took the strategist’s hat off. One of his insights was to look where the students are. Traffic at the university level is the landing page, and no longer the lecture hall. It could be a sign of the times, but this move from physical to virtual has also affected the format of lecture delivery.

Clicks vs Bricks: the USD 36,000 difference

Georgia Tech has priced an opportunity at a job in the US at USD 36,000. Here’s how:

Clicks — Georgia Tech has an online Master’s program in computer science, taught as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with Udacity, and costs USD 6,600. This course has several thousand students, with only an approximate 15% of whom are domestic students.

Bricks — On the other hand, Georgia Tech’s regular brick-and-mortar classroom version of this course in Atlanta costs USD 42,000 and has a student population made up of only 15% of international students.

What a fascinating contrast of domestic and international students in the population demographics for the online and offline lesson formats! My takeaway is that a domestic student in the US who just wants the knowledge, skills, and degree does it online. On the other hand, the average international student who wants all that plus a chance at a US work visa will pay another USD 36,000!

Potential in modular markets: Lifelong learners

The University of Illinois is launching the iMBA, an online MBA program priced at one third of program in their brick-and-mortar college. This is an interesting development because they’re looking at their “student customers” as a 40-year working life, including 4 years spent as an undergraduate, and perhaps another 2 years as an MBA. What about the other 36 years? Good question! The University has solved that problem by making the lifelong-learning market a potential market for the iMBA. This makes sense because in a fixed-cost business like education, if you spend so much to acquire a customer, you may as well continue to serve that customer with your existing cost base.

From a business perspective, education is an every-growing and ever-adapting industry. Most of the trends in higher education from the conference are focused around three core themes:

  1. Stackable education

  2. More work-oriented education (closing the employability gap)

  3. Funding models beyond accredited requirements

All these themes place a strong emphasis on putting what is learned in the classroom into practice at the workplace. As academic hubs dedicated to the pursue of knowledge, universities around the world need to reconcile workplace savviness and know-how with higher education in general, instead of leaving it as an afterthought upon graduation.

#conferences #reflections

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