Higher Education: You’re Not Keeping Up

The time for universities to provide Education as a Service is now.

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We live in a time where the business world is rapidly changing. The knowledge-driven and information-centered economy is forcing businesses to innovate and come up with new business models and capabilities. These technological and disruptive innovations are happening all over the business world, resulting in the ability to detect these changes and adapt to seize market opportunity being crucial to the success of a company. At the same time, higher education has yet to follow the technological disruptions and globalization to change how they educate students to prepare them for today’s workplace. Higher education degrees are expensive, slow, and one-size-fits-all. This not only lessens the value of the education, but also puts a talent squeeze out in the workforce and puts more pressure on companies to provide on-the-job training. Many top employers are no longer even requiring a degree.

So, what is the solution? Just like enterprise software companies have tipped to provide Software as a Service (SaaS) as the new standard, higher education needs to see and embrace the tipping point and start to provide Education as a Service. The same benefits apply to those companies that have embraced Software as a Service: high adoption, lower upfront costs, and higher flexibility and agility for the customer.

Education as a Service should unbundle degree programs and curriculum. It cannot be the same for everyone; every student has different needs. Students should assess their current competencies, the competencies required to get the job of their choice, and work with the higher education organization on the resulting gap. All students should be able to earn credits quickly for existing knowledge and engage in deeper learning with new information valued in today’s corporate workplace. The class times become variable, set at a student’s pace to master the required skills. If done right, the student is a “customer for life” and continues to learn new competencies as their workforce evolves and demands it.

The content offered should be updated constantly, just like Software as a Service offerings, with a real-time connection with the corporate world and a perspective to train people to be successful in the face of uncertain situations. Currently, many courses teach the same content that they have for decades and are not keeping up with the pace of change. The offerings should teach agility and prepare the students for the constant changes they will face in the workforce. The offerings should also pair related content, like social skills and other soft skills to provide an education that is relevant today and will be relevant in dealing with unforeseen events in the future.

You may be wondering if this shift has already started with boom of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) less than a decade ago – many of them with backing from higher education organizations like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford University. While there are similarities, those are traditionally just e-learning courses. When learning is consumed in a completely self-driven and self-paced fashion, the retention and overall success rate is low. This is shown with the low completion rates for MOOC courses. Success rates and retention improve when there is a social and collaborative component aligned to the student. This can be as simple as chatting with other students in a forum or other peer to peer learning techniques, or it can be via complementary live webcasts or virtual one-on-one office hours with an instructor. Education as a Service needs to take the concept of MOOC and extend it into higher education by providing the content along with the social and collaborative aspects to increase retention and success.

So, what is the answer to our talent squeeze and preparing students for today’s workforce? Embrace the convergence of globalization, communication, and technology as a tipping point just as enterprise software did and move toward Education as a Service. This will better prepare students for work with specific skills and help students obtain those jobs with a tighter integration and connection to the employers and workforce.

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