[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]
College is not, nor will it ever be, free. To make college tuition-free is to change who pays for it. Instead of the students, most proposals involve a tax-payer funded approach to covering the costs of higher education, just as P-12 schools in the United States are tuition-free, covered by tax dollars dedicated to this public good known as early childhood, elementary, and secondary education.
Things That Caught My Attention
It seems that we’re continuing to turn up the volume on preparing school kids for a technology-based future. Here are three articles/posts that caught my eye this week.
- Digital leadership, not just citizenship, key to preparing students for future
- How hands-on learning improves middle-school confidence
- How Can We Prepare K-12 Students for the Future?
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a slew of recent articles/reports (behind paywall) on the present and future enrollment challenges faced by colleges and universities in the U.S. The titles paint a clear picture.
- Colleges and retailers share a bloated past and a slimmed-down future
- The Great Enrollment Crash
- Where Did All the Students Go?
- My University Is Dying
But enrollment shortfalls are only one of the challenges facing higher education institutions. Regional colleges, for example, are dealing with significant financial headwinds. One possible solution? Consolidation.
With a shrinking student body and a public sector that no longer sees higher education as something they should support access to in every city, we’re in a period where it would be pretty amazing if there weren’t contractions going on,” said Virginia Sapiro, a political science professor at Boston University who is writing a book on the history of U.S. higher education.
From an economic standpoint, Sapiro said, merging two or more institutions is common sense. “We’ve had a 50-year period of massive expansion of the number of students thanks to baby boomers, plus an expansion in public sector financing,” she said. “That was the boom; this is the bust.
Writing for the Christensen Institute, Michael Horn points to the unsustainability infrastructure and building expansion for most universities. Comparing trends in higher education to those of the retail industry, Horn writes:
Many campus leaders, unfortunately, don’t appear to have received the message that building more facilities is increasingly unsustainable as the fundamental business model underlying significant swaths of higher education breaks and the US approaches a demographic cliff in 2026 that will send enrollments spiraling downward at many institutions. According to Sightlines’ 2018 report, campuses instead continue to expand with capital investment at an 11-year high despite the overall decline in student enrollment.
Pearson has a new higher education white paper, entitled “Opportunity for higher education in the era of the talent economy.” This paper discusses the opportunity for higher education institutions to take the lead in building learning that is lifelong. In particular, the authors identify three big learner-centric principles that they believe will underpin the future of post-secondary education.
1. Institutions must find ways to deliver continuous learning opportunities that reflect people’s desire for “learning experiences at specific moments of need across their lifetime, delivered with the flexibility that their circumstances demand.”
2. In addition, “if learning is to be continuous over a lifetime, rather than concentrated at a young age, we must tackle the issue of cost in a new way, working toward a system that distributes the investment in learning – including money and time – throughout the course of a life, and build a sensible cost structure to match.”
3. Finally, “outcomes-based learning will become the new normal.”
Of course, many of the challenges facing higher education are directly related to shifts in the industry and the workforce. Here are a couple of examples of the types of changes we’re seeing.
1. A new report by Wells Fargo & Co. predicts that “Technological efficiencies will result in the biggest reduction in headcount across the U.S. banking industry in its history, with an estimated 200,000 job cuts over the next decade.” Michael Tang, a Deloitte partner who leads the consulting firm’s global financial-services innovation practice, says“It will be a dramatic change in contact centers, and these are both internal and external. We’re already seeing signs of it with chatbots, and some people don’t even know that they’re chatting with an A.I. engine because they’re just answering questions.”
2. Also, according to a new report by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, Fifty-seven million people, 35% of the U.S. workforce, worked as freelancers this past year. Freelance income currently makes up almost 5% of the country’s GDP, or close to $1 trillion. That’s a greater share than those of industries like construction and transportation.
So, what’s a society to do when it comes to preparing its people for such a rapidly changing workforce landscape? One trend is to provide learning solutions, such as micro-credentials, that support the need for contant upskilling and lifelong learning. Unfortunately, we’re still in the early stages of this revolution and there is a great deal of inconsistency around the standardization and evaluation of these credentials. Third Way has a new report that addresses specific hurdles related to creating a “connected credential” system that can lead to improved value and use of credentials.
1. Credentials don’t provide the right information for people who need to evaluate and compare them. That’s because there is no common way to describe and understand the DNA of any given credential.
2. Credentialing records are fragmented and students don’t own enough of their data. That’s because there is no widely-used digital infrastructure to easily store, share, and display credentials.
Nonprofit Workcred, is looking to address these issues by forming a network of 25-30 credentialing bodies that will be “early adopters and influencers” in sharing data. The goal: to better understand the value or return on investment of non-degree credentials, including badges, industry certifications, and other micro-credentials, according to a news announcement.
Techonoloy and Finance
One of the more interesting events this week was the decision by Charles Schwab to drop trading commissions for U.S. stocks. This sent stocks for a number of big online brokerages tumbling, including E-Trade, Ameritrade, and Interactive Brokers. Pressured by the rise of no-commission trading startups like Robinhood, the big players are doing away with their commissions and, in the process, disrupting the entire industry. Gone are the days of 5% commissions or per-trade fees. I think this is likely a trend for many industries that have generated significant revenues from “add-on” fees.
In other financial news, there’s an interesting trend emerging with companies like Affirm, who are working to reinvent and mainstream the old installment loan.
If you’ve shopped online recently, you may have seen Affirm on the checkout page, next to the familiar options to pay with a credit or a debit card. If not, you will probably notice it over the holiday shopping season. Affirm combines the ease of paying online with the repayment schedule of an installment loan.
And by the way, if you were wondering about the growth of the Internet economy in other parts of the world, take note that Southeast Asia’s internet economy is set to top $100b this year.Finally, what would a week in tech trends be without some news on the AI front? On that theme, I think Marc Zao-Sanders is CEO and co-founder of filtered, makes some good points about how to find and leverage the right combination of human and AI skills/strengths within an organization.
Research Articles and Posts for the Week